I talk a lot about my trademark program, Self Care Through Scaling™. It’s something I learned the hard way, and I coach my clients so they can get there faster. In my latest YouTube video, I explain what Self Care Through Scaling™ is, and how I burnt out (and then learned) to do it for my own business.
Many women who deal with mental health conditions like Depression or Anxiety find it necessary to leave their jobs in exchange for the control of Entrepreneurship. It is extremely difficult to work a strict schedule and in specified circumstances when mental health is a factor. I, myself, have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and PMDD (pre-menstrual depressive disorder), and would likely find it impossible to productively work for an employer ever again. With my own business, I can allow myself my Down Days without self loathing, and then make up for them when I am feeling better.
I’ve built a lot of systems for working around my own mental health. I even teach a workshop called Self Care for Entrepreneurs. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
The Rule Of Three
When I’m down, it’s like pulling teeth to work any sort of productivity out of myself. But the world is still turning, and clients or customers may need things from you. I find that reducing my own expectations of myself to baby steps helps me still get something done.
This is what I call The Rule Of Three. If I wake up bumming, I coax myself into choosing three things to accomplish that day. Just three goals. They could be as simple as order business cards, apply to a speaking event, and follow up with a client. Often I find that I’ll end up doing more than three, simply because there were adjacent tasks at hand. But if not, I still accomplished my goal of three items and that can feel like moving a mountain on Down Days.
The 24 Hour Rule
I love this rule. I teach it to everyone I can. The 24 Hour Rule is releasing yourself from responding to any messages (email, instant message, or phone calls) for twenty-four hours. This is a good rule for simply staying sane at work. It helps ensure a level-headed response when heated messages come your way. It also relieves me of the impulse to clear my inbox throughout the day instead of check emails only twice — morning and afternoon.
When down, keeping up with messages can be exhausting. Since I always practice The 24 Hour Rule, I already feel comfortable ignoring much of what comes through during the day.
The only messages I do respond to are emails marked Urgent from clients or employees. Usually my team can handle it, but they may still need guidance. I offer what I can so the issue doesn’t get hung up on me, and then release myself from the task of completely clearing the rest of my inbox.
What self care have you done today? Any? It’s so easy to do a self care routine when we’re not down, but when the feels hit, things get really hard. The last time I was down I thought to myself, “I haven’t even showered… but did I even try?” I was beating myself up for not even having had taken a shower, but I also hadn’t tried! This is the way the depressed mind works.
I write down my morning routine so I can’t ignore it. It gives me something to point to and say, “Ok, this is what I try to do every day — so let’s try.” I coax myself into doing yoga, even if all I actually do is child’s pose; to take a shower, even if it doesn’t happen until mid-afternoon; and make myself some tea.
I also try to listen. I texted a friend one time and simply said I was in a funk. He replied, “Have you tried meditating?” Well, no, ’cause I’m depressed and the couch is my best friend. But he’s right. Meditation is part of my self care routine and I totally skipped it. So I got upright (but still on the couch) and meditated. The Universe will try to talk to you through others to coax you back to good, but you have to listen.
Who’s In Your Corner?
It’s taken me years to build a compassionate and safe friend group, and another few years to allow myself to feel vulnerable enough to reach out to them when I’m down. Yet, as you saw above, they are so helpful!
Even if you’re not ready to post to Facebook requesting backup, try texting your best friend, partner, or someone else you trust. As you read, the response may be simple, but it also might be the thing the Universe is trying to tell you.
Recently I simply posted “No energy — bring food.” Guess what? Three separate friends stopped by with food! Again, my friends are very understanding, many of them also having experienced mental health conditions, so I felt safe doing this. Even though I know my friends are compassionate, I was floored by their generosity. Another prime example of how silly depressed brains can be (because of course I would do the same when I feel good!!!).
What Do You Love?
I know that when I’m really down, I want to read. I also read to wind down for the day, and to help me fall asleep at night. Reading is as important to me as breathing — which is why my bookshelves are overflowing and I have a Little Free Library in my front yard so I can cycle books faster.
When I’m down but I want to get something done, I read one of the business books that is waiting for me. That way I’m still educating myself about growing my business and good business practices for my clients, but I’m doing something that is comforting to my brain. These books are on my ‘to do’ list anyway, so I actually am accomplishing something for my business, just not quite what I had meant to that day.
Start with this brain dump: What do you love to do, and how can you integrate it into your business day today? Maybe being outside helps your depressed brain. Can you work on your business outside? Bring your laptop out, or a book, or your mind map? Could you write the next chapter of your book outside? Maybe going for a walk helps you. Steve Jobs would go for walks to come up with new ideas for Apple. Can you bring a notepad and jot notes as you walk? What else makes you feel good? Get creative about integrating it into your work day.
Above all, forgive yourself. Forgive your brain. It is doing the best it can, and you will feel better, soon.
I admit it. Sometimes I wear yoga pants to work, too.
Yes, I practice yoga. But not at the end of the day after I’ve been working. I do yoga in the morning to wake my body and prepare for a busy day of doing what I love. It level sets me so I can be mentally present for my clients and serve them as best I can.
When you’re doing what you love, it can be hard to stop at the end of the day. But you must! Otherwise what you love will soon be what you hate. You’ll find yourself mentally exhausted, antsy, and displaying avoidance behavior, even though you love your work.
Yoga pants are a symbol for me. In donning them, my mind automatically switches into ‘lounge mode’. I no longer feel like I need to be on point and focused. I can go for a walk in comfort, garden, cook, sit in funny positions, and whatever else strikes my fancy. My yoga pants create the mental space to just be me.
I’m not suggesting you do the same if it doesn’t fit your personality — although, I do suggest you find a similar practice. How might you punctuate the end of your busy day so you can wind down and relax? In the past I’ve used evening showers, going for a walk, or meditation to cool my jets and tell my mind it’s time to stop working.
This does have a caveat. You see, when you love what you do, you’re likely to be inspired by just about anything in your life. Though your evenings and weekends should be ‘non-work time’, it’s important to leave space for that inspiration. However, there’s a difference in reacting to that inspiration. During work hours it’s appropriate to follow the rabbit hole to see where it leads. But when you’re at home, whether alone, with your partner, children, or friends, it’s important to stay present.
Create a system for capturing the inspiration and ideas that come your way. Write them down, put them in Evernote or another app, or leave yourself a voice memo. Whatever you need to do to have the peace of mind that the idea is secure. Then, return to your evening.
What do you do to transition out of work-mode at the end of a long day? Tell us below!
Watch the companion video on YouTube.
Owning a business is thrilling — just like a roller coaster. That new idea, new employee, new client, or new product excites the pants off you, but getting turned down feels like you lost your heartbeat. Some days it feels like you’re on top of the world, others feel like you’ve been buried in the sand.
As an entrepreneur, people will challenge you. They want to know why you started a business, who you are, and why they should trust you. You will constantly be on the hot seat, scrutinized for every detail of your life (not just your business). With that kind of pressure, it can be easy to get pushed around and forget your original goals. Even worse, you can actually lose yourself as you try to meet external demands — demands that may not even fit your original goals!
I’ve been through all of it, and want to help you avoid some of those moments. Here are eight ways to make sure you don’t lose track of yourself to your entrepreneur identity.
1. Write down your raison d’être.
When you started your business, you probably had some lofty ideas and goals. Maybe you wanted to change the world (or the industry). As you began introducing yourself as an entrepreneur, were you asked why or how you got into your work? With each answer you gave, did you have to mould it to your audience? What if your audience was always a little different? What happened to your truth?
I didn’t write out my goals with my first business because I didn’t know I should. I actually didn’t know a lot of things when I started out, and missed out on a lot of resources and support. Now that that business is four years old, things look way different, and it’s hard to recognize what I started.
If your business is already in full swing, try to think back to who you were the day you decided to start it and write down your motivations. If you are just starting your business, write down why. Write down a one year plan, and a five year plan, stretch goals, and anything else you can think of. Don’t just put it away when you’re done. Post it somewhere, or formalize it into a manifesto / mission statement. It will help you know when you should (and shouldn’t) work with someone. When it’s time to hire employees, show it to them so they can help steer what will become your company culture.
2. Ask why when someone says ‘no’.
Yes this is scary. So is starting a business, and you did that. The work of an entrepreneur becomes a part of our identity that it’s easy to internalize a ‘no’ as a personal hit. While it can become hard to hear anything negative about your business, sometimes you need to.
Recently I had a client who told me ‘no’ when I thought we were a sure deal. I mean, I had already done a little dance in my head about his positive responses leading up to decision time. But when the decision came, I was shocked to get a no. Instead of allowing my imagination to run wild with all the horrid things he must think of us (which it loves to do), I asked why. Turns out I was right — they loved us — but they are a nonprofit and their budget couldn’t quite stretch far enough to hire us for our original proposal. The awesome part is they hired us for some side work instead.
I can’t promise that every answer you get will be as nice, so don’t forget to use a filter. Some people are assholes who drop bombs willy nilly. You’ll need to filter through the crap to find the constructive part of their criticism. Most of the time, however, you’ll receive feedback from kind people who have something real to say, and it will make you and your business better.
3. Keep that work / life separation.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about this one. In fact, my partner came home last night and said he and some mates were discussing working from home. They complained that clients often think that you’re available 24/7 when you’re independent, and he replied, “Oh yeah, my partner is militant about cut off times.” I wouldn’t quite use that word, but I guess I am…
Without work / life separation, your work identity will bleed into your personal life, and the highs and lows of business will begin to affect who you think you are. Imagine getting a ‘no’ from every client call of the day, but not internally separating the fact that they are no’s for your business, not for you. Your self esteem would tank!
The people in your life will also be thankful for your work / life balance. As entrepreneurs, we tend to disappear into our work, rarely coming up for air. If you’re working from home, your partner probably knows what your ‘do not disturb’ face looks like. I’m sure you don’t want to wear that face all the time (queue the old adage “your face will get stuck that way”). Your friends and family hear about your work enough. You don’t need to be working constantly, too.
4. Create a system for following up.
I know this sounds like a no brainer, but self-sabotage is a tricky beast that weeds its way into the best entrepreneur’s work. Maybe you’re tired on a given day, or the work isn’t exciting (who wants to follow up on their taxes?), or something has zapped your excitement for your business. You need a system to get around self-sabotage so, down the road, you don’t find you’ve missed a huge opportunity.
I love writing things down, and I love my Passion Planner, so I do my best to write down everything. When I leave a potential client a phone message, I write down a reminder to call them back in a couple days. It seems overly simplistic (at least to me), but over and over I have forgotten to return a call or email because something distracted me.
As an entrepreneur, you will be juggling many aspects of your business, and this will happen to you. Do whatever it takes to create a system that doesn’t allow you to forget.
5. Reassess regularly.
I don’t just mean for your business. Since entrepreneurship means that your work is very closely tied to your personal identity, you’ll want to reassess your personal life as well. In fact, conduct an assessment for how your business is affecting your personal life, and vice versa. You may discover an imbalance in friendships is burning you out at work, or that work is obliterating family dinner time.
Find a frequency that feels right to you, and mark reassessment days on your calendar. I do it monthly, but you may find your business better fits a quarterly model. Personal life can get crazy quickly, so monthly might be better. Don’t set a frequency any less than biyearly, or things will get away from you.
Do them all at once so you can draw parallels. Write, draw, or type out how you think things are going. You can use a tool like the Passion Planner (I told you I love it), any number of questionnaires on Google, or make up your own. I like that my planner keeps them all so I can flip back to see my progress or make comparisons. In doing so, you’ll catch problems quickly and can ritualize what works well.
6. Take a vacation!!!
So often do I hear of entrepreneurs who don’t take vacation. Listen when I say that there is no award for working yourself to death. Sorry, ladies.
I have found that when I take a vacation (an actual vacation without a computer), I gain some serious clarity about my work and my personal life. I realize where things have been failing, what goals I’ve forgotten about due to stress, and often return with new direction.
If you find it hard to go on vacation, put it in your calendar way ahead of time. Actually, put it in your calendar on the same month of each year. Now you have a task / event that is both in your way and something you can plan for. If you don’t have a partner, plan something with friends, or go alone. Vacation doesn’t have to be a resort in Jamaica — if you like stimulation, go to a music festival or explore a new city. Take at least one week a year to get out of your entrepreneur head. Your mind, business, and the people around you will thank you.
7. Start using affirmations.
Affirmations have kept me sane in more ways than one. Affirmations are phrases that you repeat to yourself to reach a goal. That goal could be boosted confidence, but it also could be working with the Law of Attraction to grow your business (Sarah Prout has a lot to say about that, so I’ll leave it to her).
This is a great way to reinforce yourself and your goals when things get busy, since you’ll choose phrases that you identify with. Some people make them up, some pull quotes from movies or thought leaders, and some are written by someone else. I do a blend of all three.
My favorite affirmations book is written by one of the elders I interviewed for my book, called Ribbons of Love. It is divided in sections covering many topics and the pages are perforated so you can tear them out and put them where you’ll see them — and read them.
If you prefer journaling, however, the Happier Mind Journal may be the best way for you to do this. It helps you track how well you slept, your moods, your goals for the day, and more. This is a great way to stay mindful when you feel like you have eight heads and twenty arms trying to accomplish everything at the same time (or is that just me)?
8. Practice self care.
Self care is a hot topic these days, but it’s usually the first to go for busy entrepreneurs like ourselves. That is one of the worst things you can let happen, as the trickle down will affect every aspect of your life.
Last year I realized that my self care had pretty much disappeared. Had you asked me what I did for self care, I would have looked at you with a blank stare. This led to some bad times and a giant stress ball named Veronica. I don’t think I was very pleasant to be around, let alone the physical consequences of constant stress. So I started thinking about what makes me feel good — things like tea, herbal baths, and yoga. If you had told me then that I would soon be waking up two hours early so I would have time for yoga and a real breakfast before I start work (at home or at the coworking space) I would have laughed.
There are a ton of resources that discuss self care online, but the most recent one by The Mighty was really good. Self care isn’t just about aromatherapy and meditation, it also includes doctor’s appointments and family. Do some work to decide what will most benefit you, then stick to it.
What else keeps you sane as an entrepreneur?
Ever since I started my business, I knew that a work / life divide was critical to my continued sanity. Without a commute or separate office (I was working from home) to ensure this divide, it became very important that I stay on top of the issue. This has become second nature to me, so I’m a little surprised when other entrepreneurs struggle with it.
It’s not easy — one of my current clients has a day job, making it difficult to meet. The urge to make an exception is strong. But if I allow myself this excuse, more will follow. I have to put my foot down and find a compromise (in this case by phone).
After being interviewed on the podcast Hello Tech Pros, it became apparent that this is not so easy for everyone. I’m here to say DO IT. I don’t care if you are 10 years or 10 months into your business. If you haven’t set any work / life boundaries, it’s time to do so.
My Work / Life Divide
Work never starts before 8am. Eeeeevery so often there is a networking event that eeks its way into my life at 7:30am, but that is rare. If I start working before 8am, I’m more likely to wake up too early for my own good and lose the slow mornings I cherish.
Work ends by 6pm. Sometimes I cut out early. Either my brain will just have stopped or I’ll have done all I can for the day. But even when I’m on a roll, I don’t go past 6pm. Let me be clear — sometimes a networking event goes later. These usually involve beer and not a whole lot of work-thought. I let these slide, but usually only one a week.
Don’t be checking email on your phone. Seriously. It’s so, so easy to do, but you’re way more likely to slip into checking email on your phone during family dinner or in bed, so just don’t. The only time that it should be acceptable is when you are traveling during the work day. If I’m between meetings outside the office, I may glance at email on my phone to check for emergencies. I find that if I actually begin to respond to email on my phone, I mistype (which looks unprofessional) and have to toggle between apps to find information. Pain. In. The. Ass.
Put it away. When the day is done, put your sh-tuff away to avoid burnout. If you have a home office, shut the door and don’t reenter until the next business day. I either work from home or from a coworking space, which means that everything is in my briefcase. Everything stays in that briefcase when work is done.
There are exceptions. For example, when a client pays extra to have me work over the weekend for a rush job. That’s a worthy exception. A conference or event can qualify as an exception as well, just be sure to have some relaxing time built in or take Monday off so your mind doesn’t fatigue. Some of my board meetings are on weekends as well — these matter a lot to me so I accept them but keep the rest of my day clear.
One of my favorite books to peruse time and again is Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. The first section of the book is dedicated to cleansing yourself of all the negative input you’ve received in the past regarding your creativity. You see, if your parents or friends told you your passion (drawing, dancing, singing) was stupid or a bad idea, it’s likely that those comments were internalized. For some this means that they (over)work to defy these comments. But for others, sublimation of their passion occurs, and they avoid their creativity.
Likewise, entrepreneurship is about big ideas based in passion — ideas that no one else has. It requires us to be self-empowered and self-motivated. This makes us specially unique to accomplish great things, but also means that when we hold ourselves back, there often is no one to get us back on track.
If you have ever told yourself that your idea isn’t good enough without a factual / statistical reason, it’s time to decipher where the reasoning came from. Why does it matter? Because stopping yourself from taking a leap can become a habit, and just like with writer’s block, you may become entrepreneurially blocked. Ideas being our livelihood, that’s bad.
How to Find the Source of the Negative Commentary
You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you? I want to help you find where that negative reinforcement is coming from, so you can heal it (or tell it to bugger off, if you prefer). Note that I’m not a psychologist, I’ve just done this for myself to great benefit. I am only able to instruct you based on personal experience.
Each step will take time — how much time varies with each individual.
Think about the last time you had an idea for your work that you gut reacted negatively about. This may take some time — I know my memory is odd with things like this, and sometimes I need to tell my brain to find a fact, then step away from the task for a while.
Once you have the moment in mind, we can proceed.
Think hard about what stopped you from pursuing the idea. We’ve already decided that it wasn’t a fact or statistic, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this exercise. Did you stop yourself because the idea felt silly, wrong, or too ambitious? Perhaps you felt it was selfish, or would be too much fun (not ‘work’). Nail down exactly what it was, otherwise the next step won’t work.
With the reason pinpointed, you can now consider who in your life might have left that impression on you. This could be through the language they used, or the attitude they exuded toward things similar to the idea you had (or toward entrepreneurship in general). I see a lot of entrepreneurs hold themselves back not only from individual ideas, but from success because someone, somewhere, once left a negative impression on the pursuit.
For many of us, these internal conflicts formed when were were too young to write off the attitude of the person we were with. That is why this exercise is, at times, necessary. Basically, we’re going to go back in time and re-teach ourselves that what we were taught was wrong, and release it.
Use the reason you abandoned an idea as an indicator. 90% of the time, my clients immediately know who it was who negatively affected them, even if the actual event isn’t remembered. Just like your best friend may be the only person you know who uses the word “rad” anymore, the attitude or words left with you by someone is quintessentially them.
If you can’t remember, despite your best efforts, it’s alright to proceed to the final step. Sometimes things happen to us at too early an age, or weren’t consciously remembered because, at the time, they seemed to be insignificant events.
Was it a parent? A friend? A teacher? With this person in mind, are you able to think about the moment this attitude was taught to you? What was that moment really about? Sometimes, as young people, we don’t realize that the comment or attitude wasn’t directed at us. We pick things up because we are learning at break-neck speed, and garbage gets rolled into the good.
If you meditate, try to enter the space in which the event occurred, and see it for what it really was. If directed at you, it’s time to forgive the person, and yourself (I know I get frustrated at myself for internalizing other people’s issues), and let it go. It will be easier to let go of something that wasn’t directed at you, but it’s nonetheless important. If you don’t meditate, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the person in order to acheive the above result.
This is a process, and I expect it to take time. Ultimately, business decisions should be based in fact, so if you find yourself negatively reacting unnecessarily to a new process, growth, or idea, take the time to go through this exercise again. You may have more than one incident to clear up, or require positive reinforcement for the change to stick.
If you try this, please tell us about your experience in the comments!
There once was a young woman who lived in a beautiful and fertile land. She was a strong woman, someone who wasn’t afraid of adventure. She loved her land and wanted to call a part of it her own. When she was 25, she chose to leave her family’s farm and begin cultivating her own plot.
The young woman chose to cultivate fruit trees — they were plants she could climb and she loved the taste of their fruit. At first, the land gave well. It easily took the seeds she planted and they quickly sprouted. The land hadn’t been worked in years and provided plenty of nutrients to her growing trees.
That first year was plentiful, and she had a large cache to store through the winter. She shared the fruits with her friends and everyone knew she was successful in her venture. So great was her praise that she soon forgot the hard work she had done to start growing the fruit — she began to rejoice only in the fruit.
Spring returned, and it was time to return to the soil. Her neighbors began tilling their land to plant new seeds and carefully checked last years surviving crop to understand what was needed to keep the adult trees healthy.
But the young woman had forgotten how to do this early stage work. Instead, she focused only on the trees that grew the year before, and only on the work she did in the fall to prepare the trees for winter.
As summer progressed, the young woman despaired. There were no blossoms forming on the trees, none of the signs of coming fruit. With the advent of fall, the young woman could only weep, as there was no fruit. Her stores from last year’s harvest hand worn thin, and she was starving. What had happened to her beautiful fruit?
Are you able to relate to this story? I am, because this happened to me in one of my ventures. I started focusing only on the revenue of my business and forgot how to generate leads. I forgot to plant seeds.
Every business is different so seeds for me means networking, being a member of local associations (or maybe national ones), giving back in some way (sponsorships, teaching), and encouraging referrals. Can you think of seeds that are unique to your business? What might they be?
Let’s start a conversation in the comments below about where your seeds may lie — you never know what ideas you’ll discover!
If you’ve been an entrepreneur for more than five minutes, you’ve probably faced burnout. Being an entrepreneur can be stressful, a veritable roller coaster, and there are some days that you’ll feel like you’re in over your head.
On those days, instead of allowing yourself to drown, stop for a second and ask yourself this question:
Everyone’s burnout is different, and every stage a different shade. So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever your comfort liquid is, and let’s hunker down.
I offer “unplugging” advice as a guest on the Hello Tech Pros podcast.
Get to Know Your Limbic System
The Limbic System is the “fight, flight, or freeze” part of our brain. Often, this part of your brain is called your “Lizard Brain” because it is such a simple base of operation. In fact, the Limbic System reacts several milliseconds faster than your higher brain.
The Limbic System is also the originator for stress. In some cases, your Limbic System may mistakenly connect a current situation with a negative past condition. It is entirely possible to be stressed about something that isn’t actually stressful, simply due to such a connection. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with already…
The Limbic System is responsible for the feeling that stress is building up, even if you’re not sure why. With enough stress comes burnout — flight being the usual gut response. If you’re feeling this way, please don’t abandon your hard work. Instead, let’s work through what your burnout could be saying — and how to fix it.
Burnout isn’t just burnout.
It is your mind (or body) trying to tell you something. Even if it is misguided by past experience, it is important to work through the stress and put that trigger experience to rest.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that your stress is coming from your business, and not from a past trigger. So let’s take a look at the three major types of business burnout and how to deal with them.
The launch is so close.
You’re a week away from a major launch and suddenly your brain has decided to poop out on you. It doesn’t want you to get out of bed, hates that you’re drinking coffee to try to jump start it, and definitely does not want to make sense of the work you have ahead of you. How could it be that you are so close to the finish line and your mind just refuses to get along?
Validate the Stress
In this case, your burnout probably just needs to be recognized and soothed. Bear in mind, burnout comes from the Limbic System — the part of your brain that is most animalistic, and often rather childish. Your burnout doesn’t mean give up on the project. It’s childish to give up when it’s almost completed (unless there is a major red flag), right?
The Limbic System isn’t rational. It doesn’t know that you’re almost at the finish line — it just knows that its stress threshold has been reached and it wants to be done. To get past it, stop for a moment and allow yourself to know that you’re burnt out. Take a few deep breaths, and let it happen. By not fighting it, your burnout is validated, and your Limbic System satisfied. Follow through with a good meal and early bed time to let your brain rest.
This mantra I made may help:
I suddenly feel run ragged.
If you haven’t been working toward a major goal in which the stress will soon subside, your burnout is probably saying something much more significant. I’m assuming you still love what you do (otherwise, scroll down), which means your burnout is most likely telling you that you’re not paying enough attention to yourself. I totally get that — I have a tendency to do the same. In fact, earlier this year I noticed while setting my monthly goals that I was making no personal goals. It was all business. And that’s the fastest way to burnout.
Take Care Of Yourself
Ok, let’s start with goal setting. Have you set any for yourself, lately? I mean anything from losing ten pounds to finally reading that book that you bought six months ago because it looked amazing. If you’re not setting even small goals for your personal life, you’re making yourself prone to burnout. Self-goals are like the Vitamin C & D for your immune system. Sure, it can get along fine without them, but with them you could go years without getting sick. Which would you prefer?
My current goals are to finish an art series that is scheduled to show in August, make my second batch of kombucha, and finish a leathersmithing project I started for a friend (back in February — ew!). My larger personal goals are to hang out at least one week night with friends, and to meet Bono. I said larger, didn’t I?!
One other important area to look at is self care. If you don’t even know what that means, click the link. This is really important and you’ve been missing it.
If you know about self care, have you been doing it? When was the last time? Self care is food for the soul and is necessary to fuel the energy it takes to be an entrepreneur. It also helps the work / life divide, which I believe is important for sanity’s sake. Take this moment to reassess your self care rituals and, if necessary, form some new ones. Commit to yourself that you will do these regularly — preferably weekly.
My current self care regimen includes epsom salt & oil baths, reading in bed, listening to music with good headphones on, and making a big dinner from scratch. What do you do for your self care? Share in the comment area below so others can get ideas!
I can’t do this anymore.
Ok. This is a HUGE signal and deserves a lot of attention and introspection. If you sincerely feel like you can’t continue your work, it may be that you are no longer dealing with a Limbic System reaction. Rather, your core self is reacting to what you’re doing, and your Limbic System is providing the alarm. What do I mean by your core self? However you define your essence — what makes you, you. Your soul, your spirit, your personality. And if that is what is conflicting with your business, it’s time for a major change.
Confronting Your Business
This could easily turn into an existential crisis — but luckily, you’ve got me. Let’s take this one step at a time. First, answer these few questions as honestly as possible:
- Did you start your business to escape a situation?
- Do you have trouble identifying with your clients / customers?
- Do you feel a sense of dread when it’s time to begin work?
If you answered “yes” to all of these, your business is not right for you. Your burnout is telling you to take a good look at your life and make some major changes. It’s time to consider what you are actually passionate about, what problem you want to solve, who you identify with, and why you want to be an entrepreneur. It is likely that you will be able to pivot your business, but this is a long road, and you’ll need help. I absolutely can provide that support, but you will need clarity about the above considerations before we get started.
If your answers were mixed, it may be that you’ve been sidetracked from your core values. Perhaps a mentor made a suggestion that sounded logical but wasn’t for you. Maybe you jumped at an opportunity without considering if it truly fit your business model (and business self). So let’s boil the situation down even further with a few more questions. Please write down your answers, as they will become mantras and reminders moving forward:
- Why did you start your business?
- What do you love doing for your business?
- What do you like about working with your clients / customers?
- What parts of your business do you talk about to friends / family?
Have you discovered any discrepancies in your business today versus what you thought it would be at the beginning? What about compared to what you love to do? It may be time to rebuild your business – not from scratch, but from a philosophical standpoint.
Print off a copy of the Business Model Canvas. Begin filling it out with your answers in mind. Take time to do it — several days is not unreasonable. As you work on it, more realizations may come forth.
The Business Model Canvas will set a new foundation for your business. It will also make sure you don’t get out of scope in the future. Working outside your target market or business mission will easily burn you out again. Now you have, in writing, something to compare every opportunity to.
From here, do two things. First, boil your answers and Canvas down into several key phrases that will help you remember your core values and business mission. Place them where you will regularly see them during your work day. Second, begin working through each aspect of your company to ‘trim the fat’. What activities, areas of focus, or clients don’t fit your Business Model Canvas? Begin setting goals to wean off them. It will hurt your company’s reputation to change overnight, but you can begin making changes right away. Stop taking clients that don’t fit your Model, for example. With actionable goals in mind, your stress should reduce and burnout fade.
What have you done to restore yourself after burnout? Comment below so others might take your advice!
It’s been five years, myriad careers, a full cycle of friends, great loves lost, and a good deal else that has brought me to this moment. At first I didn’t know what was happening. I figured it was bad culture shock. I’d just returned from serving disasters all over the United States. I didn’t sleep for the first two months due to night terrors (about zombies, no less). My then partner told me over and over that I had changed, which is hard for someone who is scared and lost to hear. Read more