As a small business owner with a small team, the chances are that you experience some form of burnout regularly. Perhaps it happens every December, when you have fewer days to turn out great year-end results for your business. It might certainly be happening right now as you focus on finding ways to keep your business alive — and the changes you’ll need to make to ramp it up again once the pandemic starts releasing its grip.
Here’s some good and bad news based on a recent survey of 1,000 professionals. Nearly 90 percent of respondents reported that they have passion for their jobs. Unfortunately, about 32 percent of them have experienced feelings of stress and frustration a few times every week.
As the head honcho, you can’t afford to do anything less than your best at all times, and you certainly don’t want to experience permanent burnout, where you lose interest in your business altogether. This is a good time to examine ways to nip burnout in the bud.
A Common-Sense Approach Can Change Your Perspective
Constant stress is typically a precursor to burnout; however, some rational thinking and action might be all that you need to avoid falling off of the cliff. Here are some ideas on how to identify areas of stress and how to mitigate them for you — and your employees.
First, recognize the signs in you and your employees
Theoretically, you already know if you are putting too much responsibility on yourself and others, but you need to recognize when you’ve gone over the top. There are more signs than can be listed here, but here are some common signals:
- The normal quality and amount of work lessens.
- Interest wanes in work and even co-workers.
- Physical signs of exhaustion become more prevalent, possibly to the point of dozing off at work.
- Illnesses become more common than normal.
- Frustration and anger erupts with little provocation.
Small business owners often have a close connection with their team members, so you are likely to recognize these and other changes that signal impending burnout. Of course, your stress is easily contagious to your employees, so don’t forget to monitor yourself for similar changes.
Figure out if the situation is truly stressful
Even though everything can seem like it’s top priority, the reality is that our own perceptions are often more dramatic than they need to be. Before you react as if your entire business is on fire, ask and answer questions like the following:
- Are you trying to do more than a task requires?
- What is the worst thing that will happen if you relax your expectations or slow down a bit?
- Does the customer really need you to complete a project in one day, or did you set that deadline because you’re just anxious to move on to something else?
- Are you rejecting help from others just because you don’t want to train them — or you believe that you can do it better?
If you take a few steps back, you may start to recognize that much stress is self-imposed, so there is no need to head toward burnout.
Take a breath, and take control
Stress is typically more common when we do not have full control over a particular situation. If you take a few deep breaths, take a walk, or even think about something else for a while, you can free your mind to recognize that you probably have more control over stressful situations than you think.
A mind that is totally focused on a single issue often fails to create solutions. Experiment with different ways to open your thoughts. Small business owners need to think outside of the box more often than is required for the cogs in the corporate conglomerate wheel. An open mind will allow you to do this; a blocked mind will lead to burnout.
Finally, don’t forget that two (or ten) heads are better than one. Before stress freezes your brain, bring in more people, such as employees, vendors, members of your professional network, and even customers to help you collaborate on ways to gain control over a stressful situation.
Before full burnout hits, change your daily routine
Small business owners do not typically work 9 to 5. You sometimes have to work almost around the clock to create success. No one can maintain an all-work schedule without eventually burning out, so you need regularly-schedule getaways to stay fresh.
You don’t have to take a two-week vacation, but you need to create the habit of removing work from your thoughts on a regular basis. Every day, go out to lunch, take a walk, play with your kids, or find other ways to have some fun.
Avoid burnout transfer
Passing some of your duties to members of your team can reduce your stress while showing employees that you trust them. Your people may feel proud that you see them as worthy of important responsibilities … to a point. If they are already overloaded with their own work, giving them more to do will just transfer your stress on to them.
On the other hand, if you can shift some of their more interesting work around to others, then everyone can gain new skills. When review time rolls around, they should be pleased by what you have to say, along with possibly earning extra compensation.
Outside “Talk Therapy” Brings Things into Perspective
Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a growing team, you have more options to take control than you may initially realize. However, like you, employees or others within your business circle may be too close to the situation to find the solutions that you need.
It’s normal to separate your business and personal lives, but now is the time to bridge the gap. Talk with your family and friends, and don’t forget to bring your children into the loop, if appropriate, because they have no limiting beliefs. There’s a reason why the old saying, “out of the mouths of babes” remains fitting today.
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