How to avoid small-business burnout

There are a number of non-negotiables in my life – they include family time, beach time and caffeine time. Without them, I’d be staring down the barrel of small-business burnout out on a weekly basis. And that’s not me being dramatic, that’s the reality for small-business owners everywhere. Most days it can feel like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders, so it’s crucial you pinpoint the key things in life that you simply cannot, and will not, do without. Otherwise, those burnout vibes will take you down before you have a chance to utter the words: Back. Off.

Know your triggers

In my mind, the best way to avoid small business burnout is to understand what causes it. While psychologists have suggested that some personality types are more prone to burnout (Type A go-getters raise your hands), more often than not the most menial of tasks can lead to that moment when you, ultimately, snap.

Your computer crashed halfway through that massive presentation. The printer stopped working… again. Phone reception in the office continues to drop out daily, usually when you’re mid-conversation with one of your top clients. Anything that interrupts your ability to perform basic duties is a trigger.

Why? Because it causes you to lose control of the task at hand. This is particularly damaging for sole traders who have no one to turn to when times get tough inside your office’s four walls.

Know your why

Us entrepreneurial folk are driven by a passion for what we do. Without it, our overarching purpose, vision and drive is at risk. Whether the triggers above have done their thing and caused you to lose your way, a high-value pitch didn’t swing in your favour, or you’ve had a few bad nights’ sleep, all these things can lead to an overall lose of energy, enthusiasm and confidence. The result? Small-business owners can become cynical of their work and riddled with doubt.

This is the exact moment you need to remind yourself of your “why”. Print it out on a poster and hang it up in the office if you need to – whatever works for you, but the more often you can reinforce the reasons you started the business in the first place, the stronger you’ll be when burnout comes knocking.

Know your limits

Another non-negotiable in my life is sleep. I’d say that’s a non-negotiable in everyone’s lives, but as a small-business owner making a priority can be incredibly challenging. Yes, I find myself chained to my desk at 2 am on regular occasions. I also find myself in bed with a good podcast at 8.30 am on a fairly frequent basis too.

The long hours that come with running your own show will begin to wear you down and put you at risk of burnout if you don’t prioritise your own health and wellbeing. I get it, your business is like your baby, it’s hard to put it down and walk away. But sleepless nights, a poor diet, lack of exercise and basic fresh air will make you feel worn out, uninspired, increasingly cynical and just generally unwell. Working 24/7 won’t do you, or your business, any favours.

After all, your health and well-being are crucial to the success of your business. So protect them. Take a step back and follow through with those non-negotiables I mentioned earlier – family time, beach time, caffeine time. Whatever they are for you, make them a priority today and tell burnout to back right off while you’re at it.

Odette Barry, digital marketer and founder, Odette & Co

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