How you can avoid small-business burnout


In the age of Insta-gurus and social media ‘millionaires’, our technocratic society has shifted into this strange paradigm where burnout is seen as a badge of honour, and relaxation is a dirty word.

We’ve constructed a bizarre ‘busy’ culture, where we’ve glorified ‘the hustle’ to such an extent that even taking a quiet day is almost considered blasphemous. It’s become a round-the-clock game that makes us feel like we can’t stop to take a breath, or we’ll fall behind.

After all, if you want something, you work hard and sacrifice for it right?

While this is true to a certain extent, the key factor we seemed to have missed is that humans need rest. We can’t grind 24/7 because our bodies, minds and souls aren’t designed for that. We can’t physically sustain ongoing pressure, and if we don’t find a way to create balance, burn-out is inevitable. And the longer we leave it, the worse it gets.

This is particularly evident in small business. For most SME owners, our business is our baby. We’ve sunk our heart, soul and finances into making our dreams a reality and we’re not willing to let all of that effort go to waste by dropping the ball. A ball which is usually just one of many things we’re currently juggling, because we’re trying to do everything, whether we know how or not. 

So, how do you avoid small-business burnout?

These are my tips for keeping a business running successfully and nourishing yourself in the process:

  1. Delegate  Identify the areas that aren’t your forte, and offload them to an expert. I know this is hard when you’re used to doing everything yourself, but why spend two hours agonising over a task that would take a someone else 30 minutes to complete? It’s a waste of your time, and your time is money.
  2. Schedule down-time Create space for ‘you’ time by scheduling it into your diary/calendar so that it can’t be booked out. Whether it’s a proper lunch break, a gym work-out, or some family time, solidify and prioritise that activity by blocking out that time the same way you would for a client meeting.
  3. Automate  The plus of living in a technological era is that we have tools to simplify everything. The more you can automate your workflow or client funnels, the less you have to think about. If you have a system (or systems) to do the basic brainwork for you, then you can focus on the important work.
  4. Book holidays – If you’re rolling your eyes right now, then you definitely need to do this. You don’t have to go away, but you do need a break, so book in at least two weeks throughout the year (not including Christmas because, that’s not a break), where you switch off from your business. If you plan it in advance, you can schedule accordingly. If you were working as an employee on a salary, you’d be accruing holidays and at some point, would be forced to use those days, this should be no different. 
  5. ‘Competitor’ team up – This may sound counter-productive, but find another business owner in your industry you have good rapport with and build a relationship. Chances are, they’re probably feeling the same as you, and you can help each other. Whether it’s about having someone to chat with who understands completely; or cross-referring work when you’re too busy; outsourcing small jobs; auditing each other’s offerings; or even partnering up on projects. You’ll be surprised how much both business can grow when you work together.

Small businesses and burnout should not go hand-in-hand, but we need to prioritise ourselves and understand that nothing works if it’s broken. Working 5 am to 11.30pm every night isn’t balancing your life or giving your business your best. Let’s reward our own commitment with some downtime and break the burnout cycle for good.