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Business Tips

5 Strategies to Avoid Burnout as an Entrepreneur

Avoiding burnout is more than just about booking 2 weeks off to catch sunsets on Hawaii beaches, or, for these days, turning our homes into mini-retreat spaces and staycationing. 

Having been a business owner since 2019, I’ve found it’s more helpful in the long-term to have self-care strategies that we can implement on the daily. That way, we can wake up every workday excited about all the work we will be doing and the people we’ll be serving…

… or, at the very least, stop feeling exhausted all the time. 

But, as anyone who’s tried to avoid burnout can tell you, it isn’t something we stumble upon.

Sometimes, you need self-care strategies to help you on your way.

So, here are 5 self-care strategies that can quickly get you on your way to work that support your lifestyle.

Put your horse blinders on.

In a culture that celebrates the “hustle” and in the daily grind of entrepreneurship where the to-do list seems so endless, it’s easy to forget why we went into entrepreneurship in the first place. Whether that be the allure of more time with our families, the freedom to express our creative muscles, or even, simply doing more fulfilling work.

And, in the (paraphrased) wise words of the Cheshire Cat, if we walk aimlessly, we’re sure to get somewhere. The question becomes, do we actually want to be there?

Adapted from Sir John Tenniel, Chesire Cat, colour litograph, c 1865 and Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2000.

So, one thing I’ve started implementing is creating an annual vision board

I take 1 day, usually at my yearly-planning weekend retreat, to curate images of what I’m working towards, such as:

  •  the kind of projects I’d like to work on
  • people I’d love to work with
  • upgrades for the home
  • vacations I’d love to travel to with my family
  • what I want an average evening to look like
  • anything that ticks the box for me that “yes, if this is present in my life, I’m living with intentionality”

Then, I keep the vision board in a prominent place in my workspace (read: my desktop wallpaper), so that when I’m tempted to compare my business to others… I don’t. 

My current work desktop wallpaper

Our individual vision boards visualize for us what success looks like.. for US. Knowing this, we’re more able to check in with ourselves when we make business decisions about whether doing X or taking on project Y will lead us closer to that lifestyle we want for ourselves.

We’re less tempted to do as the artist-next-door because this exercise reminds us that success looks different for every person, for every business owner. So what she does in her business may be fulfilling for her, but not for us.

Par example, a graphic designer whose main motivator this season is <<impact>> may be doing a lot of projects at a heavily discounted rate for organizations she cares about. 

But. 

If, unlike this creative, another graphic designer’s motivator is <<time>> (ie: time with her husband, time to explore her hobbies…), then her main focus this season may be to create product offerings that scale. Like online courses or downloadable templates.

2 artists ➡  2 different main motivators ➡ 2 different business models ➡ success for BOTH.

Former US president Theodore Roosevelt apparently said “comparison is the thief of joy.” Keeping a vision board allows me to create blinders around my head. 

Without which, I’d be tempted to peep into the inner workings of another’s business & just copy what they’re doing—which is a surefire way to burnout if, at the time they created those SOPs for their business, they had different motivations and were in a different season.

Time-block your work schedule.

Time-blocking is a productivity tool for those who need to do deep work (ie: spend time without distractions so that our brains can use the power of momentum to create, edit, upgrade, etc.). 

It’s a way to deal with having to wear different hats in our businesses. Because research has shown that multitasking wastes time and brainpower

There are different ways to time block.

Paul Graham divides work schedules into managerial times and maker times (ie: times for meetings, and times—at least half days—for creative work).

Michael Hyatt divides time into backstage, frontstage, and off stage times (ie: times for prepping to do work that generates income, doing whatever it is that generates income, times off work).

Melissa Cassera does batch days (ie: themed workdays where everything related to a certain project gets done on those batch days). 

It doesn’t really matter which method you go with, as long as you go with one that works for YOU. The main thing is that time blocking asks us to block off times in our schedule to work on things that move our business forward. And for that period of time, only that ONE thing.

My time block is a mix of all 3 methods

We protect that time as much as we can (although, as we all know in business, sometimes, emergencies happen, so no sweat if those emergencies bleed into our designated time blocks. We can easily move that distraction-free time block to another period in our schedule).

We all have 525,600 minutes in a year. Time-blocking helps us use that time intentionally. Because when we’re more productive at work, we’re more able to leave work at our designated “end time”. And when we’re able to do that, we’re able to be more present in the moments we’re not working.

Put yourself first. 

Schedule time for what lights you up.

In my experience, if something doesn’t get scheduled (read: blocked off in archival ink pen) in my calendar, it often doesn’t happen. “Something” inevitably happens to postpone that thing that’s not recorded inevitably.

So, I end up working too many late nights. Date nights get pushed to a different day in the week. That beach break I had scheduled to just chill by the water is 6 months overdue…

…and before I know it, I’m running on fumes, wondering where did the time go!

It’s important for us to put as much priority on our non-professional activities that bring joy to our lives as much as our work life (and depending on our season, perhaps more!).

Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’ll eventually run out of energy to take care of our business and love the heck out of our clients & customers.

End your workday with an examen.

I learned this end-of-day work-day routine from Michael Hyatt.

Basically, whatever you do at the end of the workday, include at least a moment when you reflect on 3 questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. Where are you blocked?
  3. What are the next 3 things you can work on your next work day to move forward on your professional goals?

This allows us three things:

One. With repetition, it acts as a signal for our brains that the workday has come to an end. This allows us to more smoothly transition into our non-work-life. Kind of like how the commute from work to home gets us in the mindset of leaving work at work. 

Two. It creates our schedule for the next workday, saving us planning time because we know what we need to be tackling.

Three. Celebrate our wins! It’s easy to lose motivation when it seems like our end goal is SO far ahead of us—sometimes to the point where we can’t even see it. Keeping track of our “little wins” help us to not take our movements forward for granted.

The end-of-workday examen helps us keep our business working for us—instead of the other way around!

4. Be honest about how you work (best).

Our clients and customers, the people we serve in our businesses, come to us for solutions to their problems or desires. When they know what to expect from us—and when we know what they expect from us—we can work towards a business relationship that doesn’t leave anyone disappointed.

So, what kind of policies should you have in place? 

It really depends on your own business and how you specifically do things.

In general, though, I recommend you be able to communicate at least these 3 things  (pro-tip: if you work with clients 1:1, have these in your service agreement contracts like my Contracts for Creatives clients do!):

#1 How do you want to communicate with your clients during your project?

  • Will always be available by email? Do you prefer text? Do you want them to only talk to you through Slack? 
  • When are your office hours? If you’re a night-owl and they send you something at 7 PM, do they know that you’re not likely going to be reading it until 2 AM? Are there days when you will be on an unplugged vacation?
  • Are you sharing sensitive information (such as personal details) over the Internet? How will you be protecting that? Do you have a secure client portal for example?
  • What happens during emergencies when your clients “need” to get a hold of you? What is considered an “emergency”?

#2 What is the work you will be doing?

It may sound pretty self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many people have different ideas of what a project will consist of (even with signed agreements).

So:

  • What exactly are you willing to do?
  • Are there going to be deliverables? Who owns the intellectual property rights to the deliverables?
  • What are the tasks that you won’t be doing unless you’re being paid extra?

#3 How will you deal with worst-case scenarios?

  • What happens when things outside of your control delay the project?
  • What are dealbreakers, things your client or customer could do, that allows you to “fire” that client?
  • Can your client or customer request refunds? In what kind of situations?
  • What happens when you don’t get paid?

These questions—and sub-questions—aren’t exhaustive, but they should help you get started with creating contracts that keep everyone on the same page. And you far, faar away from scope creep. 

Do you have a favourite self-care strategy I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll create and update with the best ideas (and a link crediting you).

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