Running your own business will be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you’ll ever do. It will also be one of the toughest and most challenging things you’ll ever do!
You founded your business because you are passionate about what you do. You want to create something, make your mark, achieve your goals. You are driven, work hard and step out of your comfort zone to make things happen. Whilst these attributes will absolutely help you reap rewards, they can also create the perfect recipe for ‘founder’s fatigue’.
Feeling overwhelmed, over stretched, over worked, and over tired, especially over a sustained period will undoubtedly lead to burnout. No-one is immune. It doesn’t matter how organised you set out to be, burnout has a way of creeping up on you. You are not a superhero. You have limits. You are not a robot. You can’t simply upgrade, plug in extra memory or capacity.
“We are human beings not human doings.” – Dalai Lama
As the term infers, burnout is not a fun place to be. Being constantly tired, unable to concentrate, irritable, struggling to make decisions and putting things off. Over time, this chips away at your self-esteem and ultimately in the depths of burnout, you simply want to walk away from the business which once lit you up.
Whilst it can be a slippery slope it is possible to prevent and recover from burnout and re-energise your business mojo.
3 Strategies for Combatting Founders’ Fatigue & Burnout
1.Switch on Your Radar
Because burnout has a habit of sneaking up on you when you’re least expecting it and it can also be a challenge to spot it when you’re in the thick of it, it is super important to connect with your inner radar. This self-awareness will help you spot the warning signs so that you can take action.
Start regularly checking in with yourself. If you were employed, you would frequently meet with your line manager, for a one-to-one discussion. A good manager would ask you questions like “How have you been getting on?”, “How are you coping with the workload?”, “Are there any areas that you need help with?” and “When are you planning to take some time off?”
Now think… when was the last time you asked yourself these questions? I bet I’m safe in assuming that it’s been a while, if ever. Am I right?
Stopping to reflect and notice where you’re at and how you’re feeling is an important first step. Think about how best you can do this. It could be daily journaling or scheduling an hour each week for you to have a meeting with yourself. Think of it as your one-to-one session. You step away from the day-to-day demands and ask yourself the exploratory questions that your line manager would ask you (if you had one). Another alternative is to work with a coach or check in with a business buddy that you trust.
2.Protect Your Energy
Your mental and physical energy is your most valuable resource. That is because your energy fuels your creativity, motivation, purpose, confidence, and resilience. I’m sure you’ll agree; these are essential ingredients for you and your business to thrive. So, it’s no surprise that when your energy tank is running low, your ability to engage as you need to and would like, is limited.
“You can do anything but not everything” ~ David Allen
If you try and take on everything, you’ll end up being in no fit state to do anything. On average, every day you’ll have over 60,000 thoughts plus you’ll be making thousands of decisions. Most of these decisions are tiny such as, what to eat for breakfast, how to word an email, whether to have a cup of tea or coffee and whether to click on an Instagram post. However small, every decision that you make has an associated ‘cognitive cost’. In other words, every choice you make depletes your mental energy and the more thinking and decisions you make; the emptier your bucket of mental resources becomes.
Now think about what is going on in your headspace. It can be so easy to overspend and bankrupt your energy reserves.
You don’t have infinite energy resources so use them wisely. Audit where and how you’re spending your energy. Is it worth the associated ‘cognitive cost’? Start to consider your energy expenditure like you would your financial expenditure. Are you seeing a return? Is it having an impact? Could it be more effective to spend it elsewhere?
Then ask yourself… Where can I make adjustments? Where can I pull back? Consider delegating, outsourcing, and pushing back deadlines.
When you start being mindful of your energy levels and expenditure you’re empowering yourself to protect and optimise your energy so that you can remain energised within your business.
Goals help create purpose and focus, providing valuable clarity at any time but are especially useful amid burnout. If you feel like there’s simply too much on your plate, make it a priority to set goals or re-evaluate your existing ones.
It’s important to create goals that will work for you otherwise you’re simply setting yourself up to fail which ultimately adds more stress.
Try to be specific as you can. Really drill down to exactly what it is you want to accomplish. They also need to be achievable and realistic. Think about the resources that are available to you, your skills, the wider situation and environment.
Once you have your main milestone goals, it’s important to break them down into smaller chunks. Create baby goals which are more attainable as this will build up to you achieving your main goals. It also helps you build momentum and confidence that you can succeed. Take time to acknowledge your progress and celebrate these small wins.
Being your own boss, especially a ‘company of one’ can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do but the long hours, financial worry and wearing lots of hats can also mean that it can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. Founders’ fatigue is real! The first step to avoiding burnout is to understand what it looks like, recognise the potential signs and be equipped with strategies to deal with it. Burnout effects you both physically and mentally but you can combat it, so that you and your business thrive.