Burnout is one of the worst things that can happen to any small business owner. Your focus and motivation all but disappear, your desire to work goes out the window, and the thought of getting down to business can actually become a depressing one, rather than exciting, as it should be. Obviously, this is bad news, and something to be avoided. For the 9-5ers out there, it is somewhat unavoidable. But you’re not a 9-5er now are you? With the increased freedom that comes from setting out on the path to Personal Independent Earnings comes the ability to tweak the way you work to avoid burning yourself out, making sure you stay happy and productive for a long time to come. I’ve spoken before about a few ways to do this (such as taking holidays, enjoying the fruits of your labor, etc), but never before focused on avoiding this specific pitfall. Here are a few ways to avoid falling into the trap:
Vary Your Routine: Anyone who’s been in a 9-5 position can tell you, routine is a one way ticket to burning yourself out. A set routine quickly becomes habit, and then from there becomes, well, boring. If you’ve ever worked an office job, you know how mentally draining doing the exact same thing for the exact same span of time every single day can be. Work becomes a chore, the mind wanders, and the next thing you know you just have no desire to do anything anymore. Avoid this by changing things up often. Work different hours, work in a different location (there is wireless Internet almost everywhere nowadays), anything to switch things up a bit to keep your mind sharp and engaged.
Reward Yourself: So you’ve been plugging away at a particularly daunting task, and finally complete it. After congratulating yourself on a job well done, what do you do? Dive right back into work? While I’m sure there’s still lots to be done, resist the temptation for a little bit to dive back in and keep plugging away. Take a break and treat yourself. Go out for ice cream. Do a little shopping. See a movie. You’re on your own time, remember. You report to no one but yourself. You are free and clear to take a break to clear your head, recharge your batteries, and reward yourself for a job well done in the process.
Don’t Overwork: I know, I know. Lots and lots to be done, not enough hours to do it all in, and chances are, there’s no one else who can complete it all but you. But that doesn’t mean you should run yourself ragged trying to power through it all. That’s a surefire way to burn yourself out (see what I did there?) in a hurry. Remember, work will still be there later. Or tomorrow. If you’ve put in a good solid bit of work and don’t feel like doing anymore, don’t. It’s that simple. There’s no middle management goon in a cheap tie behind you demanding reports or wondering why you’re on Facebook. Those days are long past. Now obviously this won’t always be possible, and there will be times where you’ll have to buckle down and work your tail off, but these are generally the exception, not the rule. Remember, you work for you. You’re the boss. And if the boss says “I don’t want to do any more work today”, well, why not listen?
Listen For Cues: If you’re in danger of burning yourself out, your brain will let you know it. You just have to listen. Having a hard time focusing? Work output maybe not what it was a week ago? Is getting out of bed and dragging yourself to your home office (with a quick stop at the coffee maker) becoming a chore? A thing to be dreaded rather than excited for? This is your brain telling you maybe you need to ease up a little. The human mind is an amazing thing. When something is wrong, it will tell you. As I said, all you have to do is listen to it.
Everyone has a point at which they will burn themselves out. Everyone. The trick is to avoid reaching that point altogether, allowing you to remain happy, productive, and most importantly, earning the maximum you can, for a long time to come.