Now a serial entrepreneur and small business owner, there was a time when I worked with the Federal government and in Corporate start-ups. While “start-up”, “working non-stop” and “Federal government” tend not to mesh in most people’s minds, the agencies I worked in were so mission-focused that it wasn’t about clock-punching bureaucrats. Sure, there were a few, but far less than you’d imagine.
It was with Peace Corps and the ACTION Agency-turned-Corporation for National & Community Service (commonly known as “AmeriCorps” and “Americorps*VISTA”) that I developed my “work non-stop in support of a great mission” habit.
I was in on the launch of AmeriCorps — from simultaneous events linked via satellite in 50 states to the official kickoff on the White House lawn with former President Clinton — there were weeks when I was home long enough for a catnap and a shower. It cost me my engagement.
Flash forward 7 years to life in a national satellite television start-up. When the man who interviewed me told me “there’s no set schedule, when you’re done for the day, you can leave”, knowing how productive I can be, I naively envisioned 1/2 days and 3-day work weeks.
Another 7 years and 100 lbs later, I was officially burned out.
Time to create my own business. The challenge? I didn’t have an “off” switch. I was a single woman with a mortgage and minimal savings, corporate America had come to my spare bedroom.
My schedule consisted of getting up, going to work and staying in that spare-bedroom-office until long after midnight, stopping to grab food and bring it back into the office. Only to repeat the cycle the next day.
On a positive note, I proved to myself that the business was viable. Within the first 6 months, with a list of 82 people (including my mom), I grossed $100,000+ and had enough net to live and pay my mortgage.
It was then that I realized the business was viable, but not sustainable. Time for a reality check and time to reclaim my sanity.
My Top 5 tips for coming back from entrepreneurial burnout:
- Learn to delegate and stay focused. I hired my first virtual assistant for a few hours a week and used that time to work on passive revenue-generating activities. That way her time was paid for multiple times over. Each morning (or whenever your peak productivity time is), focus on doing only your most important work (and it’s not checking email or surfing Facebook).
- Close the door. At 6pm each evening, I closed the door to the office and forced myself to leave it shut until the following morning, after breakfast. 3 hours during the weekend if I felt “the itch” and the rest was required time off. “Forced playtime” if you will. Determine your non-negotiables — volunteering, playing with your children, date night — whatever and commit to them.
- Which leads me to “be okay with things not yet completed”. Big reality check. . .you will not finish everything every day (and if you do, your business has other issues).
- Two questions for every task: 1/ What’s the return on investment? Is it worth your time? and 2/ Does it contribute towards reaching your goals/achieving your mission?. If you have a plan and can answer these questions, you’ll find that you stay on task and focused rather than getting caught up in other people’s agendas.
- Nourish your body. Eat healthy, get a good night’s sleep and ensure you get up and move on a regular basis.
And a bonus… Know when to say “no”. If it doesn’t support your goals, including your personal goals, say “no”. Once you’re clear on what your goals are, this becomes much easier.
That’s it. Do these 6 things and do them consistently and you’ll see a miraculous difference in your life — both personal and business.
Do you have tips and strategies for avoiding entrepreneurial burnout? Please share below.