How to manage stress, burnout and founder fatigue

Article by Angelica Malin

sad, stressed woman suffering burnoutBurnout is an epidemic among entrepreneurs – especially with national lockdowns where our distinction between work and life is evermore blurred and boundaries continually pushed.

It’s becoming harder and harder to relax, which is why you need to take an active role in relaxation and rest to avoid founder fatigue. Don’t get me wrong, business can be exciting, which is why it’s often hard to switch off and you find yourself working all sorts of hours. Here’s my top tips for managing stress in the digital age and avoiding burning out with your work:

  1. Create your own boundaries

When you work for yourself, you need to put boundaries in place for your work – as no-one is going to set them for you. That means creating a work schedule that is something you can actually stick to and doesn’t lead to overwhelm and burn out. Don’t try to fill your calendar with a million calls and meetings every week – leave space in your calendar for proper lunch times, regular walks and days without meetings, so you have the chance to be creative and actually think. Jumping from Zoom call to Zoom call doesn’t provide enough breathing space in your week to get creative and actually enjoy running your business – so set boundaries for yourself that means you’re not over-working and burning out.

  1. Make down time non-negotiable

There’s lots of things that you might think are non-negotiable in your week, such as meetings about finances, team catch-ups and paying invoices. But do you know what’s also really important? Rest. Proper, switched-off, rest. We spend far too much time glued to screens and scrolling on devices, and eventually this leads to a technological and information overload.

You have to remember that running your own business is a creative endeavour too – and out-the-box thinking benefits from having space and distance from day-to-day tasks so you can think about the big picture. Try going for a daily walk without your phone or taking a long bath without tech – putting a physical boundary between yourself and your work is a useful tool for switching off. And, in the end, time off is actually time on because you’re re-charging your batteries energetically so you can give your best at work the next day.

  1. Automate and streamline your business

We often feel stress from overwhelm – feeling like we’re constantly trying to complete a to-do list and there’s not enough hours in the day for everything. Try to reduce the amount of things that occupy your time by automating as much of your business as possible – from auto-chasing invoices through software such as Quickbooks or Xero to suggested responses on Gmail and automated email chases using Boomerang. Also look at ways to batch tasks that take up the most time, such as paying invoices or updating website copy, and batch it together so you’re only completing those jobs on one set day of the week. Don’t be afraid of delegating, too – hire a virtual assistant to help you stay on top of your emails or a content assistant who can help on producing content for your business. You have to be precious with your time – work out where it’s most valuably spent in your business and bring in people to support you in other areas.

  1. Watch for signs of burnout

Don’t wait until it’s too late to spot the signs of burnout. If you’re feeling constantly frazzled, irritable, not sleeping well or constantly feeling exhausted, then it’s time to take a break. Especially during a global pandemic, where there’s more anxiety than ever before, you have to learn to be kind to yourself. Make sure you have a support network in place that you can turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t be scared of showing vulnerability – opening up to your employees is important, as we’re all struggling with our mental health in different ways at the moment. Compassionate leadership looks like caring for others, but also leading by example and showing how to practice self-care and self-compassion during a challenging time.

  1. Stop trying to people-please

We all have responsibilities at work, and certain pressures that are unavoidable, but what about the pressure you put on yourself? Try not to add unnecessary burden and pressure onto yourself by trying to please others – have the courage of conviction to make decisions, even if they are not the most popular ones, and do what you believe to be right for your own business or career. Don’t waste emotional energy trying to please others and instead focus on using that energy to be the best possible version of yourself – and focusing on the goals you have personally for work and the action steps needed to make those goals a reality.

Angelica MalinAbout the author

Angelica Malin, award-winning entrepreneur, editor in chief of About Time magazine and author of new book She Made It, Kogan Page, £14.99

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