Burnout for Business Owners?
One could easily argue that there has never been a more exciting time to be a business owner. Whether your business is small- or medium-sized, there are more tools, opportunities, and potential for growth in the digital business world than ever before. Indeed, all it takes to start up is resolve, hard work, and a laptop.
Of course, with all this opportunity and access comes a downside: the business world has never had higher expectations and a more intense work ethic. Even if you are a small business owner, your clients, customers, partners, and investors will expect you to be available and accessible at all times. With social media, email, home offices, video conferencing, and a slew of messaging apps, it can be virtually impossible to “leave the office”. Some business owners who strike out on their own can find it hard to have any separation between work and life. Indeed, their work becomes their life.
As any veteran business owner might tell you, focusing solely on growing your business may seem like a good strategy to start with, but it’s unsustainable in the long run. Founder burnout is a well-known phenomenon for entrepreneurs. Their passion and drive makes their work ethic tireless—but it can also hamper their ability to guide their business down the long road to success. As one former burnout sufferer wrote in TechCrunch, “What makes managing burnout so difficult is similar to other mood patterns: It can be so hard to identify. Unless a partner, spouse or friend pulls you aside and checks in, burnout becomes the quiet killer. Learning to identify thought patterns is your first clue to identifying a potential larger problem.”
If you’re an SME business owner or entrepreneur putting your all into your business, here are some tactics you can use to avoid burnout and stay in it for the long haul.
Automate what you can: They beauty of the digital era is that there is no shortage of tools that can help you save time on mundane tasks that would previously have required many resources. Whether it’s HR, billing, scheduling, or booking travel, all these tasks can be automated with the likes of software and digital assistants. When it comes to automation, the payoff is simple: don’t spend time on things you don’t need to be working on.
Delegate what you can: Founders often fall into the trap of perfectionism. They want everything to be perfect, and insist that they are the only ones who can make it that way. This is simply not true. Invest time into hiring good people so you can rely on their talents when it counts. Don’t assume that your employees can’t deliver the results you need, but equally give them time to get there.
Recognise the need to unplug: As mentioned above, failure to switch off and occasionally go offline is the downfall of many a business owner. If taking a two-week vacation is unrealistic for you, then work “down time” into your weekly schedule. Whether it’s not checking email on Sundays, or taking one weekday off per month to simply recharge, small amounts of downtime in your schedule can make all the difference. The importance lies in not assuming you can do all of it all of the time.
Be realistic about deadlines: Whether it’s client work or a funding proposal, don’t overload yourself with deadlines that you simply cannot honor. Often, founders will think the competitive edge they have is a willingness to drop everything and work through the night. While this may occasionally be necessary, it’s not a strategy to live by. Asking for an extension on a deadline or making a realistic headline to begin with is a far better tactic than regularly burning the midnight oil. This will only leave you frazzled, and rarely lead to your best work.