How to Avoid Burnout

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on June 24, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Time Management Strategies

From time to time I’ve watched helplessly as business-owning colleagues have burned out. Entrepreneurs can burn out pretty easily because they have so much at stake and because they love what they do, so work doesn’t always feel like work. The result? They either totally flame-out in a cataclysmic melt-down, or they slowly grind to a halt like an engine without oil.

If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while, if you’re feeling particularly fatigued and can’t seem to rest (but feel like you need to push through and work harder), or if you have a lot of stress and workload mounting but no extra capacity to deal with it, you’re in the express lane for a burnout. Here are some tips to deal with it:

1. Identify the source of your burnout. From what I’ve observed, burnout happens because there is a big list of stressful work that needs to be done and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do it. At the same time, your other regular work that wouldn’t normally contribute to burnout can make the situation worse. Find out what the source of the stress-inducing/burnout-inducing work is and make a plan. Delegate some of it out and try to divide the rest of it up into more reasonable chunks.

2. Learn from your past burnouts and from the burnouts of others and try to recognize it before it happens. Ease up on the stresses (even if you can’t ease up o the workload) when you start to notice yourself burning out. If necessary, set recurring events in your calendar for the 15th and 30th of every month asking: “Am I burning out?”

3. Get as disciplined as you can. Burnout happens because entrepreneurs give everything and the “edges” between business and the rest of our lives can start to blur. Discipline helps to keep those edges distinct and ensures that we get some downtime.

4. Take a day off. I know it doesn’t seem like you can do that (which is why you’re working hard and burning out) but trust me, the more you burn out, the less work you’ll do anyway. The day off can recharge your batteries and actually make you more productive when you are sitting at your desk.

5. Keep your work creative. Some of you have observed that I stay pretty busy with my various projects. I do work a lot because I love it, but I avoid burnout by staying really creative: I’m always developing new projects and ideas. Even if only a few of them ever come to fruition and the rest remain as ideas for a rainy day, that creativity keeps me from feeling like work is a grind (which can be a huge contributor to burnout).

6. Stay healthy. Okay, now I’m starting to get outside of the “productive business” mode I tend to write about, but this still applies. Your health is a key factor in how you handle stress. Someone who is rested, who eats balanced meals, and who exercises regularly doesn’t burn out as much. Stay healthy to stay sane at work!

The engine analogy from earlier really applies. If you don’t take care of your car’s engine, it will grind to a halt. The same can happen to you. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’ll grind to a halt too!

Does anyone have more tips on how to avoid burnout?  List them as comments!

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