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How Creating a Long-Term Business Plan Can Help Prevent Burnout Big-picture goal-setting can stop future stress before it starts.

By Jennifer Spencer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Starting a businesses can be like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Even if goals were initially clear, once the rubber hits the road, things continue to change and morph, keeping us reactive and out of the driver's seat. It makes sense then, that one of the most common causes of burnout — according to Pi Slice founder and CEO and Entrepreneur contributor Genny Ghanimeh — is "working hard with the inability to shut off." Many entrepreneurs find themselves doing just this: working long, laborious hours around the clock to make their business click in this period of chaos, when the real work should start with one intensive strategy session to create a business plan.

Now, this isn't just a business plan in the traditional sense. This a plan for how and when you'll work on your business, and what your weekly and monthly priorities will be moving forward. Once you have a clear picture of these priorities and the order of attack, you can prevent burnout by constructing a work-life balance. Here are four tips on how to do so as you strategize for the new decade.

Related: 7 Time-Management Strategies for Busy Entrepreneurs

1. Create three clear, objective goals for the year

Sit down with your team or a mentor and list out all the main goals that come to mind for the year; David Newman writes on Vistage that there should ideally just be three core objectives. These could be specific to the business, or more personal-development based, such as how many conferences you want to attend or how many speaking engagements you want to land. Once the list is exhaustive, survey it. Which three are truly worth your time and energy? You may find that some goals play into each other, too, and can go underneath larger buckets.

Once you feel good (and excited!) about the main three objectives, write them on a poster board to hang in your office or on a wallpaper you can put on your laptop desktop. As you start to break down the quarters, months and weeks, all smaller goals and initiatives will feed into these three core objectives.

2. Break the year down into bite size pieces

It can be massively overwhelming to look at all 365 days ahead of you and try to strategize a day-by-day plan of attack. Instead, start with bite size pieces. Take the upcoming quarter. What should a smaller sub-goal be for each month? What will you do each week to achieve that sub-goal, and how do daily habits and practices amount to these weekly, monthly and quarterly achievements?

As you start to bring the goal down to the granular, you'll already start to feel more organized. Now, knowing what you'll accomplish on a day-to-day basis (e.g. how many articles you'll write, sales calls you'll make or coaching sessions you'll host) will ensure you are always in control of your business.

3. Create parameters that enable you to be proactive, rather than reactive

Ultimately, the process of creating this granular plan will empower you to be proactive, rather than reactive. Jessica Zimmerman, wedding planner and the founder of a seven-figure floral design company, is also the mother of three young children and has had to find a work-life balance based on this notion. She had to ditch the need to be reactive (responding whenever a client emails, working all night if feeling overwhelmed) to be there for her kids and create a work-life balance.

"Have clear start and stop times for your work," she shared with me. "In our historic agrarian society, humans would work with the rhythms of the sun. It is not in our DNA to work non-stop." Zimmerman recommends creating parameters by working shorter time blocks to do more high-impact work, and having time in the morning and at night without your laptop. She also only checks her email once a day (in 30-minute time slots). This way, the time you spend working is maximized, and you can block burnout before it has a chance to creep in.

4. Schedule vacation time

Contrary to the latest trend of hustling all the time, vacations will leave you better off than they found you. Emma Seppälä Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today that "even a short weekend getaway can provide significant work-stress recovery, while longer trips away provide even more relief."

And when you take vacation, that means disengaging from everything at work. You won't soak in the full benefits of time away if you're on your laptop by the pool. Halt everything for a week, or have someone on your team take over. Since you're planning it this far in advance, that won't be hard to do.

Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout

Burnout may seem impossible to avoid when it comes to starting and running a business, but it's imperative that you protect your health and well-being. Be proactive, create a granular plan and make sure to take plenty of breaks. Your business —and your happiness — depends on it.

Jennifer Spencer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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