Burnout is a serious problem that can lead, in the worst instances, to business failure. Small business owners work hard to make their dreams reality. Many entrepreneurs are driven to succeed, and because of this they are also more prone to stress. Over time, the stress of owning and running a business can lead to exhaustion, mood swings, and a quick temper. We have compiled a short guide on recognizing the signs, as well as some strategies to avoid burnout before it becomes a problem.
Exhaustion: The Early Sign of Burnout
Exhaustion is often a precursor to burnout. Late nights, constant worry, feeling alone in your responsibility all lead to a destructive cycle. But exhaustion shows in different ways for different people. Some become oversensitive and reactive. Others get depressed. We often say, “I’m just tired,” but that tiredness can be a sign of something under the surface. Another sign is insomnia. Sleepless nights contribute to your fatigue and increase your anxiety. Other warning signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Getting sick more often
These symptoms cause you to become cynical and detached from your work. Negative feelings and pessimism replace that positive, “can do” attitude. You no longer enjoy your daily duties. Instead, it becomes a daily grind. Sadly, everyone around you will feel it, too. Symptoms of burnout are contagious and can spread through your business with terrible results.
Change Your Routine – Change Your Attitude
The success of your business depends upon your mental health. If you’re feeling any of the signs above, it’s time for a change. You need to step back and honestly look at the root causes of your stress. Once you understand them, it’s time to set a plan in motion to alleviate your daily stressors. Here are some ways you can fight exhaustion and avoid job burnout.
- Get Organized. Take control of your day. This will require you to organize your office so you can find what you need when you need it. Also, get in the habit of making a list of priorities to organize your tasks for the day. Try to do the most important thing first. This will save the easy stuff for the end of your day when you are physically tired.
- Get Physical. How can exercise help when you’re already tired? It may be hard to believe, but research shows that exercise boosts your energy levels. It also produces endorphins that clear your mind, allow you to reset your emotions, and stop circular thinking. Add plenty of water, a healthy diet, and the right amount of sleep, and you will have burnout on the run.
- Do Something Fun. Schedule down time to do something fun. Getting involved in activities that you love to do can invigorate you and bring you closer to family and friends. These are necessary reminders that a healthy life isn’t all work and no play.
- Delegate. If you’re feeling exhausted, you may not be delegating. You don’t have to do it all. You can rely on your employees to pick up some of the workload. They may need to be trained, but the time spent pays off by freeing up time for you to do the tasks that they can’t do. (More on delegating later!)
- Focus on Successes. Too often, exhaustion makes us feel like we are running in place. When we recognize our accomplishments, we look at our work in a positive way. Try to celebrate each goal in simple ways. It’s great to bring your employees together to acknowledge your mutual successes and encourage everyone to feel good about their contributions to the business.
Give Yourself a Break
As you work through the steps to overcome your exhaustion, remember to step away and give yourself time to heal. It may feel like you can’t afford to take the time necessary to recover, but in reality, you can’t afford not to.
Better Time Management Can Help Avoid Burnout.
One of the most common factors leading to burnout is the feeling of never having enough time. No matter how hard we try to maintain our schedules and complete important tasks on time, there always seems to be something left to do at the end of the day. Over time uncompleted tasks pile up, and that can be demoralizing.
The value of improving time management skills is not directly measurable in revenue or profit, but completing tasks and reducing stress will make you much more productive. Here are some organizational tips to help you manage your time better.
The To Do List
No one wants every minute of their day to be dictated by a schedule. That feels too mechanical and boring. Instead, create a To Do List as a visual reference of what needs to be done. It will also show you what you’ve accomplished. This is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Objectives versus Goals
Your list is full of objectives, not goals. Why not goals? Aren’t they what we are aiming for? Yes, but goals happen over an extended period and are made up of many individual objectives. Goals belong in your business plan. Objectives belong on your to do list and your daily action plan.
Organize your objectives in order of importance and put them on your list. Again, this gives you a visual reference of exactly what you need to do that day, or throughout the week.
A deadline gives you that sense of urgency and a point of reference, while organizing the timeline for your day. It is a powerful tool that will allow you to prioritize and delegate other responsibilities. If you’ve been in business for a while, you know how long it takes for you to physically count your inventory or do payroll. If you don’t know the duration for a task on your list, you’ll need to make a realistic estimate.
Having a deadline attached to a task focuses our efforts to get it done. Tasks without deadlines get put off to the next day, and the next. Really, if there is no sense of urgency associated with these tasks, they aren’t that important. These are tasks that can be delegated or removed from the list entirely.
Do the Things You Don’t Like to Do
Highly successful people are successful for many reasons. One of them is that they take on the important unpleasant tasks that no one wants to do. Why? Because they know it’s necessary to be successful in their business.
One of the ways we avoid doing the things we don’t like to do is focusing on what we do like to do. Here’s a good example. If counting inventory is boring to you, you may spend your time in the store rearranging shelves and displays instead. At the end of the month, even though your store looks great, you still need to count inventory. The fact that that important task is incomplete can be a real stressor.
How to Create a Bullet Proof Action Plan
Once you have a strong To Do list, you can make your action plan. Take the time to jot down the most important activities or objectives for your day. What can you do today that best supports your long-term goals? Prioritize tasks in order of importance. If it must be done today, it goes to the top. Think about timing, and how much you can realistically do. Make your final list. Remember, if it isn’t on this list, it doesn’t get done today.
Get It Down to Get It Done
There are many apps for your phone that create and maintain to do lists. This is probably the best option because your phone is always at hand. These apps can also synchronize with your computer and tablet and even your partner. Best of all, they keep a record of your activities so you can look back to see what you accomplished. No matter how you write it down, the benefits of organizing your day are tremendous and a great defense against burnout.
5 Ways to Become a Better Project Delegator
Face it. You can’t do it all. Trying to do it all is a fast way to burn out. One way to avoid exhaustion and free-up time is to delegate tasks that don’t require your specific skills. We all know that project delegation is important, so why don’t we do it? Our reluctance often comes from thinking:
- I can do it faster on my own.
- I like to do those tasks.
- My team already has too much to do.
- No one can do it as well as I can.
- My business, my responsibility.
These may seem like logical reasons, but they are excuses that hold us back.
Training Yourself to Delegate
Once you have created your to do list, all your tasks and objectives are already prioritized. If you take the skills and time of your employees, staff, or team into account while you are making the list, you are ready to delegate some tasks.
Here are five ways to help you overcome the roadblocks keeping you from delegating tasks and freeing up your time for the tasks that only you can do.
- Let It Go. Your dedication and commitment are second to none. This is the reason for your success, but it might also be why you haven’t been able to delegate tasks. Remember, you’re not shirking your responsibilities, only passing on the work to the team you hired and trained to do it. The outcome is still your responsibility. That’s why it’s important to have a team you can trust to do a great job every time.
- Establish a Relationship with Employees. Before you assign work, there needs to be a trust and rapport between you and your employees. You will feel more confident in their abilities and be able to communicate better with them if you know them and their abilities.
- Know Their Skill Sets. To avoid delays and shoddy work, delegate tasks that fit your employees’ strengths and skillsets. Job interviews are a great way to discover what each of your employees is good at. Annual reviews also give them room to talk about what they like about their job. Delegating jobs they like gives them increased job satisfaction, too. You’re simply accentuating the positive.
- Better Tools for Better Collaboration – When you use collaboration tools, such as Google Docs, you’re giving your employees their own to do list. This free tool can be updated from smartphones at any time and provides notifications to let you know the task was completed. Best of all, it’s a log that tells them exactly what they need to do and when it’s due.
- Schedule Regular Meetings Now that you have a little more time, you’ll be able to hold regular meetings to discuss employee progress, areas of need, and new tasks. It’s a great time to open the floor to feedback and questions, too. Regular communication maintains your relationship with your employees and lets them know that you value their efforts. Just remember, they have a job to do, too, and nobody likes a meeting that should have been an email.
It’s necessary for owners and managers to delegate tasks properly so they can concentrate on big picture strategies. Project delegation strengthens your team through building new skills and increasing communication. With everyone involved, your business is stronger and more able to adapt to the changing world of retail.
Self-Doubt Contributes to Burnout
No one is confident all the time. It’s natural, even good, to feel a little self-doubt. Healthy self-doubt can lead to reflection and positive change. Even successful entrepreneurs have moments of sinking confidence when faced with an unfamiliar challenge. But self-doubt can cause stress and worry at the worst time, too, and can lead to burnout. No one needs more stress when running a business, so it’s important to recognize when damaging self-doubt appears. Knowing what to do when it shows up will allow you to be more confident in your decisions.
Past Mistakes Create Self-Doubt
Our past mistakes are great teachers, but they can also hold us back. We become uneasy and avoid situations that remind us of our failures. William Durant, the founder of General Motors, said, “Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.” What he meant was, once you’ve learned from your failure, it’s time to move on.
Self-doubt can also beat us up for not taking advantage of new opportunities. Richard Branson, famous entrepreneur and billionaire, said, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” This is a good reminder to stay positive and realistic about your goals. There will always be another opportunity.
Entrepreneur self-doubt also creeps in when you feel unprepared, either lacking the knowledge or experience to overcome a problem. This happens when you step outside your comfort zone. Stepping out is a good thing, though. You may succeed or fail, but what really matters is that you are taking calculated risks that will one day pay off. Your worst enemy in this situation is quitting. “Energy and persistence conquer all things,” said Benjamin Franklin, famous entrepreneur and statesman.
Partnering and Collaborating
Another way to manage moments of self-doubt is to bounce your misgivings off a trusted associate or mentor. Their feedback gives you an opportunity to reflect on the situation from another perspective. You can then choose to alter your direction or feel reassured that your decisions are already good.
One of the biggest companies in the world, Microsoft, wasn’t created in a vacuum. “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning,” said Bill Gates, founder. Partners helped his company become better at what it does and achieve great things.
Finding the appropriate mentors and partners is not always easy. Look into activating your business network to find people who will support you and your business, and for whom you can be helpful, too. Having peers with whom to discuss your business can help dispel self-doubt.
Self-doubt will happen. How you manage it is important. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. There are some great suggestions out there on how you can do overcome these moments with growing confidence. The key is to recognize your self-doubt and not allow it to hold you back without causing yourself more stress.
Small Business Owners: Stay Motivated!
When running a small business, motivation is critical. You’ve got your to do list, you’re talking with your mentors, you’ve delegated your extra tasks, but you still just can’t get going. Lack of motivation is a definite deterrent to your success. Temporary setbacks and exhaustion increase stress levels, which leads to self-doubt, burn out, and an inability to achieve your goals. Feeling unmotivated is a way your body tells you that you need to be doing something different, showing you a need for achievement. That’s why it’s important to understand what motivation is and how it affects you.
What Are Your Incentives?
Incentives can influence your behavior and affect your motivation. Everyone learns from an early age that achievement brings rewards. Incentives direct you toward positive outcomes and away from negative consequences. Not everything that you do will be tied to an incentive, but much of what you do at work and in your store is.
There are two types of incentive-based motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are exterior, visible rewards. For small business owners, common examples of extrinsic motivation are autonomy and money. Intrinsic motivators are things that may not be visible to others. Exercise and volunteering are two great examples of intrinsic motivators. Doing good things for yourself and other people make you feel good inside. Every day, both kinds of motivation can help give us that get-up and go attitude to take on the world.
What Motivates You?
Not all motivators are created equal, and some are far more effective than others. So, if you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, then you may need to know what inspires you to do more.
Many of our everyday tasks make us feel good. We know that if we don’t do them, we end up feeling bad. Why? Because without them we don’t get the feeling of accomplishment we need. Without it, we can feel disappointed and overwhelmed. Our schedules are so busy. We are pulled in so many directions during our day that it keeps us from being able to do what we need to do to feel good. This has a snowball effect, and eventually we lose the motivation to do what needs to be done and begin to feel the symptoms of burnout.
Find what motivates you and put it at the top of your to do list. Without proper self-care and motivation, the rest of your to do list won’t get done either.
Celebrate Big and Small Accomplishments
A huge part of staying motivated is the feeling of accomplishment when you reach a goal. Celebrating your achievement with your team is a great reward and an acknowledgement of your accomplishments. Rewarding yourself triggers a response in your brain that make you feel good, and a celebration marking the end of a task gets you excited for the start of something new.
Always Have a Plan
After celebrating, it’s time to reflect on your next objective or goal and start to plan. A written agenda provides you with a roadmap toward success. If you give yourself time to think about the process and any obstacles in the way, you may spark new ideas on how to save time and money. Prioritize your tasks and get them on your to do list.
When making your plan, keep in mind that deep, meaningful motivators give us the drive to succeed. Research has shown that intrinsic rewards are more powerful than extrinsic and tied to very successful businesses. Intrinsic motivators remind us that owning a business is not just about money, it’s about the journey toward personal success.
Healing Takes Time
Recognizing symptoms of burnout and making necessary changes can save your business but creating balance doesn’t happen overnight. Once you address the underlying issues related to your feelings of burnout, you’ll reduce stress and feel better about yourself and your business. Learning to run your business in a healthier, more efficient way will benefit both you and your employees and keep you from worrying about burning out again. But addressing issues is not enough by itself. Rekindling a passion for what you do takes time. Remember to give yourself the space and time you need to heal.
Six Ways to Make Better Business Decisions
Once you have established and activated your networks and created and met a few goals, you still have the day-to-day operations of your business to handle. Every day, retailers are faced with hundreds of small decisions regarding their business. There are also quite a few significant decisions to be made that may affect its health and longevity. It can be exhausting.
Too many decisions over a long period can lead to decision fatigue. It’s where the saying, “I can’t think straight,” comes from and is characterized by decision avoidance and increased anxiety. This can be dangerous to your personal and business wellbeing. Every business owner needs to be aware of the mental stress making choices can cause, especially when feeling overwhelmed.
Even seemingly innocent choices like ordering lunch contribute to mental fatigue. So when a big decision comes along, it can be much more difficult to react appropriately. Making a big mistake is, unfortunately, easier than ever because of automation and technology. We may press the wrong button or misread something, causing delays and more stress. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself to ensure that you always have the energy and the right frame of mind to make the right decisions.
Make It a Process
To be a successful decision-maker, you need to cultivate the right environment. This requires a process, a routine to keep you on track when you’re tired and prone to mistakes. These six steps will help you create a decision-making process that moves you away from relying on instinct.
- Take the Time to Think. There is no excuse for failing to take the time you need to think about your business. Time allows you to write or revise your priorities and expectations. It also allows you to look at the calendar and see what’s over the horizon. Plus, taking time to think makes you more productive because you’ll make fewer mistakes.
- Prioritize. Some tasks can be stretched out over time, while others require immediate attention, and others need attention every day. If you know your priorities for the day, then you’ll be able to proceed as planned and not feel the need to stop when making another decision.
- Begin with Difficult Decisions. Start with the most difficult or the most complex decisions. These cause the most stress and need more attention than the others. Take these on when you are most alert so you can avoid a mistake where it counts the most. Don’t expect to make the right decision at the end of the day. Having the energy to make the right decision is as important as being informed enough to make it.
- Research. To base your decisions on facts, you need to perform some research, including historical market and sales information. Remember, more significant decisions require more research, so give yourself some time to analyze the data and make the right decision.
- Persistence. Being a small business owner isn’t always easy. It can be challenging to act with the courage of your convictions. As long as you have taken the necessary time to plan and set reasonable goals, persistence will get you there.
- Get feedback. Now is the time to activate your network. Feedback from people you trust gives you much-needed perspectives on your decision-making process. It provides a window into how others think about your decision and the potential to see things from another point of view. Accepting feedback is also a form of collaboration and is necessary to grow your small business. It’s a great way to be inclusive while getting input on decisions you have to make.
There are many pitfalls in this process. First, learn to recognize when you and those you rely on are avoiding important decisions. Waiting too long may have financial repercussions. Also, don’t be fooled by success. What worked in the past may need examining or changing if it begins to falter. Staying on top of your objectives and goals will keep you informed and let you know that hard decisions must be made. Following the steps above can help you make them with as little stress as possible.
A Few Things to Remember as You Grow Your Small Business
Owning a business can be an exciting and fulfilling experience, but many things factor into your success. Keeping your customers happy, keeping up with relevant technology, and understanding how to find and use your business data are just a few of the things that come together to make your business thrive. Take the time to connect with your community and build a network of peers and mentors; however, your business and your customers will thank you.