Burnout and boredom are the top reasons small business owners pack it in and either sell out or shut down. According to market research published in Family Business, these two factors account for 50 percent of all business sales.
It makes sense. Successful business owners tend to be creative problem solvers. They are also easily bored. Plus, they don’t just commit themselves to their companies…they become consumed by the quest. Many put in long hours. They neglect their health, families and outside activities. Some end up physically ill, emotionally depressed, divorced. Ironically, a major cause of burnout is success, achieving a single goal, long sought. That’s why many owners get restless, discontented, bored.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are ten things I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) to help beat burnout:
1. Separate work and play…and be sure to take time to play. We make it a household rule not to discuss business after 6:00 P.M. We also have made the kitchen, family room and, most definitely, the bedroom a "No Business" zone.
2. Get adequate sleep…no less than six hours a night. Long-term sleep deprivation can distort thinking and reduce productivity. On the flip side, adequate sleep can enhance stamina and clear-headedness. Life always looks better after a good night’s rest.
3. Devote time to mental regeneration every day. Some business owners spend 30 minutes every morning to meditation; others read the Bible or listen to inspirational tapes. Management Guru Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls it "sharpening the saw." Whatever term you use, it helps keep you focused, productive and mentally in balance.
4. Exercise daily, even if it involves only half an hour of walking along the Bay or peddling away on the exercise bike while sorting out a business problem.
5. Have a mission…a sense of purpose. This goes beyond mere objectives. A mission describes (1) what you want to achieve and (2) why you want to achieve it. If you’ve lost your sense of mission, take a long weekend and go find it…or maybe come up with a new one.
6. Believe in what you’re doing. There’s nothing more exciting or challenging than being a business owner. What you do benefits your customers, your employees and, most of all, your family. Don’t lose sight of that. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing — or are just doing it for the money — you need to rethink what’s important to you. (See point # 10.)
7. Be organized. Maintain clear objectives and activity plans for the year, quarter, month, week and day. Muddling along without any sense of direction is a major stress builder. Be sure you know where you’ve been, where you are…and where you want to go.
8. Work smarter…not just harder. An hour of planning can save ten times that in increased productivity. Follow the carpenter’s rule: Measure twice, cut once.
9. Don’t settle into success. Repetition of a successful process or activity can lead to mind-numbing boredom, especially for business owners. Take at least one calculated risk — even if it’s whimsical and off the wall — each year, even if it costs you money.
10. Maintain your priorities. Business is important…but not at the expense of health and happiness. Also, remember that it is our relationships that give true meaning to what we do. Seek balance and moderation.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun. — JRIngrisano
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