How To Wind Down Before You Burnout
As a business owner, burnout can seem a distant reality or something out of a fairy tale. I have once thought: "How can my life, which I have chosen and is filled with me living and breathing my passion, ever cause me anything but harm?"
In the last 18 months, I have gone from jobless to jubilant - starting a business, growing another, launching a book and presenting on the radio. The many accolades achieved feel like one's dream and a set of checks on my young self's bucket list. All these significant achievements have resulted from my ability to say yes and figure things out later - knowing that if one thing can use 30% of my strengths, we most probably can make a business case out of it.
However, in June 2021, I started waking up feeling restless and clouded. My neck ached to the extent that I invested in 6 sessions of acupuncture and my legs felt too tired to take it from one end of London to another. I dismissed business calls, not because I didn't want to take them but because saying another yes could mean that my weekends would once again be booked and busy. The digits in my bank account increased whilst the willpower in my body didn't.
Between jumping on new business calls, managing my remote team, and wearing my many colourful hats, I felt like I didn't have enough time to enjoy life or this new sense of identity I had formed.
As an entrepreneur founded at the start of the pandemic, I couldn't help but think that I was letting myself down by focusing less on my business and more on my better health. I know it sounds crazy. However, the idea that you need to be better for your business is a sentiment I fully agree with but sometimes forget when figuring out the next paycheck.
Having said all this, I know I wasn't (and am) not alone. So many of my direct messages, WhatsApp messages and coffee meets are filled with founders feeling fragile and forgotten. The emphasis on your solo self bringing in the bucks puts a toll on life. You should be able to manage your calendar to take off Friday without feeling guilty.
After weeks and weeks of hesitating, I emailed my calendar bookings and asked to reschedule for the week later. I told my team that I would be taking one week away from the screen, and before I could talk myself out of it, I booked a luxury trip to Ibiza, which meant sun, sea and self-care.
Having come back rested and ready - here are three things I can happily share with you if you are feeling booked, busy and burnout.
1. Take an actual holiday. The better you are, the better your business
We've been cooped inside our homes for more than a year, and I think we've underestimated its impact on our productivity and mental health. Many colleagues have told me how sometimes they stare at their screen because they can't concentrate on their tasks. For some reason, we are sending more emails than usual and expecting quicker replies. This is always disadvantageous on mentality in the broader scheme of things.
That is why I encourage you to take advantage of the holidays - schedule a few days or even weeks in advance with a clear out of office so that no meetings can be booked. Communicate these with your colleagues and clients in advance so that calendars can be adjusted. An out of office doesn't mean snorkelling in Spain but allowing yourself to chill out.
You can make plans with family or friends to make short trips to other parts of the country or day trips to nearby cities. Even playing tourist in your town is a great way to change your environment. Whilst taking long walks, business ideas and clarity of concepts may come to you - use this time to voice record your thoughts and address them when you're back online.
My advice is to take at least five days off if you can. It will make you feel recharged and ready to continue working on your goals.
2. Unplug. Take a break from social media and your inbox
For anyone who knows me, I am a lover of LinkedIn. So it was an achievement to go from LinkedIn beginner to changemaker 2021 - one of eight in the UK, may I add.
However, that extra added layer of online meant I found it challenging to stay away from my emails and social media. Aimlessly scrolling felt like a movement that I couldn't control. Despite deleting my apps, I found myself doing it, especially in my more absent moments.
I have to admit that I couldn't wholly disconnect. I limited my time responding to emails and checking social media to one hour a day during my holiday. Most days, I locked my phone in the safe and ensured it wouldn't go out with me during meal times.
I won't lie. It can be stressful to think of all the unread messages and piles of work pending. That is why one of the things I did was build a strong team that I knew could manage the day-to-day tasks and deal with any emergency.
Having this support from colleagues or a manager was critical to learning how to wind down and take the time I needed to rest. My team could ping me a message if they saw I was online to go back off and reply to any urgent requests so that we weren't missing out on opportunities.
3. Do something unrelated to your day-to-day job - discover new perspectives
When you are reaching your breaking point, most likely, you will feel uninspired and lack motivation. By giving yourself a chance to try something new, you can discover new perspectives to bring back into the business.
Some quick wins include reading things entirely outside of regular lists. For example, the hotel library had a Dorothy Koomson thriller book which I wouldn't have ever considered reading; but, I was obsessed with during the hotel until the final moments.
This simple change of genre reignited my interest in non-fiction, and now I have around eight downloaded on audible.
Other examples include watching new documentaries or shows. I had never seen The Office before, so I binge-watched that in the evenings and listening to podcasts by brown people to reconnect with my culture. Try your hand at a new hobby or enjoy the one you abandoned due to lack of time.
What's the point of it all?
- Schedule a break, stick to it and enjoy the new learning experience. Avoid delving into work-related tasks and communicate with your team and clients, so they also can give you the sense of break you deserve as a business owner.
- Ask yourself: "What's the point of working hard if you're not going to enjoy the benefits of managing your calendar?"
- Remember - you need to rest, recharge and recover from being your best self.
My advice: Work hard, but listen to your body and know when you need to switch off - it's time to automate your out of the office and wind down before you burn out.