Four years into running Blue Orchid Design, her wedding and event planning company, Liene Stevens was getting sick of the very business she had built. She was working around the clock. When she took breaks, it was scheduled time with friends or family, never alone time. At night before bed, she would read business books. "This was the job I created for myself and loved, but I was finding the work was joyless," she says. "If I burned out, the business was going to go with me."
Stevens first hired someone to handle the sales side of her New York City-based business, a daily task that had been sapping much of her creative energy. She then began working with a business coach to help her refocus and eventually decided to transition from event planning to consulting for wedding industry clients--a shift that allowed her to do what she loved most. "I wanted to figure out a way to grow my business and be happy," she says.
If you're starting to feel joyless at your job, as Stevens was, here are five ways to help you rekindle your passion:
1) Schedule personal time to recharge. Stevens started taking time for herself--learning to cook, exercising regularly and reading fiction instead of business books before bedtime. She began using an answering service that sent business calls to voicemail rather than directly to her cell phone after 6 p.m., which enabled her to unplug from her work responsibilities. Too often, business owners don't allow time for themselves, not just to unwind, but also to have fun, says Mark Sanborn, a Denver, Colo.-based leadership development advisor and author of The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary (Currency, 2004). He recommends asking yourself, "What have you always wanted to do that you've never done? What have you done in the past that gave you your greatest joy?"
2) Seek out a mentor. No matter your age or work experience, there is always someone out there who knows more than you do, says Phil Cousineau, host of the PBS show Global Spirit and author of Stoking the Creative Fires: 9 Ways to Rekindle Passion and Imagination (Conari Press, 2008). "Seeking a mentor is often what gets people unstuck," he says. You can hire a business coach, as Stevens did, reach out to someone in your network whom you've always admired, or connect with people in your field through industry organizations or social media. Striking up a relationship with a mentor can be as simple as scheduling a meeting over coffee or corresponding via email.
3) Delegate parts of your business. Consider assigning the work you don't enjoy to someone else. That might mean hiring an employee to oversee certain functions such as sales or accounting. If you can't afford another full-time employee, you could retain someone on a contract or part-time basis or outsource a task like payroll. "It's easier to just do it yourself, but the long term effects just lead to burnout," Stevens says.
4) Focus on your relationships. When you start losing that loving feeling for your work, you may start pulling away from the people around you. But that's one of the worst things you can do, Sanborn says. Those relationships are what will help you feel energized and inspired about your business. "People who know us can help remind us of our purpose," says Sanborn, who keeps a list of the most important people in his life--from his wife and two sons to friends to key clients--by his desk to remind him that he needs to make time for them. "When we are part of community, we get energy from other people," he says.
5) Introduce innovation. Disenchantment often stems from monotony. If you've been doing things a certain way at work from the start, think about how you can introduce innovation and push your business in new directions. Take time to examine every part of your business and ask yourself: "When was the last time I did something different or new here?" You could try reinvigorating yourself and your business by launching a blog, experimenting with a new form of advertising, or taking a training course in an area you've been curious about. "At the end of the day, we are most passionate about creating," Sanborn says.