Small Business

Overcoming burnout as a small business owner

by Michaela fong

Small Business

Overcoming burnout as a small business owner

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I am a small European town gal with big dreams who immigrated to Canada and built a multi-six-figure business from my living room floor and kitchen counter! I accidentally grew it into a small business community and became a small business educator along the way.

Now am here to empower, teach & inspire you to grow your business and create the life of your dreams with strategy, confidence & without burnout.

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Overcoming burnout as a small business owner

Do you feel exhausted from all the things you have to do? Always busy, yet your to-do list is never getting shorter? Losing motivation and perhaps even desire to keep working on that business that once mattered the world to you? The chances are that you are heading to the burnout land. Lucky for you, you are in the right place! I am a burnout survivor – definitely not a badge of honour, but an important one to share. If I can change the trajectory of one’s person life with this blog, then it’s worth it to write it!

I remember when I was starting my business, I was looking up to all of those people with hundreds of orders they were sharing on social media – I wanted to just be like them. I knew I was taking too much on my plate, but everyone on social media could handle it; why can’t I, right?!

Here is the thing – social media is a highlight feed. The images we see on someone’s social media account are not their entire life. If this is news to you – I am sorry, but I have to point it out because I fell for it, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake. We see someone running a successful business, but do we see how many hours they pour into it? Do we think about their lack of sleep & amount of stress they carry with it? We just want to be like them – having a successful business, having a lot of orders, having a lot of followers, having a pretty office, having… the result of their hard work, sleepless nights, aaaaand probably burnout. At least, that’s what I wanted; I just somehow missed out on the other part of the equation – that they probably worked 24/7 to get there.

Five years later I arrived to the promised land. Just to realize that sending out thousands of orders, did not make me happy. I was working 24/7; I was exhausted, stressed and felt like there would never be an end to the things I needed to cross off my to-do list. 

I subconsciously got lost in a hustle. I was busy chasing orders and filling orders. Somewhere in that busyness and exhaustion, I felt like I had lost the purpose of why I was running this small business.

The funny thing about burnout is that we feel like we can handle it all until we can’t! Never-ending to-do list and always chasing something while not having time for things we actually love doing somehow became a way of living in today’s day and age. Everyone is busy. But are we busy chasing the things that contribute to the life we want to live, or are we just busy because that has become a norm in today’s society? 

Everywhere we look, we are told what kind of life we should live – be successful, work out 3-5x a week, have a side hustle, start a business, have more orders….. It’s so easy to get affected by today’s busy culture that we even forget what matters to us the most and WHY we want all of those things.

Overcoming burnout changed not only my business but changed my entire life. I see many small business owners chasing all the shiny objects and saying they are burned out. So today, I am sharing with you what helped me get out of the never-ending small business hustle cycle & claim my life back.

small business burnout
small business self-care

5 things I did to overcome burnout: 

1. Plan & book time off

Saying that you will book that massage when you will have more time (or money), may never happen. I was rescheduling my self-care time for “tomorrow” for months. The best thing I have done to save myself from another crazy busy year was to print out a family calendar in the end of December and talk to my husband about all the trips we would love to take this year. 

We decided to book time off in our calendars and book the trips. We also arranged to sit down at the end of each month and plan for the things we want to do – whether it is going for a weekend getaway, date nights or couples massage, it gets booked on the last day of each month. This way, we prevent the time from running away from us and get excited about the time off we booked in advance. It’s also really good for our marriage – highly recommended! 

2. Say goodbye to shiny object syndrome & learn to say no

Do you feel like you always need to start something new? The new project, new side-hustle, new products for your small business, new social media account? Chances are that you have a shiny object syndrome. (I did too!) Social media can make us feel like we are missing out when we are not hopping on what everyone else is doing. The result? Just more things on our to-do list and less time for ourselves. It can often distract us from our main goals and purpose. 

When you feel the excitement and the urge to start something new, before you impulsive go all in – ask yourself:

  1. What am I going to have to do in order make this new idea reality?
  2. How much time & money is it going to require?
  3. Where is it going to get me? Does it contribute to the bigger goal of my life/business? Or is it just something I want to do because others are doing it? 
  4. Why do I want to do it? 
  5. It’s OK to say NO or NOT NOW. You can even create a list of “possible ideas” for the future. But adding things to your already full to-do list will just keep you busy without feeling like you are actually accomplishing anything.

Paying attention and just being aware of how you pick up “new things on your to-do list” can help to prevent you from overbooking yourself.

3. Prioritize self-care, yoga & hot baths

When things get busy, self-care always gets pushed to the end of the list. But we are always busy, sooo … when are we actually going to make time for self-care? 

Here are few tips that helped me to bring self-care back to my weekly schedule:

  • Define what kind of self-care you need the most – is it hot baths, massage, taking a nap, going to bed early, binge-watching a show, walking in nature or meeting your friends for a girls night out? You know what recharges your batteries
  • Start small – if you don’t have time for self-care now, you may feel overwhelmed or even guilty when you schedule out time for self-care. (Sounds crazy, but during my burnout stage, I felt like reading a book is a waste of time when I got such a busy schedule). I commited myself to read 10 minutes each morning. Girl, I am on my 5th book now and don’t know how I could ever not do this before?!
  • Book it in advance – I started planning my self-care time for a week ahead, which includes workouts, yoga, hot baths, movie nights, walks and reading. I know it sounds crazy to book time for those things, but I learnt that without doing, time somehow ran away from me and I again skipped workouts, yoga and all of those things that makes me feel good.
  • Treat it like an important thing on your to-do list – once it’s booked, there is no cancellations,  you just need to show up. And would not that be a nice surprise when you look to your calendar and there is: “8PM – hot bath and time for myself” ???

4. Limit screen time & social media

I never realized how crappy social media made me feel until I decided to put on boundaries. Whether we want or not, we subconsciously compare ourselves with others on social media. As soon as we turn on the virtual world, we are bombarded with marketing and other people’s lives. 

There were countless times when I felt so great about how much I had accomplished…until I turned on social media and immediately felt like I actually hadn’t done enough – my house was not clean enough, or it was decorated for Christmas in early November, or I did not receive enough orders compared to others, the product packaging that I loved was not so pretty like someone elses. I decided to stop going on my phone in the morning and only check my social media and emails after lunchtime. I felt so much more focused, productive and confident in myself. I recognize the days when I fail to follow this new habit – I feel so much more anxious and distracted!

If you find that you are comparing or doubting yourself because of the images that social media presents, I encourage you to set boundaries for yourself. Whether it is mornings or evenings off, or setting up an alarm when you are going to check your social, so you don’t get sucked up into it and spend 5 hours – whatever it means to you, limiting your social media intake can really help.

5. Prioritize – what kind of life do you want to live and is what you are doing today going to get you there? 

Spending time and visualizing what I want my life to look like and what is really important to me was a wake-up call. I thought I knew what I wanted – I wanted to work from home, so I would be able to spend time with my husband and family. But I somehow missed the point that the business I built took away more of my time than it gave me. I was chasing orders and filling orders, working 24/7. 

Defining my priorities and setting boundaries helped me create a business that would not require me to work 24/7. I started to create several income streams and focused on creating more profitable products instead of low-profit products, which would keep me busy, but were not worth the time I put into it.

Now, when I get an exciting idea for new products or side-hustle, knowing how I want my life to look like helps me to define if this new exciting thing is just going to be “more things to do” or is it actually going to contribute to the life I want to live in the bigger picture. 

WOW, writing it down like this makes me realize how many changes I made in my life in the last half a year! I truly hope this gave you some ideas on how to overcome burnout you are feeling and hope you just booked that time for yourself in your calendar! If you’d like to see more on how I transformed my business and life, follow along on my social media accounts at @smallbizbabescommunity and @michaelafong.

Talk soon,

Michaela

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