In May of 2019, the World Health Organization listed burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. This announcement confirmed that feelings of hopelessness and frustration were valid for thousands of employees across the world. According to Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Business owners are particularly susceptible to experiencing burnout due to the long hours and stress associated with starting their own venture. Burnout can cause physical illness, anxiety, depression, and even feelings of detachment and hopelessness. To avoid business owner burnout, implement some time management techniques into your day. These simple tools can help you organize your time and allow you to run your business without getting overwhelmed.
Whether you are currently experiencing burnout or are just trying to stay ahead of the curve, we’ve highlighted seven techniques to help combat business owner burnout.
1. Decrease Distractions
The pressure of building a business on top of normal day-to-day stressors is enough to wear anyone down. When you start to feel business owner burnout creeping up, schedule some distraction-free time to sit and concentrate on why you do what you do and why it is important to you.
Technique to Try: Deep Work
Deep work was defined by Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University. In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Newport defines deep work as:
“Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
When you practice this technique, push yourself to force away distractions by leaving your phone and laptop in another room. Once your space is distraction-free, sit down and devote all of your energy to the task at hand. This can maximize your cognitive capability and help you find motivation for your business.
2. Stay Focused
When you have an overwhelming task at hand, it can be easy to procrastinate. In these times you may resort to detachment by checking your phone or doing other chores and before you know it, the afternoon has passed and nothing was accomplished. When you find yourself losing motivation, keep yourself on track by setting a timer for your breaks.
Technique to Try: 52/17
Desk time completed a study and found that people who worked for 52 minutes straight and then took a 17-minute break were 10% more productive than others. This technique was derived from the Pomodoro technique — 25 minute work periods followed by short breaks — and is a favorite for office workers. These 17-minute breaks give workers time to rest their minds, move their bodies, and replenish their creativity.
3. Envision the Day Ahead
From maintaining client relationships to keeping an eye on budget, it can be easy to get caught up in your busy schedule. A great way to stay on top of your day-to-day schedule is to carve out a few minutes every day to reflect on the day before and plan for the next.
Technique to Try: 7 Minute Life
The 7 Minute Life philosophy revolves around leveraging 1% of your day — 14 minutes — to reflect on your life and decide how you want to spend the other 99% of your time. This system suggests dividing the 14 minutes in half and using the first seven minutes and last seven minutes of your day. In the morning use the first seven minutes to reflect on your professional and personal goals for the day. In the evenings, spend the last seven minutes reviewing the day in your mind and prepping for the next day.
4. Delegate Tasks
Starting your own business can feel lonely at times. Between outlining business plans, finalizing paperwork, and earning clients, it can feel like the weight of the company is on your shoulders. The best way to relieve some of the pressure is to delegate tasks to people you trust. If you have trouble letting go of the reins, establish the important things you want to handle yourself and delegate less pressing tasks to others.
Technique to Try: The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix or the Urgent-Important Matrix, was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower. The basic system is used to sort priorities into quadrants based on urgency and importance. This system helps determine which tasks you should complete, schedule, delegate, or ignore.
- First quadrant: Priority tasks that need to be completed in the next 24 hours.
- Second quadrant: Secondary tasks that need to be scheduled to be completed.
- Third quadrant: Less important tasks that need to be completed, but can be delegated.
- Fourth quadrant: Non-important tasks that can be taken off the table.
5. Visualize Your Work
If you manage multiple clients, the tasks can add up quickly. To stay organized, choose a system that allows you to visualize your workload.
Technique to Try: The Kanban Method
The Kanban method utilizes a Kanban board which has three columns that are labeled “Requested”, “In Progress,” and “Done.” It allows you to see where tasks are throughout your process. For maximum benefit, limit the number of tasks in your “In Progress” column so that you don’t have bottlenecks in your process.
6. Front-Load Your Day
For most people, the best time for creativity is early in the day. For business owners, this means that spending time in the morning on brainstorms and other important tasks could be beneficial. Test this out by tackling large tasks in the morning and leaving small items for the evening.
Technique to Try: Fresh or Fried
The philosophy, created by blogger Stephanie Lee, considers mental energy when planning for productivity. For example, early in the day, your brain is fresh and as the hours pass and you use more mental energy, your brain becomes tired. To use the Fresh or Fried technique, try to front-load your day with the creative tasks that require mental energy, and leave tedious and less important items for the afternoon and evening.
Examples of morning tasks
- Brainstorming for a client
- Writing a blog post
- Designing a logo
Examples of evening tasks
- Completing invoices
- Answering emails
- Plan out social media posts
7. Reflect At the End of the Day
One of the most basic time management tools is the to-do list. They are great for organizing thoughts and outlining priorities and if used correctly, they can increase your productivity.
Technique to Try: Ivy Lee
In 1918, Charles M. Schwab decided to work on productivity and hired a consultant named Ivy Lee. During his consultation, Lee sat down with each executive for 15 minutes and laid out the simple, but effective Ivy Lee method:
- Take a few minutes before you check out for the day and jot down the six most important items that you need to accomplish the next day. Make sure to write no more than six.
- Put those six items in order of their importance.
- When you sign on in the morning, focus 100% of your time on the first task and ensure that it is complete before moving on to task number two.
- Continue working down the list until you are finished for the day.
- If you have unfinished tasks, move them to your list of six items for the next day.
How to Spot (and Combat) Business Owner Burnout
Starting a business can be stressful, demanding, and can wear you down. To prevent business owner burnout, learn how to spot early signs, take time for yourself, and implement some time management techniques to stay organized. Eventually, you will be able to make small adjustments to stay on top of your days.
Launching your business can be overwhelming, stressful, and even frustrating at times. If you notice that you are burning out, don’t hesitate to switch up your schedule. Your small business is fueled by your passion and vision so as you tackle your business owner responsibilities today, keep these tips in mind.