coping with burnout

Feeling burnt out? 7 ways to cope as a small business owner


There’s nothing quite like the stress that comes with owning your own business. Having started and run businesses myself, I can empathise with what sometimes feels like an endless ‘to do’ list and the feeling that there is never enough time in the day.

Although this stress is all too common, I’ve found that many business owners do not like to talk about burnout. We take the ‘emu approach’ – burying our head in the sand. Slowly, but surely, you lose your enthusiasm to be a positive leader for your staff, you forget client meetings and important orders and have a short fuse with your employees.

The hard truth is that when you’re firing on half cylinder, you’re not your most productive, and in turn, less profitable in your business. So how can you turn things around when you’re in a slump?

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Ditch the ‘to-do’ list

Lists are great, but when you’re burnt out, they just grow and grow until you feel like you’re drowning in what you haven’t accomplished. Big tasks, little tasks and everything in between all collides into one list, and we never feel like we’re getting through it. The constant reminder of all the things you haven’t done is a drain on your mental capacity. Let it go or at least start to prioritise by what is achievable that day.

  1. Create a schedule

That’s right, a schedule, not a list. These two things are not the same. A schedule is a natural rhythm of how much your body and mind can manage at the current time. Start by scheduling in sleep (8 hours). Then, schedule your work day, events and 1-2 hours each week of doing something that you would previously think is a waste of time. It could be a sports massage, pedicure, movie. Schedule in time to do activities you enjoy that rejuvenate you.

  1. Reconnect with your family and friends

Pick up the phone and call your best friend on the other side of the country. Catch up with your Mum for a coffee. Schedule time with friends and family and stick to it.

  1. Reconnect with yourself

This will depend on your personal interests – whether it’s taking a yoga class, going for a walk, or uploading a new playlist. Do more of whatever it is that makes you feel like you. Do something for yourself, unrelated to work.

  1. Start saying ‘No.’

Author Tim Ferriss once said, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” You can’t be everything to everyone, all the time. Saying no, particularly to things that will not help you achieve your goals, leaves you more time for yourself, for your business and for people that truly matter.

  1. Don’t start anything new

Sometimes, you need to just stop and take a breath. Don’t embark on new projects or initiatives in a burnout phase. Write down your ideas that spring to mind, keep a notebook on hand, but don’t act just yet. Slowing down doesn’t mean coming to a halt. Give yourself a break.

  1. Be grateful and generous

Send thank you notes, reward your staff, make courtesy phone calls to suppliers, deliver some flowers. Being grateful and being generous towards others can be a hugely restorative act for your wellbeing.


When you are tired, fried and completely burnt out, it all comes down to taking small steps in a better direction. Being mindful of where you’re at and how you’re feeling is key to making small changes in your day. In turn, this will give you the physical, emotional and mental break your body and mind needs.


Finally, trust the cycle of building productivity until it hits breaking point. And trust that when you slow down, things do not spontaneously combust before your eyes. Even when you rest, things are still in motion. 


Over to you…

What are your top tips for coping with burn out?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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