Being an entrepreneur and running your own business can of course deliver some amazing upsides, but it does come with its own set of challenges. One of those challenges is burnout, especially in the transition from startup phase to established small business.
The pace at which an entrepreneur is required to perform often lends itself to a sprint, not a long-distance event, and working long hours to make your dream a reality can often lead to neglect in other areas of life.
As someone who has both an established business and a startup at the same time, I am very aware of the potential pitfalls of not looking after your health and wellbeing.
Over the past decade I have implemented a strategy of non-negotiables to avoid burnout, help keep my sanity intact, and not lose my love for what I do.
Establish daily routines
Having a number of daily routines prevents me from wasting valuable time on recurring decisions like what to eat, when and how to exercise or what to wear. Anyone who knows me knows my wardrobe includes a lot of black. My ‘uniform’ consists of a set number of pieces, selected from two or three labels.
I am up at 5:40am every day, and have pre-prepared meals delivered so dinner is sorted. Having this structure means I reduce decision fatigue and don’t spend any headspace in the morning worrying about these little things, which allows me to save my headspace for the more important decisions that I will need to make.
Make sure your daily routines are not just about what you will do with your time. It should include time when you won’t do things, like look at your phone (even if it is just when you are on your commute home from work).
Learn how to say no
When I was younger I was so bad at saying no. I actually had someone write a template for me to help me learn how to say no. I found that I was wasting so much time doing things because I felt obligated to, and I put a stop to that. I now focus my time on my strengths, and I use the strengths of my team and suppliers for the rest.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. It is vital to stay connected and not isolate yourself. But you do need to prioritise those relationships. Over the years I have had to let go of many ‘acquaintances’ and drop the guilt over not having time to catch up with old school friends.
Instead, make time for the people that are truly important to you. I have my family and a small handful of people close to me who I value and I ensure I keep in regular contact with.
Set clear goals and report on them regularly so you not only see the progress that you are making, but also feel encouraged and inspired to keep moving towards your targets. I like to do this by building in fortnightly ‘sprints’ for our tech products and by setting monthly budgets. Feeling like you are making progress and moving the meter keeps your mind in a good space and helps propel your forward.
Celebrate the wins
Even the small ones! I have implemented a ‘feel good’ channel on Slack, our staff communication platform, where my team all share good things when they happen — a great client win, a positive feedback from a customer, or a social media post saying how much one of our talent loves what we’re doing. Acknowledging the positives can have a tremendous impact on motivation, especially when it feels like nothing is going right.
Surround yourself with amazing people
I was recently invited to speak at the annual CBA Women in Focus conference, which was a great experience for me to connect with other women in business and hear from some very impressive speakers. Making regular time to learn from others is a priority for me. You can certainly become successful all on your own, but you’ll get there so much quicker if you learn from others (and you’ll enjoy it a lot more too!).
For this reason, I am a strong advocate of having mentors in your life. As an entrepreneur self-doubt often creeps in, and during those times I turn to one of my mentors for advice. They listen, help me stay on track and remind me of the successes, which is important.
I gave up on trying to achieve what I thought others thought my work-life balance should be. Instead I have set boundaries that are right for me and now accept that my schedule can be fluid and shift at times. Accepting that you can’t be good at everything at all times can be difficult for entrepreneurs. It is important not to hold yourself to an impossible standard as no one can be the perfect friend, partner, boss or board member.
Do you best, work bloody hard, and give yourself a break from time to time.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.