After a decade of building entrepreneurial dreams, this year I finally won the frequently fought 'burn out battle'.
Here are my 13 top tips to help you do the same and so achieve more in less time and with less damage to yourself, your family and your income.
1. Pace yourself. Going at it hammer and tongs is actually self defeating because you WILL hit the wall, the only question in the equation being ‘When?’ And just how hard you’ve driven yourself without rest and relaxation will determine just how long it takes you to get back in the saddle again – life is about balance, always about balance.
The solution is to take frequent breaks and put yourself and your wellbeing as a ‘client’ on the list of to do things – ie ‘go for swim’ then takes on equal importance with ‘write web content’ or whatever it is you are doing this afternoon.
2. Don’t try and do too much at once - concentrate on ONE thing at a time, don't try and do lots of different things at once. Why? Seems self defeating doesn't it? Not so - if you do one thing for a month, then that thing actually gets done, and can start to pay you back. Whereas if you try and do five or six things at the same time, nothing gets finished that month, and maybe not the following month or the one after that either.
3. Don't put your eggs in one basket - it's admirable to be able to concentrate on creating a huge dream, but if it means you starve or lose your home or peace of mind, you won't achieve it - or certainly not as fast. So if it's really big and if there is just you paying the bills (it was just me, plus two kids to support) then be sensible and create separate income streams alongside it so you can survive happily and not worry, because worrying is wishing for something you don't want to happen. And it won't help - and neither will starving either. And if that means the big dream happens more slowly, then so be it. Give yourself time and BE PATIENT.
4. Stop caring so much. Don't wrap your entire identity up in making this work because you'll just get all uptight and tense when you do that. Don't think "It HAS to work" and grit your teeth and go back at it again when you are already exhausted, because it really doesn't HAVE to happen, and by trying to force it to you will just tighten up and lose your flow. And then you will pull in everything you are scared of NOT happening.
5. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough. You can, and will, work on improving it. You have lots to offer and will have more in the future. You are already in the top league, and way ahead of most people, so relax.
6. Make it easier to take it to market – define your niche and your ideal client very tightly and then invest time and some resources in working out where they go, what they read, where they hang out and then take you to them – don’t rely in the other way round happening. Build your network in the quickest way you can and offer incentives for people to pass on the word. If you need some extra marketing and social media guidance, then get in touch with via Business Midwife or The Funky Agency.
7. Keep your friends and your health - Make sure you have social and exercise time. Overdoing it will make you bored and stale and fed up and you'll lose your friends and your waistline as well as your sanity! We got a dog and I HAVE to walk him. I also schedule in ‘me time’ without feeling guilty and have appointments with myself that I can't break. In addition my business partner won’t let me get sucked into the 'pooter and work non stop without breaks because it is bad for me, and what is bad for me is bad for business, so when I forget and ‘disappear’, she chases and nags me until I come up for air. The children do the same, and it works. Work is NOT as important as love and health, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
8. Define your workspace – when you work from home you need to have the 'office' where you can shut it away out of view. Work life balance is about staying sane and if you can see the computer or your workstation all the time, or the pile of papers you haven't completed, you'll just drift back to it and start working again – and probably be there past midnight! And that means your life is OUT of balance and you are heading for burn out.
9. Have a hobby – and make sure that is all-engrossing and requires you to pay attention. I make preserves. If I leave them, they burn. Simple. I have to babysit them for an hour at a time. People know I make preserves and they give me fresh home-grown fruit and vegetables that sit there tempting me and making me feel guilty until I turn them into delicious products. It works for me.
10. Build a team and work with other people who complement you. Solo successful entrepreneur? It's a myth. No one has that much time, energy, talent and spare hands. Get people to work with and you will get yourself wings.
11. Get your systems in place. If you haven't got a system set up already that is saving you time and energy, then read 1) Funky Business (no not one of mine, despite the title!) 2) E-myth Revisited and 3) research and set yourself up at one or some online office/accounts/email/admin systems.
12. Pick and choose - what you go to, what you watch, what you read, who you see, who you speak to. There are only so many hours in a day, you can't make more, and there is only so much of you to go round and you only have so much energy to give, even on a good day, so avoid the things that drain you, because it is a sin to give from empty and the universe punishes it pretty quickly. Especially avoid the emotional vampires who latch on and suck you dry, or just want to use you without giving you back anything in return. Only have people in your life who are good to you and for you – and if want more practical advice on how to do this easily then get yourself a copy of my Guide to Being Happy, it was written directly as a result of getting divorced and starting a business – and burning out!
13. Do your due diligence - ie do your market assessment, your business plan, your research, test the market, look at the competition, analyise the trends, etc etc so you know that the business is right, the time is right, but then TRUST your gut.
And by the way, your 'gut' is not the heart energy of loving it, or the stomach energy of being hungry for it and going after it, it's that sureness of knowing that this is the right path and the right time for you. If that says it's right, then go for it, if not, put your project on a back burner and let it simmer gently until the time IS right. And just because you are the first in a niche does not mean you will necessarily be the one to succeed first - breaking new ground is exhausting and doesn't always pay. But that doesn't mean you can't make money anyway, you can, you just need to give up the 'winning' mentality and choose success instead.
When I started out with Funky Angel, my niche wasn't even aware it WAS a niche - who had heard of mumpreneurs or business mums or work at home mums in the UK in the late 90s? This was the wrong time to push it because when I said I worked from home (and I started after Cecily was born in 1996 and my employer at the time was a dot.com company providing medical and health news to professionals via their own internet and satellite news so I had my own internet at home, dial up modem and everything), anyway, the looks I got when I said this, and the bafflement, had to be seen to be believed. And as for being a 'kitchen table entrepreneur' or 'kitchen tycoon', as we were sometimes called then, well, that was considered very odd indeed! But I waited and grew it slowly, did other stuff alongside it, and now look at the WAHM and home business niche, it's huge.
So give yourself the gift of balance and time. If you need to put it down, you will. If you need to pick it up again, you will. If it is meant to be yours, it'll happen. Believe it and you will find balance – and avoid burn out.
© Claire Burdett.