Running a small business can be all-consuming. Especially if you founded your own company, chances are good that you’re the first person called in any crisis and the last person to leave at night. Being passionate about your work can give you the drive you need to succeed, but that passion also has a dark side—burnout.
In one recent survey, 25% of entrepreneurs reported feeling ‘moderately’ burned out. Researchers also found that entrepreneurs were much more likely to report burnout if they were focused on money, status, and success. People who were passionate about their work but focused mostly on the memorable experiences it gave them were much less stressed, and much more able to take breaks and achieve a better work-life balance.
Here are four tips from other small business owners for balancing your business and your life:
1. Think of self-care as a way to support your business.
“I like to think of my mental energy as a health bar from a video game. Everything I do—writing sales pages, checking and double-checking our funnels, talking to customers, even thinking about work, etc.—will steal a little chunk from that bar until it gets completely depleted, at which point it’s ‘game over.’ So rather than looking at self-care as this optional luxury that makes you think ‘it’s nice to have but not now, thanks,’ think of it as the magic potion that helps replenish your health bar and gear you up for the emotional and mental strain of sustaining your chaotic entrepreneur life over the long run,” says Stephanie Lee, who writes about how to build a healthy life while following your passion at TheFYSlife.com.
- TIP: It’s easy to put self-care last on your list, but you should actually make even more time for breaks when you’re feeling busy or overwhelmed. You’ll be more productive if you step away every now and then.
“Different kinds of self-care should address the different parts of ourselves; mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical…Taking into account our whole selves is key to taking care of us, just like recognizing a child has to eat, has to go to school, has to learn spiritual concepts, and has to play,” says Rabbi Jacob Rupp, the founder of San Diego-based Lift Your Legacy.
- TIP: Remember that self-care doesn’t have to cost money, and it doesn’t have to be Instagrammable. Check out this list of simple self-care techniques for ideas, including snuggling with your pets, cleaning out your junk drawer, and journaling.
2. Prioritize family or personal time so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
“I will unplug when I get home. Family and home come first before any business. It’s fleeting, so don’t miss all the little things! And then good doughnuts help a lot too!” tweets Charlotte, N.C.-based Magnolia Emporium.
- TIP: Take a moment to center yourself before you walk through the door, so your family always has your full attention when you’re at home.
- TIP: Cutting your commute, including the time you spend driving to school or daycare, can free up a lot more time to spend with your family.
“By…prioritizing my relationship with my family, I am constantly demonstrating that I will always show up no matter what. I have built a reputation with my wife and son as always being there, supporting and being a pillar for the family. I do this by over-communicating every day, listening intently and being fully present with them when I’m around. By putting the happiness of your family first, you will find it benefits you in every other part of your life,” says Gordon Light, founder of Plymouth, M.A.-based SOBAM Gear Co.
- TIP: Set clear limits—create a schedule, stick to it, and try not to take work home.
3. Take care of your body to avoid burnout.
“The advice I would give a founder that is on the edge of burning out is to immediately step away from work for a bit. Over-working will only make productivity diminish and could have detrimental longer term results to the business,” says David Reischer, CEO of LegalAdvice.com.
- TIP: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and give yourself some screen-free time before bed.
“One trick I use is to make going outside an actual routine every morning. I’m still learning how to incorporate this comfortably into my routine, because I hate going outside unless I’m perfectly kempt and my hair and makeup look acceptable for public consumption. But, instead of putting on real clothes, I’ll step outside in my leggings and t-shirt, put on some sunglasses if I have to, and take a quick walk to a coffee shop or walk around the block. One other way to assure you get outside in the morning is by walking to the gym, or taking your morning phone calls while taking a walk,” writes Alisha Ramos, the founder of Girls’ Night In.
- TIP: Getting outside—and even better, getting out in nature—can actually boost your productivity, and exercise can reduce stress. Even a few minutes a day can help.
4. Be gentle with yourself.
“Say things to yourself like, ‘I acknowledge that I am behind on a million things, but I am only human. What I am doing is difficult. I am doing my best, and I feel great about that. Worst case scenario, someone will have to wait several days to hear back from me, but that’s okay,’” writes Ramos.
- TIP: Start small when you’re trying to create healthy habits. Give yourself some easy wins and then build from there.
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