Running a small business is stressful. From keeping track of finances and bureaucratic requirements to appeasing disgruntled customers, it can feel like your work as a business owner never ends. Prolonged unaddressed stress leads to burnout. The APA defines burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others.” Burnout can make you forget orders and important deadlines, treat employees and clients poorly, and lead to depression. But with the right strategies, you and your business can keep going strong for the long haul.
As legendary songwriter and business owner Dolly Parton once put it, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Avoiding burnout when you’re running a business is all about being aware of your stress and making necessary adjustments. “Work-life balance” and “self-care” are more than just buzzwords—they are what keep you from hitting that burnout wall. Here are some tips:
1. Learn How to Set Healthy Boundaries
As a small business owner, it may feel like you need to work long hours every day just to stay afloat, but learning how to set boundaries around your work will help you avoid burnout. A great way of setting boundaries around your work is by having dedicated days off, where you’re free to step away from work and focus on your other passions. You can also set boundaries by giving realistic timelines to clients and team members. For example, if you know that a home renovation will take two months to complete, don’t cave to pressure from a client who says they need it done in three weeks. While it can be hard to disappoint people, sticking to your boundaries will make you a more productive and consistent worker in the long run.
2. Delegate Business Tasks
Along with setting healthy boundaries, knowing what tasks can be delegated and hiring the right people will save you from taking on to much at work. If you have employees, consider promoting the best ones to supervisory roles so they can take some tasks off your plate. Even if you don’t have employees, you can still delegate certain tasks to outside contractors, like accountants, designers, or hey, even Northwest! You can alleviate the stress of keeping up with bureaucratic requirements—like remembering when your annual report is due or being your own registered agent—by hiring us to be your registered agent and file state documents on your behalf.
3. Create a Support Network
Finding a supportive network will give you a healthy outlet to vent about work stresses. Having people to talk to stops stress from building up inside you and causing burnout. As a small business owner, it can be helpful to build a support network of other small business owners who understand the challenges you’re going through. Check your local chamber of commerce to see if there are events for small business owners to get to know each other. Some business associations may even offer mentorships if you’re in need of experienced guidance.
4. Create a Mindfulness and Exercise Practice
Before you scoff at meditation and exercise, know that both allow you to tap into your body and identify signs of stress and burnout. Learning to tune into your emotions will help you thoughtfully make decisions under pressure rather than reacting impulsively. You can create a mindfulness practice by incorporating a five-minute meditation into your work breaks. If you don’t know where to start, consider downloading a free meditation app or looking up guided meditations on YouTube. Take at least one 30-minute break during your workday to go on a walk, run, or do a short exercise routine where you let go of your work to focus on your body and the world around you.
5. Automate Tasks When You Can
Automating as much of your work as you can keeps mindless tasks running smoothly and let’s you focus on the more creative aspects of your business. If you have employees, consider using a payroll software that will automatically withhold payroll taxes, file returns for you, and send checks or direct deposits to your employees. Schedule social media posts in advance so you don’t need to log into Twitter every morning to promote your business. And if you can, set up auto-pay for your business’ bills so you don’t waste valuable brain space keeping track of when each one is due.
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