Avoiding Burnout as a Small Business Owner

Avoiding Burnout as a Small Business Owner

Donna Torres of Xero highlights the importance of being able to 'switch off' from work as a small business owner, along with six ways to help you avoid burn out

By Donna Torres

There’s no doubt that technology has transformed the way we work. But it has brought with it an ‘always-on’ culture, meaning you’re never more than a few taps away from checking emails, messenger software or Google Drive. But with almost a third of SMEs saying their biggest barrier to success is the inability to switch off, it’s important that entrepreneurs know when to step back. Here are six ways to help you switch off to avoid burnout:

1. Time management is key 

Entrepreneurs are often extremely short of time, especially when juggling a number of different responsibilities. Xero research revealed that the main triggers for stress are staff management (42%), admin (35%), feeling personally responsible for the success of the company (31%) and filing taxes (19%). It is vital for small business owners to find ways to manage such daily pressures, and efficient time management is crucial.  

Prioritizing tasks is key. One way to do this is to separate high-priority work into ‘urgent’ and ‘important’. This will focus the mind. People have been writing lists for centuries - and they really work. There are a number of digital list-making apps such as Wunderlist and Todoist that can take things one step further. These apps can help you prioritize tasks, set reminders and share your to-do lists elsewhere. 

Be realistic with how much you can accomplish in one day. If you commit to doing too much, it is likely you will burnout. Although easier said than done, delegating tasks to colleagues can also reduce the burden.  

2. Keep track of your finances 

Financial management keeps entrepreneurs up at night. The best way to ease the pain is to have a comprehensive bookkeeping system set up, tracking the flow of cash in and out of your business.  

Xero, for example, can be used from any device - all you need is an internet connection. It gives you the flexibility to run your business from work, home, or on the go. This ensures you have an up-to-date picture of how your business is doing. It also automates and streamlines labour-intensive tasks. This will save you time, meaning you can focus on recharging those all important batteries. 

3. Prioritize your wellbeing 

Physical and emotional burn-out can sometimes be traced back to elements of your lifestyle, such as diet, exercise and sleep. As a result, prioritizing your wellbeing is just as important as having an efficient to-do list, and will help you be better prepared to tackle your workload. 

Many small business owners often work through the night. Without the right rest, the following day is not going to go well. Ask yourself if you really have to complete this task at midnight tonight, or if it can wait until the next working day.

It can also be beneficial to introduce more exercise into your routine, even if just once or twice a week. Likewise, cutting out unhealthy food from your diet may help you to feel more revived. There are a number of workplace apps such as Unmind doing really interesting things to help businesses with their wellbeing.  

4. Mix it up a bit 

Many small business owners are fortunate in the fact that they can be flexible with where they work, often working from home. Changing location can invoke creativity and improve productivity, so try working in a coffee shop or a flexible working space instead, as this will prevent you from becoming stuck in a rut. 

This also applies to the task at hand. If you’ve hit a bit of a wall, pick up something totally different and revisit the original task at a different time. Don’t decide to start working on your annual strategy at 4pm. Think about the times that you work best and tackle the most difficult tasks when you know you'll be most productive.

5. Separate home from work 

For many entrepreneurs, their business is a fundamental part of their life. It’s a lifelong passion but also an occupation. As such, it can be hard to separate work life from home. However, it is important to do so in order to give yourself sufficient downtime.

Working after hours can make you less productive, as you’re less able to switch off. Allowing yourself time to enjoy your evenings and weekends will ultimately improve your productivity and reduce the risk of burnout. If you must check emails when at home, try and limit this to certain time periods so that you can clearly separate relaxation time with work. 

6. Schedule downtime 

Try your best to book a holiday, even if it’s just a long weekend somewhere. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to focus on the running of your business. If you can’t book a holiday, try and schedule some downtime every day - like you would a meeting. You could take half an hour every day to step away from the computer and go for a walk, or catch up on some leisurely reading. Whatever you choose, ensure it's something that allows you to step away from your desk and totally take your mind off work.

Overall, small business burnout is a real issue that affects a huge number of business owners, due to the fact that it can be difficult to give yourself sufficient time off. Running a business can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming at times. As a result, it’s vital to make sure you find the balance between working hard but not overworking yourself.

About the Author

Donna Torres is Director of Small Business at Xero. Joining Xero when the UK business had fewer than 50 people, Donna helped to transform the sales team into global award winners. A proven team builder and leader, she is an expert people manager and an incisive thinker with deep knowledge of the small business landscape.