A few years ago, I was growing a marketing agency.
Most of the time, I was working 70-80 hours a week, if not more. (I was much younger then, and I thought I could handle it.)
This went on for a couple of years. Week in, week out.
Until one day, I just totally burned out.
It took me weeks to begin to recover from that episode. And then I vowed never to burn out again.
What is burnout
According to helpguide.org, burnout is:
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”
Here are the 10 strategies that I took to avoid burnout culture for the second time.
1. Get more sleep
One of the biggest reasons that I fell into burn out was a lack of sleep.
For me, sleep controls almost everything else with regards to my physical and mental health. The more sleep I get, the more energy I have to exercise, and the healthier I eat.
But when I was on the way to burnout, I was sleeping maybe 4-5 hours per night.
If I just worked that extra hour, it’ll pay off later on. So I put my head down to grind away.
Not only was this taking a toll on my physically, it was wrecking my mental state of mind.
Finally, after I burnt out, the number one thing I vowed to do was get more sleep. I found that the rest of my health took care of itself.
2. Exercise more often
It turns out when you exercise, it’s not just good for your waistline, it’s also good for your mental health.
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
And I found this out first hand.
The more I started to exercise, the less stressed I became. I went from a 10-15 minute walk every day to carving out an hour out of my day for various cardio and strength training activities.
This would have been unheard of when I started my agency.
“There’s no time for exercise, I need to do more work” is the excuse I would tell myself on a daily basis.
It turns out, that the more I exercised the more productive I became.
3. Socialize with friends
“I can’t go out with friends, I have to finish up this report.”
“If I go out with friends, I might lose this client.”
These were the lies I used to tell myself and would cause me to miss out on hanging out with friends.
Short term gains for long term pains.
Yes, I might have been able to complete the report or retain the client. But I never gave my brain a rest. Eventually, I isolated myself from the rest of the world, and started to feel depressed.
In the long run, this caused me to lose clients because I didn’t have the sustainable energy required to keep them happy.
4. Eat healthy
This is starting to sound like a fitness post. But there is such a high correlation between your physical health and your mental health.
Some foods serve as amazing stress relievers, while other foods contribute to your stress, and eventually will lead you to burn out.
When you’re feeling stressed, here’s a few foods to eat (source).
- Omega 3’s
You can find Omega 3’s, a type of fatty acid, in foods such as chia seeds, flaxseed, seaweed, salmon, and cod.
According to HealthyGroceryGirl.com:
“Women should aim to consume 25 grams of fiber/day and men should consume 38 grams/day. Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in your digestive tract to increase bulk in your stool, whereas insoluble fiber promotes movement of materials out of the system. Creating healthy digestive habits can help boost overall brain health as your body heals from stress and burnout”
- Dark Leafy Greens
These are foods such as spinach and salads that contain vitamins and minerals to help you boost your mood and fight fatigue.
- Whole Grains
You’re going to want to avoid processed carbohydrates such as white breads and sugars. Instead, opt for whole grain breads and sweet potatoes.
- Lean Proteins
Avoid fatty meats and instead opt for something lean. I started to eat a lot less steak and a lot more lean chicken and seafood. It definitely helped my waistline as well.
5. Find a hobby
One thing that truly helped me avoid burn out the second time was a dedicated hobby.
I picked up card magic – and have been doing it off and on for a few years now. (Don’t judge 🙂 )
But being able to dedicate my time and mental energy to something beyond work had a way of focusing me when I was working.
Not to mention, trying to learn a new skill set from scratch is incredibly humbling.
Just being able to refocus my brain and my energy on something that I truly love doing and isn’t stressful made a world of difference for me.
6. Create routines
Creating routines will allow you to automate the tasks you do throughout the day. That way you won’t have to think about things as you grow your business.
You’ll just do it on autopilot.
For instance, one of my routines is that I write every morning from 9 AM to 11 AM. It’s when I find I have my peak creative energy for this task.
I don’t think about it. I just sit down at my laptop at 9AM and begin.
I shut down email, Slack, Skype, and all other distractions. This ensures that I keep to my blog post schedule on a weekly basis.
Another routine that I have in place is every Monday morning at 7 AM, I write down the 3 things that I need to do during the week that will make the biggest impact on the business.
These are things that I will do beyond my normal routine. So, “publish blog post” wouldn’t be included on that list because that’s something I’m already going to do anyway.
7. Delegate more work
When I first started, I used to think that I had to do everything myself.
I remember spending half a day trying to set up landing pages and connecting them to email sequences and trying to get the tech integrated.
Now, you can go on Fiverr and have someone do it for you for $50.
And it’s one less thing to worry about.
Or, if you need to build links to a blog post. You can just go on Upwork and find someone who can do it for you for a few hundred dollars a month.
That will leave you plenty of time and creative energy to focus on building your business. Even if you’re just getting started and don’t have a huge budget.
Once you realize how much you can delegate in your business, you’re going to reduce the potential for burnout in a big way.
No time to exercise? Now you’ll have time.
No time to go out with friends? Now you’ll have time.
No time to sleep? Now you’ll have time.
By delegating, you’ll have more time to help you take care of yourself, so you can sustain business growth for the long term.
8. Identify your creative time
One of the most valuable assets that any entrepreneur has is their creative time.
This is the time you have to deploy the most creative aspects to move your business forward. As I mentioned above, I am at my creative peak from 9 AM to 11 AM. So that is when I get all of my writing done.
I save my meetings, email, Slack conversations, and everything else that has to happen after 11 AM.
Be incredibly stingy with how you spend this time.
I find that when I try to do creative tasks outside of the two hours, that I’m unable to get anything done. That will get me further behind. And eventually stress me out.
9. Love what you do
What’s the old cliche? People who love what they do never have to work a day in their life.
When your work is also fun, it is far less stressful and will allow you to endure some of the hardships that come with the territory of growing a business.
In the end, this is why my agency ultimately failed. It stopped being fun for me. I started to find more excuses to quit than reasons to overcome and move forward.
Until one day I asked myself “why am I doing this?”
This isn’t to say that you’re going to have fun every day, nor will you love every single task. But overall, you’ll need to look back at the end of the week or month and say “I love what I do.”
10. Take a vacation!
There, I said it. I’ve given you permission.
If you’re like me, then you never take a vacation. Or when you do, it’s a “working” vacation. Trust me, the world isn’t going to end.
Your business isn’t going to collapse.
Take whatever precautions and measures you need to take to make sure the vacation will go as smoothly as possible.
Not taking vacations is one of those short term gains that will cost you in the long run and contribute to you burning out.
Avoiding burnout culture
The more I’m on social media, the more I’m seeing burnout culture celebrated. I can’t help but wonder if these aren’t people who haven’t been burnt out before and don’t know the effects it can take on you and your family.
If you’re looking to grow a business that is going to sustain you for the long haul, then it is best to avoid burning out at all costs.
Greg Digneo writes for TimeDoctor.com, a time monitoring and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams. If you would like to see where you and your team are spending your time during work, try Time Doctor free for 14 days.