Running a small business is no easy gig and every small business owner will at some stage face exhaustion, burn out, stress and question if they can keep going. There is a plethora of advice around about dealing with small business burn out, we’ve taken a little time to analyse what helps us (and what we think will help us) to successfully ride the emotional waves of running a business. Of course, these tips can apply to anyone, not just business owners.
1. Take some real time off
At EIS we recently took advantage of the cluster of public holidays over Easter and chose to give the team a good break by closing for that period. Usually we cover when someone is away, which invariably means regular contact and interruptions to their “recuperative break”. Closing for that period meant we could all really relax and, bonus - the business survived!
Naturally, you have to put restrictions on your “workaholic self” and resist checking FB, IG and emails until the break is over.
2. Get a "Business Bestie"
Find a ”business bestie” or group/network for support. Whether it's someone in the same industry or an unrelated small business, it really helps to have a “business bestie” or go-to group. You can support each other, share ideas and just know that all small businesses go through ups and down and not feel quite so alone. This person is a work friend, not an emotional friend, therefore direct advice and constructive criticism are easier to give and receive. They also help with reality checks around the picture perfect success stories constantly posted on social media.
3. Find harmony in your work
Although there is no prescribed time frame for the hours you work in/on your business and it's not always as simple as setting limits like “I will only work 9-5" or, “I will only work school hours”. We’re a 24/7 society these days and we need to work our businesses around this. What is important is that the work you are doing in or on your business is feeding your soul. If you can juggle it all and you’re happy - great! If not, step back and reprioritise; delegate tasks that are weighing you down and preventing you from feeling harmony within your work life.
4. Introspection & action
Be honest with yourself (and those around you) about how you’re feeling. If you can feel you’re burning out or really stressed take action to alleviate this. Seek help, work out what is causing the stress and make positive moves to change it. To avoid getting to this point it is important to schedule regular time out for yourself. Meet up with a friend for a laugh, treat yourself to coffee or lunch at a cafe, see a movie, have a massage. Whatever you choose, make it something you enjoy and that is just for you.
5. Get stuck into a hobby
Add to your time out schedule a hobby. Something that you used to love doing or always wanted to try. Get out of your comfort zone, why not try dancing - its great exercise, social and fun. Hobbies often bring you new friends and new friends are good for the soul. Focusing on learning something new also distracts your mind from your work and day to day issues. One of EIS team did a wreath making class, she said it rebooted her creative side and that it was lovely to be working with beautiful foliage that smelt divine. She now wants to try her hand at pottery. We reckon she should sign up ASAP (she’ll also have Christmas gifts sorted).
6. We like to move it, move it….
Sorry, not sorry, exercise is truly one of the best stress relievers. In order for it to work for you in a positive way, you need to find something that suits you. One friend loves running as the solitude, repetition and fresh air just lulls any anxiety. If you like to be social and struggle with motivation group exercise is the way to go. Another “small business bestie” loves ballroom dancing. Even at her most stressful time she says it instantly makes her feel better. Head honcho here at EIS, Tanya really values exercise and feels the tension creep in when she doesn’t get to do it. She mixes it up so as to avoid injury and boredom with a weekly combination of running, boxing and some Tai Chi to add a bit of zen to her regime.
7. Siesta baby
When you’re feeling that afternoon low, don’t go for caffeine. You’ll actually be far more productive and feel better in general if you allow yourself a short nap. You’ll be amazed what a 20-minute power nap can do to reset your system and power you through the rest of the day. Mediterranean cultures have proven that an afternoon siesta if the way to go.
8. Mirror, Mirror…
Something that really helps turn burnout around and reduce stress is to actually sit and reflect back on what you have achieved. Whether it’s in your work, personal life or both. We’re often so busy in the moment or looking forward or beating ourselves up about what we’re not getting done or how we’re not at that point in time that we wanted to be by now. You’ll find when you actually take the time to reflect you’ll see just how amazing you actually are and just how far you have come. You’ll probably want to have some champagne on hand when this moment happens because you’ll be like “damn I’m good - cheers to me!”
9. Happiness is….
Finally, although you may consider it cliché, in our experience it really is true. Practicing gratitude each day does help you keep things in perspective. This doesn’t need to be a forced cognitive thing, just being aware of the small things in your life that make you happy. It can be as simple as appreciating a beautiful sunrise. There is truly something special about being awake to witness the start of a brand new day (as we recently experienced). Another business bestie once told us that he loved driving over the bridge to his little suburb at the end of every day, seeing the water and the boats, no matter how his day had been, filled him with happiness and gratitude. Remember to notice the small things that make you happy, let them calm your overflowing cup.
NB: We are not professionals offering advice. Just humble, tired humans.