Small Business Owner Burnout - What are the Signs and How You Can Help Yourself (and your Business)

Updated: Mar 2

You love your business. You are passionate about it. For most of the people reading this, you started the business yourself! What started out as an idea or a dream is now a full-blown reality. You are your own boss!

Being your own boss, however, is not all the “take a break whenever I want” and “work in my sweats” lifestyle you had envisioned. The rose-colored glasses are off and you are in the tranches of day-to-day decision making, deadlines, and minutiae you never considered when creating your company.

The grind can wear you down - quite literally - and lead to burnout. According to a 2017 research study, burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic stress at work, with several consequences to the workers’ well-being and health. And it is not just headaches, little sleep, poor diet or lack of regular exercise. This chronic stress can lead to muscle tension and aches, high blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes, heart problems, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, irritability and insomnia. These are serious health issues that can have long and debilitating effects on your life!

Lit Matches on Black Background

Many small business owners have some or all of these types of issues, especially when their business is first starting out. It is not something that is surprising. After all, you have a lot riding on this - you want to be successful. Long days (and nights), decisions, upon decisions, upon decisions, money going out and not as much coming in, people to hire. (Just thinking about all of it makes you stressed!) Burnout can occur when you try to control too much to try to do too much and your body starts to wear out. It can easily take your business - which is something that you loved and enjoyed - and turn it into a prison.

Women at laptop stressing over work, dirty dishes and young children

As stated above there are health issues that are caused by severe burnout. There are also signs to look for that you may be headed down the path to burnout including:

  • Low energy

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Constant frustration

  • Low enthusiasm

  • Chronic stress, anxiety, depression

  • Lack of confidence

“Ok, ok, message received!” you may say. You may recognize that you have burnout or are headed in that direction. You probably didn’t even need this article to help you realize that. But what can you do about it?

Thankfully there are many things you can do to manage, reverse and even eliminate burnout. They may not be things that come naturally to you at first, but if you want to better your health or create a better work-life balance, changes are a must.

  1. Get organized. It is easier to see what needs to get done and when deadlines are all in one place. Put everything on a calendar so it is easily accessible. Planners, paper calendars, apps, online programs - anywhere where you can see everything that is going on all in one place.

  2. Delegate. Whether you have five employees or one employee there are always things that can be delegated. This will allow you to focus on what you do best. Letting go can be difficult but it is important not to try and do everything by yourself. Giving tasks to others will help you be less stressed and overall happier in your work.

A team of young business professionals in a meeting

  1. Get yourself a schedule. Many entrepreneurs find block scheduling to be very effective. It can look something like this:

  2. 8 a.m. - 9 a.m. check email

  3. 9 a.m. 11 a.m. work on previous days assignments

  4. 11 a.m. - noon check in with staff

  5. Noon- 12:30 p.m. eat lunch

  6. 12:30 - 1 p.m. read up about what is happening in your industry

  7. 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. meet with clients

  8. 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. work on assignments from meetings