How To Prevent Small Business Owner Burnout

A tired man holds a baby while feeling burnt out by work.
| 10.06.22
Cecily Kellogg

Growing a successful small business demands hard work and attention to detail. It also means managing a broad range of responsibilities at once. In today’s “always on” culture, burning the midnight oil can become a risky habit. Over time, the stress and fatigue can build up, leading to business owner burnout. But burnout can be prevented. Let’s look at six ways to address business owner burnout before it affects you!

Recognizing Business Owner Burnout

Burnout is defined as the physical, mental, and emotional effects of prolonged stress and fatigue. It can manifest in many ways, including self-doubt, irritability, trouble concentrating, frequent mistakes, and loss of motivation. Checking for these signs in your workers and yourself is an essential step in heading-off business owner burnout before it affects your company’s performance or reputation. 

How to Avoid Burnout As A Small Business Owner

As a small business owner, you likely face a long list of tasks daily. But you also can control when, how, and by whom those tasks are handled. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Triage Your Tasks
When looking at your to-do list, it can seem like every item is an emergency. But chances are, some tasks are less urgent than others. So take a few moments to get organized. 

  • Identify the most critical and time-sensitive tasks
  • Create a timetable with benchmarks for achieving each task
  • Choose who’ll be addressing each task
  • Set a timetable for completing secondary tasks
  • Organize your work area for functionality
  • The time you spend planning now can save you a world of hassles later.  

Delegate When Possible
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel as if you have to be involved in every step if anything is going to get done right. Unfortunately, you are also human, and your body needs downtime if it’s going to perform at its best. Maintaining a successful business may require delegating some responsibilities to your workers. By building effective teams, you can hand off some secondary tasks, thus reducing stress and freeing time to focus on mission-critical items.  

Make Time for Exercise
If your job has you trapped behind a desk all day, you may not be getting the exercise your body and mind need. Before you dismiss midday exercise breaks as too time-consuming, consider these benefits…

  • As little as 20 minutes of sustained exercise daily can directly benefit your cardiovascular system. Even a good stretch and a walk around the office can be enough to give your body a mini-reboot.
  • Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness and productivity.
  • Working on a frustrating problem? Take an exercise break and return with a fresh perspective.
  • Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that support your mood. 

Know When to Clock Out
If you have a demanding schedule, it can often seem impossible to clock out. But without regular downtime, the prolonged stress and fatigue can lead to business owner burnout. Defending your time against the encroachment of work and other responsibilities may seem difficult, but it pays dividends in health and effectiveness. Make time for deep relaxation, whatever shape that takes for you. You may read, meditate, do a word puzzle, or shop or game online—the choice is yours. But it should be an activity that you enjoy, one that is not work-related, and one that leaves you feeling restored. 

Learn to Say No
No entrepreneur wants to send away business, but taking on new accounts when you are already stretched to the limit does a disservice to both your clients and yourself. Your reputation, and that of your business, depend on a solid performance. If you’re overwhelmed, fatigued, or burned out, you’re less likely to provide the high level of service that your clients deserve. Having a packed client roster is great, but having a happy client roster is better.

Review Your Goals and Your Wins
Two common symptoms of business owner burnout are cynicism and detachment. If you’re mired in the day-to-day challenges of managing your business, you may lose sight of its goals and all the achievements you’ve logged just to get this far. Take a moment to review your successes and how you felt when you earned them. A look back at your wins can be what you need to jump-start your motivation!  

Burnout makes running a small business very difficult. Don’t lose your spark and your edge! Invest in yourself and take on these tips to prevent reaching the level of burnout. You owe it to yourself and your business.

Having a packed client roster is great, but having a happy client roster is better.

About the Author

Cecily Kellogg is a digital marketing expert specializing in the B2B industry—particularly in infrastructure, chemical & pharma, and technology. For over a decade, she ran the boutique marketing agency Double Good Media before joining her current team at Percepture. She's been writing online since the internet was invented with publications ranging from parenting to pet insurance to small business—garnering millions of views. She lives in Philadelphia with her long-suffering husband, her radical teen daughter, too many cats, and a heck of a goober dog. (That's the technical term.)