Burnout. It's something literally everyone on the planet experience at some point. Unfortunately for business owners, we don't have the option of just phoning in an average job performance when we're not feeling a spark, nor can we count on paid vacation days and sick days to help us get realigned. (Yes, one of the benefits of self-employment is a flexible schedule; however, we all know that entrepreneurs work harder and longer than most people with "regular" careers!)
Any time you're feeling unfocused, unfulfilled, exhausted or just plain blue, your business is going to face a consequence. And while we all have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps from time to time, eventually the ennui of burnout will catch up to us on a larger scale. That's why it's important to identify the signs, and head it off before it catches up to you in a big way.
Here are five signs that you're experiencing burnout in your business:
1. You find yourself avoiding contact with others. Phone calls go unanswered, voice mails go unretrieved. Emails pile up in your inbox. And the longer you wait to get back to people, the harder a task it seems. You find yourself no longer caring that the phone calls and messages represent potential (or current) clients and sales. It doesn't feel worth the hassle to deal with them.
2. Social media feels overwhelming. Kyle wrote recently about the negative impact social media comparisons (and just the endless, mindless scrolling) can have on your creativity. When you're burned out, you become kind of a social media zombie - you keep looking at what others are doing with their businesses and in their lives, but you can't take action in your own. You're reminded over and over that you just feel stuck.
3. Your work quality is slipping. Suddenly, the images you're taking, or the cakes you're decorating, or the designs you're creating, aren't representative of your best work, but you send them out the door anyway. "Good enough" becomes a mantra. You know you're capable of better, but you decide your clients won't necessarily know that. After all, your "good enough" is better than many people's "best," so you become accepting of a lower standard for yourself.
4. You consciously avoid the reality of your business. You don't want to check your online banking records, because you know you're not going to be happy with the balance. You know there's someone on your team who needs to be spoken with about his or her performance, but you put it off day after day, because the problem will still be there tomorrow. You're aware there are several anxious clients waiting to hear back from you, but you just can't deal. And your to-do list looks pretty much the same day after day - you just keep moving each item to the following day's list, when you're sure you'll feel more like getting stuff done. Repeat ad infinitum.
5. You wonder why you ever decided to go into business for yourself. Suddenly, all the things you were dying to escape - a boring 9-to-5 routine, a cubicle, a commute - don't seem so bad. You long for the ability to turn off your brain at 5pm on a Friday and forget work until after the weekend. That spark you felt when you started your business, that boundless motivation, is long gone. You feel trapped.
Does any of this sound familiar? I know I was practically nodding my own head as I was writing it. Fret not - there are things you can do to combat these feelings of burnout, regardless of your schedule and regardless of your budget.
Five ways to rectify the feeling of burnout:
1. Review your self-care plan. "Self-care" is such an annoying term, to me anyway. I think our culture (particularly the parts with a financial interest in selling related products and services) has made it a buzzword and hammered it into us to the point that taking care of yourself feels like pressure sometimes. Like you're failing at yet another thing if you aren't doing yoga, or taking long walks, or going to the spa on the regular. Still, there's never been a time when I've felt burnt out that I wasn't also neglecting to take care of myself physically and mentally. When you're experiencing the signs of burnout I described above, take stock of your routine and consider whether you've included time for the activities that relax and recharge you. Whether it's hiking, binging on Netflix, socializing with friends, sleeping half the day away, browsing a farmer's market, diving into a trashy gossip magazine, getting your nails done, hanging out with your dog, baking (and eating) something awesome - if it makes you feel good, it's worth your time and will most certainly have a positive impact not just on you, but also on your business.
2. Get inspired. Inspiration is such a personal thing, and it can come from anywhere. Allowing others' words, experiences and advice into your mind and your heart is such a powerful thing and can be truly transformative, personally and professionally. If you're an extrovert, or just enjoy bouncing ideas off others, consider joining - or forming your own - mastermind group of like-minded professionals. If you're more introverted, getting lost in a great book (whether related to business, spirituality, general mindset, or even humor) can be an invaluable resource for getting inspired. Even browsing inspirational Pinterest boards can help get your motivation back on track.
3. Clean house. Or rather, clean your work environment. Seriously - when you're feeling stuck, physically cleaning your workspace (dusting your desk, blowing the crumbs out of your keyboard, Clorox-wiping your phone and mouse, organizing your files) can make a world of difference in clearing your head. If it seems to be helping, take it a step further and clean up your digital workspace too! Sort out that mess of files and icons on your desktop (I recently took mine from almost two full monitors' worth to about 20), sort out that junky email inbox, organize your photos and documents, unfriend/unfollow social media accounts that get on your nerves. You'll feel calmer and more focused when you're done, I swear.
4. Plan a retreat. You don't even have to go anywhere - just block the time and stay home, or any environment that you like. Even just a single day spent on dreaming, setting goals, and formulating an action plan - all the "big picture" stuff that gets lost in the sea of day-to-day responsibilities - can completely turn your head around. Kyle and I did this earlier this week (we'll be blogging more about it in the coming days, I promise) and it was a great experience.
5. Call for reinforcements. When you're really stuck, or you just feel bored with your business, consider speaking with a coach. Maybe I'm biased since this is a service I offer, but I'm really proud to have helped a lot of business owners, in all disciplines of the wedding industry (and some in different industries altogether), get refocused, re-energized, and ready to tackle their business once again. Sometimes all it takes is someone neutral to listen to and advise you on your worries, or to help you figure out why your brand isn't exciting to you anymore, or brainstorm some new products or services to make your business feel current and fresh. It usually takes just one session to experience a tremendous benefit.
Being aware of the signs of burnout, and addressing them before they chip away at your business, is one of the most important things you can do when you own your own business. The stakes are too high for you to let a negative mindset undo all your hard work.