Hungry solopreneurs start their own ventures for a number of different reasons: They want flexible schedules. They want more autonomy. They enjoy the challenge of running a business. However, when reality sets in for life as a solopreneur, it’s much more stressful and exhausting than most people anticipate. They don’t consider how to avoid burnout.
Between cold emails and calls, managing client expectations, negotiating rates, completing the actual labor, and renewing business, it doesn’t leave much time in the day for anything other than work.
The pressure of running a solo-venture often leads to the psychological phenomenon known as burnout. Burnout is the result of being overworked and taking on too many responsibilities. It can cause you to lose motivation and interest, thus decreasing the quality of your work.
Fortunately, burnout is preventable. Here are three tips to help solopreneurs avoid burnout.
Avoid burnout with frequent breaks
It might seem counterintuitive to running a successful business, but taking breaks during your workday can drastically improve your productivity. Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at MIT and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, suggests taking 15-minute breaks every 75 to 90 minutes — which he claims is the peak period of productivity and creative focus.
There are several other psychological methods for integrating breaks into your daily routine. Some suggest using a much shorter focus period of say 25 minutes with a five-minute break in between working periods. Another research study uncovered that the top 10 percent of productive employees only work 52 consecutive minutes before taking a 17-minute break. In other words, these highly productive workers spend 24.5 percent of an 8-hour workday on break.
Your cognitive ability steadily decreases the longer you attempt to hold focus — taking frequent breaks during your work day can help you recharge your brain and increase your productivity.
Taking breaks during your work schedule is a helpful way to avoid burnout, but it’s also important that you’re taking effective breaks. An effective break is one by which you completely disconnect from your work. Try meditating or doing yoga to clear your mind completely. A short nap can also be an effective break, especially during the afternoon when your energy levels typically start dropping the most.
Avoid burnout by focusing on your health and wellness
Human resource departments have started integrating more health and wellness initiatives into the workplace over that last decade. This trend isn’t just a way for organizations to create a healthier work environment for employee satisfaction; it’s also a way for them to increase their bottom line — as it’s scientifically proven that active and healthy employees are more focused and productive.
One study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that employers that offered wellness programs reported an increase in productivity of 66 percent over the employers without wellness programs.
Below are a few ways for solopreneurs to improve their health.
Exercise is directly linked to creativity, energy and cognitive ability. A study from the University of British Columbia found that frequent aerobic exercise can increase the size of your hippocampus, which is the area of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning. Physical activity also releases endorphins, which can improve your mental wellbeing and decrease stress (which is one of the leading causes of burnout).
Improve your nutrition
The foods and drinks you put into your body affect your focus, energy levels and productivity. Therefore, integrating a more nutritious diet can help you avoid burnout and improve your overall wellbeing. A study by scientists at Brigham Young University found that nutritious employees were 33-percent more productive than employees with unhealthy diets.
Get quality sleep
There are many side effects to poor sleep habits — it decreases your ability to concentrate, demotivates you, makes you more irritable, and most importantly, it increases your risk of early death by 12 percent. Many solopreneurs neglect sleep in an effort to squeeze as much out of a 24-hour day as possible. However, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and will most certainly cause burnout sooner than later.
Avoid burnout by finding opportunities to delegate and outsource
Solopreneurs are typically workaholics who love to stay busy working on different areas of their venture. While wearing many hats is a common theme for solopreneurs, it doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way to run a business. In fact, taking on too many responsibilities, especially outside the core competencies of your operations, can be detrimental.
A defining characteristic of a solo-venture is the leanness of your operations. Therefore, you should avoid hiring a workforce or taking on long-term resource liabilities. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage independent workers or other solopreneurs.
For instance, freelance writers can produce copy content with ease — but what happens when a client asks you to develop a website on which to publish your content? Would you sacrifice the quality trying to quickly learn website development or would you lose the client because you cannot satisfy their expectations?
The best alternative would be to partner with a trusted freelance developer to create the website while you focused on writing the content. This would create a win-win-win relationship between you, the web developer, and the client.
If you want to avoid burnout, focus on the core competencies of your business and find tools, resources and people to help accomplish the rest.
Remember why you’re a solopreneur
Burnout is a real issue for solopreneurs. Your livelihood hinges on the ability to stay focused and continue to produce quality work for your clients. Therefore, it’s important that you avoid burnout by any means necessary. While the three strategies above can help you decrease the chance of burnout, if you start to feel yourself burning out, try to remember why you chose to be a solopreneur.
If you wanted the flexible schedule, make sure you actually enjoy the free time this career affords you. If you wanted autonomy, don’t lose your creative freedom or become too dependent on one client. If you indulge the challenges of launching your own venture, try to find opportunities in the struggles and lessons in the failures.