As entrepreneurs we’re in a unique culture that celebrates overworking to get results and underutilizes self-care in the process. No one cheers for the entrepreneur who gets 8 hours of sleep every night and we still look up to the all night coders as great hustlers.
But as important as it is to work hard and make things happen, burnout is a real danger. In this article from Lifehack in 2012, I shared one of my biggest warning signs that burnout is on the horizon: you begin to avoid and dread client calls and want to expand on that a little further.
Client contact should be exciting, not draining
You might not have private client calls in your business model but every time you interact with a client at your store, by email, on the phone or even in comments you should be excited and encouraged to continue the work that you’re doing. If instead you’re feeling drained, annoyed and exhausted it’s a pretty good sign that a break is overdue.
The reason is simple, when your work ceases to be engaging it becomes a burden and even the most simple request can make you angry.
Caveat: this doesn’t mean that every client is wonderful and every discussion is thrilling but look for trends here. Do you enjoy opening your laptop in the morning? Does a client call make you want to go back to corporate?
It’s about ease as well
As my buddy Trevor points out, when you love what you do it tends to put you in the flow of working with ease. Decision come quickly, work flows smoothly and you might glance at the clock, shocked to see how much time has passed. Even difficulties in your business are enjoyable to tackle!
Burnout tends to be the opposite. Every ding of your email adds to your headache, you can’t get into what you need to get done and the harder you try the worse it feels. When you’re in a state of burnout the most minor inconvenience can make you want to scream or cry or quit.
That’s me… what do I do now?
If you are starting to see that you might be burning out then I have 3 suggestions for you today. Try 1 or all 3 but these are your action steps to overcoming burnout:
1. Take the morning off. Or the afternoon. Or all weekend. Get at least 8 hours away from work that you don’t spend sleeping. Since work is no longer confined to the office this means putting your computer away, turning off the smart phone and not opening your email. I promise, your business will survive. Put up a quickie “out of the office; back tomorrow” message and go.
Go outside, visit your gym, play a video game, catch a movie, walk a dog, take a nap, read a book, do some shopping – whatever you want to do: do it.
2. Schedule a vacation in the next 60 days. You don’t have to go out of town or even have a destination in mind. Just schedule the time off on your calendar, plan to be gone and put some energy toward relaxing by yourself, with friends or your family.
Listen to me, your business doesn’t have to be thriving for you to deserve time off. Your bank account doesn’t have to be overflowing and your team doesn’t need to be 100% self sufficient and your clients don’t have to be blissfully happy. Stop waiting for the perfect time. Take time now and you’ll be much more capable of handling those stressors when you return.
3. Integrate self care into your life. This could be a regular coffee date, a massage, yoga, good smelling soap, a night out, sessions with a personal trainer, a chef or cleaner (or both!), a new book or just an hour to sleep in once a week. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it feels indulgent to you.
You don’t need to justify the expense or rationalize taking care of yourself but if you’re resistant just remember that if you’re not taken care of your business will follow suit. Once you find something that makes you feel relaxed and cared for put a reminder on your calendar for every 3 weeks or more frequently if you can.
Entrepreneurial burnout is not just dangerous because it harms the business, but because you’re important too. Take care of yourself in the process of building your company and serving others – it’s not selfish, it’s essential.