I cannot remember a time when I have spoken to so many people from all walks of life, in all kinds of work, any age or any type of business owner or leader when so many have talked openly about their levels of fatigue and exhaustion. It appears to be universal right now.
Whether it’s a mix of post covid illness or somehow a collective exhaustion after the last few years, I am no expert, but something is happening that we need to recognise, look at and find ways to protect ourselves from.
There’s loads of evidence out there that owners/managers of small business are at risk of full burnout because they are trying to do everything and it’s super difficult to take a break, but perhaps now is a good time to recognise when ‘some tiredness’ is becoming a problem and what action we can take to avoid long term exhaustion.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) defined burnout for the first time in 2019 as:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
I want to share some areas to think about in managing fatigue and exhaustion specifically aimed at micro businesses – some might seem bloomin’ obvious but they are a good reminder when we let things slip:
Monitor your mood and tiredness
I was listening to a podcast episode from 'Unlocking Us' by Brene Brown recently with Susan Cain, and they talked about the power of writing each day either as a full diary process to manage feelings or just simply a note about your day and how you are. You might decide to monitor what you energy and mood are like for a month by just making a few notes on your phone or in a dairy by the bed. After a period of time, what does that look like? Are you having more negative days than positive ones? Are you feeling optimistic or do you use the word 'tired' for weeks in a row? It's all too easy to allow tiredness to become your norm when perhaps it shouldn't be.
Identify your stressors
We all have stress in some form or other in our lives but if this is a little chronic or you're experiencing more regular anxiety, try to identify regular stressors in your life that you can mitigate. These triggers might be environmental or a individual person or perhaps an aspect of your daily work - look out for them and see if you can reduce it.
Find the right people
This is a game changer for keeping your mindset more positive (we're not talking 100% smileyville but more positive than negative!) and that's simply spending time with people that make us feel good. This could be friends, family or a positive community within your work environment. Perhaps you can find a mentor or coach if there are particular areas of business and life that you want to talk through. Be mindful or finding people to share with and who will empathise and listen.
Manage your working patterns
It is well known that simply working longer doesn't get you better results. Working clever might. Take proper time to work through a variety of areas of your working patterns to ensure you are being efficient and productive but not at the expense of your wellbeing. Perhaps some of the following resonate:
Take regular 'annual leave' breaks in your business. You may not be able to manage an actual holiday but even a long weekend or a staycation week may have an impact. Book it in ahead of time too!
Manage your daily work patterns to work with your energy levels. For example avoid email answering first thing (you're only working to someone else's schedule). If you're creative first thing then make that your priority. Take breaks from your screen at least every hour and fit in a proper lunch!
7 days a week isn't sustainable even if you have to do that occasionally. Make sure you have at least one full day off from your business and that includes emails, messages and social. Learn to really rest.
Be realistic about what you can manage in terms of work. Saying yes to too many projects won't make for better work. Learning to say no is powerful.
Think about delegation and getting help. The irony of paying for some additional help (could be admin, cleaning, social media support, 121 coaching) is that it will probably improve your bottom line.
Reframe your workspace
This is often a simple oversight but can have a huge impact. Where and how you work can really effect how we feel, how productive we are and how our stress levels peek. Think about decluttering your space or altering the layout. Think about natural light, plants, positive words or uplifting colours. Even if this is a corner of the kitchen or your van, it all counts.
Get serious about self care
There's a lot of noise out there about what self care is but the art of knowing yourself and what you need to feel in a good place and positive is key. Think about eating habits, exercise habits, being outside habits, sleep hygiene habits, alcohol intake habits, rest habits, and see what feeling good looks like for you. If we don't put our self care first, we have no chance of 'taking care' of our customers in any sustainable way. Take this seriously.