Once upon a time, there was an entrepreneur named Samantha. 2014 was a tough year for her small business, but she learned a lot. She’s vowing to make 2015 the year when things really take off.
So on January 1, she kick starts a whole new approach to life and work:
- Waking up at 5 a.m. to run a 10K before work (she used to attend gym classes in the evening—sometimes)
- Submitting proposals to present at four industry conferences in 2015
- Crafting ambitious to-do lists every Monday (and not leaving work before finishing each day’s list)
- Reading twenty new business books before 2016
- Attending two networking events each month
- Hitting inbox zero every Friday
How will Samantha feel on February 1? Probably burned out, starved for motivation, and feeling like a failure for not living up to her own unrealistic goals.
For those of us who didn’t suddenly become superhuman in 2015, we know that success this year will come from the same behaviors as in past years: hard work, perseverance, learning from mistakes, positivity, and time to recharge.
Here are a few tips to avoid professional burnout and stay razor-sharp when you feel that your personal life is paying a steep price for success.
1. Do more of your rock-star tasks.
When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, you’re wearing many hats—some that you were clearly made for and some that might not fit you so well. What are the parts of your job that you love doing and do with great results? These are your rock-star tasks. You’ll protect yourself against burnout if you love what you’re doing every day, so guarantee your long-term success by making time for the things you do best.
2. Do less of what you dislike.
A funny thing happens when we strongly dislike a task: we avoid it, procrastinate it, don’t prioritize it, and ultimately rush through it. Find ways to delegate, outsource, or hire for the responsibilities you repeatedly find yourself resenting each week. Chances are, someone else is much more passionate about it—and better at it.
3. Plan a vacation far in advance. Don’t cancel it.
The purpose of scheduling a vacation months ahead is that you, your coworkers, and business partners can plan for it. No matter what pops up in your business, you have to maintain that time off, or else you’re setting a precedent for work-over-life that will be hard to overcome.
Related: How Successful People Stay Calm
4. Take a moment for peace and quiet every day.
Whatever you have time for, whether that’s ten minutes or an hour, take time to stop your brain from solving any business problems or engaging with digital communications. Common ways to use these times are meditation, drinking a cup of coffee or tea, and exercise.
5. Read something that’s not immediately applicable to your business.
Seemingly unrelated forces can sometimes spark creative ideas. You might think a book about cathedral architecture has nothing to do with your small business—until you hear of a unique approach to problem-solving or people-management that ignites an idea. When you start to feel the sting of burnout, read content outside of your own industry, even if a 500-word article is all you have time for.
6. Switch to a new task instead of agonizing over one thing.
Stuck on the same task for what feels like hours? Maybe it’s writer’s block or a lack of enthusiasm about your current project. Your brain probably needs a break. Your time is precious, so manage it better by switching to a different responsibility and coming back to it.
A laundry list of goals without properly formed habits is a recipe for exhaustion. Manage your time knowing that business success is a marathon, not a sprint.