5 burnout recovery strategies for business owners

March 23 2023

Dealing with burnout? You’re not alone. Here’s 5 burnout recovery strategies that helped me love Monday mornings again.

6 months after launching my business in 2016, I completely burnt out. The only work that looked good was working in an admin job with zero responsibility. 

After taking a 6 month business break, then slowly rebuilding carefully and intentionally with health as a main priority, I discovered I could love Monday mornings! 

How can things change so dramatically? Below are 5 steps I used to create a business I love working in.

Burnout symptoms

But first, what did burnout look like? Struggling to reply to any emails or do any work, thinking about sleep all day long, and feeling generally emotional every single day. Despite being exhausted, sleep was broken and irregular. I’d forgotten to make time for *gasp* fun activities just for fun!

That was the opposite of the lifestyle I wanted when I began.

After a couple of months in the admin job, my creative spark came back, I was sleeping better and ready to tackle client projects again. This time though, I wanted to do it differently to avoid that awful business owner burnout.

Design Salad was created from a place of thinking about and doing just the next logical step. This works to get off the ground, but it’s exhausting long term to run a business on spontaneity rather than long-term thinking.

After completing a very in depth brand strategy course in 2021, it finally clicked how all the puzzle pieces can and should fit together. Running a business doesn’t need to be stressful, or reactive or exhausting!

Running your business can be…fun! To get to this point, there is a lot of work to be done defining why and how you’re going to do that.

5 ways to tackle burnout in the workplace

So how did I beat business owner burnout and make running the business fun? These 5 steps got the ball rolling:

1. Rest

Burnout doesn’t have to mean the end, if you catch it in time. Before anything, your body and your mind need you to find a way to rest. Some things that worked for me: 

  • Get extra childcare for a couple of weeks (even an hour a week extra) 
  • Go to bed an hour earlier for a couple of weeks
  • Book a massage
  • Go out with friends
  • Do gentle exercise
  • Schedule breaks every day. 

One of the best part of working in admin in the city was discovering new cafes to have lunch at. You can do this when you work for yourself too, if you demand it from your boss (you!!).

2. Get clear on your purpose

Spend time working out the purpose of the business, both personally and the wider impact you want to make. 

When things get hard, which they will, burnout or not, you need a reason other than money to keep going. Some people call this your ‘why’. You don’t have to say it publicly. It’s your internal reasons for starting and building a business. It might be as simple as, you want to work from anywhere. Or as altruistic as wanting to make a positive difference in the world. Or maybe you couldn’t find a workplace supportive of your childcare responsibilities. 

Every business owner goes through the odd phase of looking at job descriptions once in a while! Some people use a vision board to remind themselves of the future they’re trying to create. Test different ways to stay focussed till you find what works for you.

3. Identify your strengths

I researched and collected evidence for what my strengths are and how they can be utilised in the business. This helps to build evidence about why you are actually good at what you do or where you could outsource or lean on technology more (ChatGPT for those not keen on writing?!).

Then, when you eventually hit a snag, you have more knowledge around which approach to tackle it will work with your strengths and which will be even harder for you. Find ways to build your confidence in your decision-making and skills, then it won’t hurt as much when (yes when!) people point out your weaknesses!

4. Spend more time doing what you love

I worked out which parts of the business I enjoy the most, and found ways to do that more often!

This included strategic thinking and research, chatting with people over Zoom or the phone (rather than email) and, obviously, doing actual design work.

So I tweaked my service offerings to include more of these, and less of what I ‘thought’ I should be doing (web development!).

5. Align your business model with your purpose, strengths and interests

Create a business model with services/products that serve all of the above, so that you never resent going to work on Monday morning.

Yes, this takes time. But once you start thinking with this end in mind, you’ll start a note in your phone and jot ideas down night and day for a couple of weeks! Write down all the ideas, good and bad and then look them over carefully one at a time. When there’s a list of at least 10-20, there’ll be at least one gem in there that you can start pursuing.

BONUS TIP!

Stop taking it all so seriously! 

You spend far too many hours working to not enjoy it. And once you lighten up about it all, you’ll open the ideas-floodgates.

I’m not suggesting you pretend life is easy, because of course I understand the current economic climate is tough. All I mean, find some fun and joy among the trying!

These steps to having a business you enjoy are not quick or easy. That old cliche ‘nothing good comes easily’ is so annoying, because it’s true unfortunately. It will, however, be worth the work when you’re healthy, well-rested AND your business feels satisfying to work in.

Need help aligning your brand strategy and branding to build a business you love?

Photo of Candice leaning against a textured white wall in the sunshine and smiling. She has long curly hair and a colourful jacket on.

Candice is the founder of Design Salad, a strategy loving design studio helping climate-consious women business owners shine brighter than ever before.

Design Salad specialises in thoughtful brand strategy and unique brand identities infused with artistry. 

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