Burnout doesn’t always look like pulling out your hair, throwing your device across the room, or wishing your computer was on a deserted island somewhere.
Instead, it can be that small voice that whispers…
“What are you doing? Are you really cut out for this?”
“Entrepreneurship is easier for everyone else. You’re not made for it.”
“You want to try again? Good luck. Remember what happened the last time?”
“Is it really worth the time and energy it’s taking out of you right now?”
Once you start to believe it, you’ll notice a lack of energy that you used to have in abundance. Even the things that were fun when you first started your brand will feel like a dreaded job.
Other people will start to notice a change in you, and you’ll start to notice a change in yourself too. By that time, it can feel like you are already too deep into burnout to find your way out, but there’s hope!
Nearly every entrepreneur has worked themselves to a place of burnout (sometimes multiple times!), but the best way to avoid burnout is to be proactive and stop it before it starts.
If you are in a state of burnout right now or getting really close to the line, these tips will still be just as helpful as someone who is trying to reduce the risk of falling into burnout.
You have way too many cool projects and exciting ideas inside you to let burnout get in the way! Let’s take back control of your energy, schedule, and life!
Take breaks when your energy is depleted
How many times have you started working on a project, only to find that you have zero creative energy left? When you feel like you’re about ready to throw your laptop or phone across the room (I’ve been there!), it’s a good sign that you are in need of rest.
The hard thing about entrepreneurship is that we feel like we need to always be “on”. We have to be working non-stop, marketing ourselves while we sleep, and we need to stay up-to-date on all the productivity hacks.
But no one can be creative 24/7. If we hold ourselves to that standard, we’ll always feel like we’ve failed when we’re really just working in the natural rhythm of our bodies. Your mind needs to rest in order to do your best work.
Your best bet is to schedule breaks into your calendar. Start by introducing the Pomodoro technique into your work routine. This means you’ll block off your calendar in 25-minute sections and take 5-minute breaks in between. If you want more time to work on a bigger project, you can adjust your time to 90 minutes of work and 15-minute breaks.
You might have a hard time at first with taking the breaks, but keep testing it out. Give it at least a week to see how it improves your focus, energy, and productivity. You’ll be surprised at how much more quickly you can get things done in less time because you are letting your mind take a break in between tasks!
If your burnout doesn’t improve after taking more breaks, you might have decision fatigue. This usually happens when you have to make frequent decisions throughout the day. The more intense the decision is, the more fatigue you’ll feel.
Set boundaries in your calendar (and stick to them!)
Have you ever told yourself that you were going to prioritize self-care, only to find that it has fallen to the bottom of your to-do list? This is where a lot of my burnout came from when I ran my wedding photography business.
I would try to block off time to get a manicure, take a relaxing bath, or even binge-watch my favorite show without distractions, but then my to-do list kept stretching as I received more requests from other people.
How could I take time for myself when there were so many other things I could do with my time? I still had photography editing to do, emails from brides that needed a response, and time to prepare for the weekend weddings I was shooting. I always scheduled time for other people in my calendar before myself.
As an entrepreneur living with chronic illness, this was especially hard to navigate since my lack of self-care was only making me feel more burned out. When I decided to make a real change, I knew I had to confront my boundaries first.
Once I wrote down my boundaries in my journal, I found ways to work them into my calendar. The hardest thing to do was stick to them and not give myself excuses for why I could just delete them from my calendar to prioritize something (or someone) else instead.
Maybe you feel the same way, that you are at the beck and call of your clients and customers with no margin. It’s time to make room for yourself again! Setting and sticking to your boundaries can help you pull yourself out of burnout and build healthier habits.
Create time blocks in your schedule
One of the things I’ve noticed is that I have a difficult time switching between different kinds of tasks throughout the day. To go from writing Instagram captions to making tweaks to our website to jumping on calls with my team can be exhausting. When I do a lot of little tasks, it takes longer to complete them than working on a bigger project.
Have you noticed the same thing in your creative process? Even if you have five different tasks that should take you 30 minutes each, you can easily find yourself working through the night to get it all done. You somehow get more tired than if you were working eight to ten hours on a single project.
Something that has revolutionized the way I work is time blocking. If it’s your first time hearing about time blocking, get ready for something to completely change the way you work! Time blocking means that you are setting aside a designated period of time to accomplish something on your to-do list before you move on to the next thing.
This can be a huge time saver because you have uninterrupted work time to complete each task. When your calendar says that you have an hour to work on a blog post, you will be less likely to be distracted by your inbox or to reply back to people on social media in between every few paragraphs you write.
Cutting out distractions is so key. We may not realize it at the moment, but all of those distractions pile up and take energy from us. Sometimes what we perceive as burnout is really just an invitation to refill our energy tanks and reduce the distractions around us.
Build a community so you don’t self-isolate
What’s the first thing you want to do when you feel burned out from work? If you’re anything like me, you want to turn on Netflix and only move in between the couch, the fridge, and your bedroom for the next few days. We’ll call it an “entrepreneur’s staycation”.
While it’s nice to spend a casual and comfortable night in after a long workweek, if it keeps you from connecting with other people in your community, it will only worsen your burnout symptoms. “Community” isn’t just a buzzword for growing your online audience. It’s actually one of our basic needs.
Burnout can easily put you in a state of isolation, which is why it’s so important to build a group of business (and personal) friends around you so that you have a strong support system. These people can usually give you accountability and help you see when the early signs of burnout are starting to creep in.
It’s so nice to know you have people who are checking up on you and making sure that you aren’t working to the point of exhaustion. Before I launched Get Found Stock, I was grateful to have a few friends who consistently asked how I was doing and offered encouragement.
Sometimes you can feel raw and vulnerable when you think about reaching out to people while you’re in a stage of burnout, but it’s the thing that will help you pull yourself out of it. Since most entrepreneurs have been through burnout, they’ll also have a lot of great advice they learned from their own journey. You’re not in this alone!
If you’re feeling burnout as an online business owner…
Don’t give up! There may be times when you think about throwing in the towel, but there’s a reason you’re in business. There’s a purpose behind the work you are doing. Remind yourself of the vision and keep making steps toward it.
Get involved in online and in-person communities around you. Start practicing the power of “no” (or, if it feels easier, say “no, not right now”). Block off an hour, a day, or a week to refuel and reenergize. Your health is more important than anything else!
If you need a #girlsquad behind you, we’re going to be chatting about burnout all week on Instagram! Let’s start a conversation so we can all keep burnout at bay.