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Five Tips To Avoid Burning Out As An Entrepreneur There is now a growing body of research that shows giving our brains time away from work is essential to retain peak levels of performance.

By Neil Petch

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It's not easy to switch off when you're an entrepreneur.

Whether you operate alone or oversee a large team of employees, being able to let go of work can be incredibly difficult. In fact, there are often times when you probably feel like you have no choice but to work every hour of the day simply to keep the ship afloat. Let's face it, it's not in an entrepreneur's DNA to say no to a client or miss a deadline.

But this comes at a cost.

The brain has limits and overworking without any respite not only opens you up to the possibility of stress and burnout, but there is now a growing body of research that shows giving our brains time away from work is essential to retain peak levels of performance. During downtime, the brain is carrying out a number of vital functions including processing recent information and topping up our stores to enable us to better perform critical mental processes.

That's right: taking a break is good for your health and good for your business.

So how do we incorporate this into your hectic business schedule? How do we find a balance to ensure the health of both you and your business? Let's get started.

1. Learn to delegate

Delegation is an art. So let's start with the two key factors to keep in mind: first deciding what to delegate, and second, who you're going to delegate it to. Because this is about much more than getting tasks off your desk– it's about bringing in new skillsets to your business, boosting productivity and enhancing growth.

If you choose the right person, the act of delegation not only reduces the strain on you, but actually increases the overall quality of output thanks to your delegate's skillset. So where is this amazing person? Well, they may already be in your team or they might be someone you find as a freelancer. But by keeping the what and the who firmly front of mind, your act of delegation isn't trading down, but is actually adding value to your business.

Related: Three Things To Remember When Managing Your Employees As A SME Owner In The UAE

2. Learn to say no

I can already see many of you wincing at the very thought of saying no to a business opportunity, but hear me out. There are many genuinely good reasons to say no in business, and once you get your head around this concept you'll find yourself saying it more often and with more confidence. In fact, saying no is a confidence booster.

First we should address the possibility that you're content with keeping your organization at its current size– after all, not every business needs to be the next Facebook. If this is the case, and you feel that taking on more could jeopardize the quality of work or your lifestyle, then no is the answer. But if you do want to grow your business then it's a case of simply becoming more discerning. If the timescales for a project look problematic or the client's business isn't in your wheelhouse– well, here's the time for a no.

Think of it as a strategic tool, and one that benefits your health and your business.

3. Learn to switch off

Feel anxious every time your device beeps or flashes?

Thought so. And you're not alone. Now, while I am well aware that this is another tip likely to have entrepreneurs breaking into a cold sweat, it does need to be talked about. Because if you're the kind of person who is at the beach on "vacation" but still wrangling an Excel file on your tablet, or holding conference calls on your mobile while your kids make sandcastles by themselves– well, it's time to pause for a second.

This isn't about blame or shame, it's simply to state a fact: just because you can check your emails from wherever you are 24/7 doesn't mean that you should.

And as more research comes in, we're learning that those of us who immediately respond to our beeping devices outside of normal hours often have much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol which itself can impair concentration and mood. So it becomes a downward spiral– those who regularly work evenings and weekends (and "holidays") are more likely to suffer from insomnia, headaches, fatigue and anxiety.

It's easy to recognize this in someone else, but can you see it in yourself?

Related: Optimize Your Performance: Tony Hchaime's Tips To Re-jig Your Success Ratio

4. Learn to work according to set times

Don't work longer, work smarter.

If you start your day with no clearly defined finish time, it becomes easy to slide into the evening and suddenly it's 10pm and you still haven't closed your laptop. The best way to avoid this is to create a clear schedule with your work time set aside in blocks. By this, I don't mean "I am going to work 9-5"– I'm talking about creating mini sections of time for certain tasks, each with a definite end point.

Let's look at a concrete example: if you know you need some time to build up to your most in-depth task of the day, block out 7am–10am to "warm up" with daily admin and correspondence. Then later on, once you've had your second coffee, you can get stuck into that big task from 10:30am right through to 1pm. Here you should block out a break of at least one hour to give your mind a rest, then it's back to the desk from 2pm until 6pm. And that is it. Come 6 o'clock the laptop goes off until 7am tomorrow.

Sounds simple, but it's not. If you can crack it, though, you're going to see not just health benefits, but an increase in your productivity as well.

5. Learn not to care so much

We end on what is perhaps the hardest tip to put into practice. The very reason you are an entrepreneur is because you care deeply about your business. You are absolutely right to pour your heart and soul into your work– but not to the detriment of your well-being. Caring less simply means keeping some perspective, knowing that some tasks must be (close to) perfect while others need only to be "good enough."

Do a good job, even a great job, but then move on. An endless search for perfection on every single task will not benefit you or your business.

In the end, it's balance vs. burnout

So there you go. Five tips on finding a balance. Am I telling you to quash that burning drive you have to make your business succeed? Of course not. But what I am saying is that you will be more productive and more focused if you do take breaks. Because your personal health and the health of your organization go hand-in-hand.

That's right. The hardest part of building your business might just be taking care of yourself.

Related: Breaks Lead To Breakthroughs

Neil Petch

Founder and Chairman, Virtugroup

Neil Petch actively assists over 300 entrepreneurs and startups to conceive, plan, and build their businesses on a monthly basis.

After launching Virtuzone as the first private company formation business in the region over 10 years ago, Neil has led the company to set up more than 16,000 businesses, making it the largest, fastest-growing and best-known setup operator in the Middle East.

As the chairman of the holding company, Virtugroup, Neil also leads VirtuVest, an in-house angel investment vehicle; Virtuzone Mainland, a provider of directorship services, corporate sponsorship and facilitator of local Dubai and Abu Dhabi company setups; and Next Generation Equity, a citizenship-by-investment firm. Virtugroup has invested in and supported the growth of multiple companies and delivered passports in over 10 different jurisdictions. Virtugroup also enjoys partnerships with Dubai FDI, the Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Holdings (ARN), VFS, Regus, Etisalat, KPMG, Aramex and Beehive, and has received awards from Arabian Business and Entrepreneur Magazine, among others.

In addition to starting up businesses, Neil has held leadership roles in several companies. He helped establish ITP, the largest media publishing house in the Gulf, which he oversaw growing from two to 600 employees. At ITP, he spearheaded the launch of over 60 digital and print titles, including Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, Arabian Business, Ahlan and Grazia.

As Managing Director of ENG Media, Neil launched the Coast FM radio station and numerous magazines, including MediaWeek. For the last seven years, Neil has also served as Chairman of GMG, the world’s first interbank financial brokerage based out of Dubai, with offices in DIFC and London. Due to his extensive knowledge and expertise, Neil has been appointed a member of the ‘Ease of Banking’ panel organised by the Chamber of Commerce.

Having lived in over a dozen countries and with a career spanning over 25 years in the UAE, Neil has the ability to merge astute cultural insight with fresh thinking, leveraging his seasoned business acumen, intuition and black book to repeatedly bring ideas to living, breathing success stories.

Neil has appeared in BBC (Dubai Dreams) and ITV (Piers Morgan) features on Dubai, as well as programmes on BBC World and Sky. He has participated as a judge on the radio programme Falcons’ Lair, an entrepreneurship reality show loosely based on the BBC production Dragons’ Den, as well as a similar TV competition hosted by MAD Talks. He now hosts Starting Up on Dubai Eye 103.8FM, the only national weekly show for the startup community in the world’s startup capital.

Neil also lends his in-depth market insight to fellow entrepreneurs and helps cultivate Public Private Partnerships as a Task Force Member of the Advisory Council, a coalition of key decision-makers and prominent movers of the UAE business landscape, led by EMIR and the Ministry of Economy.

He is also a regular speaker, panelist, and economic commentator, specialising in the SME sector.

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