Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?
In their race the tortoise keeps a steady pace throughout, eventually beating the hare who get’s complacent and stops for a rest.
There are many ways to apply the tale to a micro business, and today I want to focus on the premise that keeping a steady pace is much more effective than burning yourself out.
Before we go any further, let’s look at a definition of “burn out”. Wikipedia says:
Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.
We’re not just talking about being a bit stressed here, or having a lot on – burn out is the state you get to when your body cannot cope with the pace or nature of what you’re doing, the point at which you’re exhausted.
Getting to this stage is very bad for you and for your business. Here are some of the results:
- physical illness, short term problems and more serious issues like increasing your risk of a heart attack
- being irritable with those around you
- performing at a much lower standard than you’re capable of
- failing to think of good ideas
- lacking the energy to drive your business forward
Doesn’t sound good does it? What’s more, if you’re a homeworker there is a greater risk of burn out because of the tendency to spend more time working as you’re always in the same place as your work.
Do you want to avoid burn out? Keep reading, I’ve got five tips for you.
1. Be your own boss . . .
That’s the phrase you often hear. “I want to be my own boss“. But are you?
Or are you letting others tell you how you should be running your business? Here are some examples:
- Giving into clients who set unreasonable deadlines, then staying up all hours to complete your work
- Charging too little and having to do more work than you can really cope with to earn what you need
- Letting suppliers or partners slip on their deadlines, knowing you’ll end up working in your leisure time to get a project completed on schedule.
Remember it’s your business, you’re the boss! Create a set of guidelines that you’ll work by and stick to them, for instance you won’t work past a certain time, no using the smart phone or tablet at the dinner table, a minimum lead time for your services or a additional charge to expedite. Set the expectations with everyone involved in your business, and then stick to it. Actually write your guidelines down so it’s harder for you to ignore them.
Don’t give anyone else the opportunity to take control of your business, keeping control is the first step in beating off burn out.
2. Know your motivation . . .
Why are you in business?
It might be because you want to build a better life for your children, to earn enough to travel the world with your partner, to help people or leave a legacy. Whatever your motivation is, put it centre stage in your business – literally.
Have something on your desk, wall, monitor, etc that reminds you of why you do what you do, so you can see it all of the time. Let this reminder guide each decision that you make in your business. For instance, you get an enquiry for a piece of work that you’ll have to rush to complete just before going on holiday, or that will require lots of hours of your time you’d want to spend with your family – is it worth it? It’s no point saying you’re in business to enjoy a better life with your family if you’re always on your phone, checking emails, tweeting, etc or being grumpy with your children because they’ve torn you away from your desk. Homeworking is a lifestyle, it’s built around your life, but that doesn’t mean that it should take over.
The saying is true, “work to live, don’t live to work“.
3. Take time out . . .
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you can’t enjoy it if you’re lying in bed suffering from exhaustion.
You have to take time out away from your business, it helps you:
- Enjoy the fruit of your labour
- Spend time with your family
- Recharge your batteries
- Come back to your business with focus, vigour and new ideas
As Lynn mentioned in her post about creating a homeworking routine, get your holidays set in the diary and stick to them. Even book single days out, take the odd afternoon off to pop and see a film with your partner or go for coffee with a friend – after all, it’s your business and you’re meant to have the flexibility of working from home, so you don’t have to rigidly tie yourself to the desk twelve hours a day, that’s likely what some of you will have left employment to avoid!
I know sometimes you have to put in the hours and do the grind, you have to work long hours to get a project completed, perhaps miss some family time – but remember these three things:
- Make these occasions the exception, not the rule
- Make sure the work that’s taking your time is profitable
- If you lose time with your family because of a project, make a solid commitment in your diary (set in stone) to do something special to make up for it, perhaps a special day out or weekend away with the extra profits
If you’re working extra hours but not making extra profit, you need to look closely at your pricing, how you’re managing your projects and the deadline expectations you’re giving to clients.
4. Don’t focus on debate for the sake of it . . .
Social media is a great marketing tool, and equally a great way to network and keep sane by chatting with other business owners. However, it can also be a way of wasting a lot of time. The following cartoon always makes me smile 🙂
Image courtesy of xkcd
It’s very easy to waste a lot of time debating subjects via various social networks, getting all hot and bothered, but does it add any value to your business? Unlikely. Does it waste your time, keep you away from your real work and reduce the time you end up spending not working and enjoying life? Quite probably, certainly if you’re not using it in the right way.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a good debate, in the right place – but every time you find yourself answering a question in a LinkedIn group, or a comment on Facebook, ask yourself this: “Will this move my business forward, or could I be doing something better with the time?“. If you’re building reputation and authority, developing your network, creating opportunities, great! But if you’re putting someone right, or debating a point for the sake of it, think whether you could be doing something better, and if so – do that instead.
5. Share the journey . . .
There are times when we all need someone to talk to. It might be a business coach, a partner, a friend or connections in an online group or forum – either way it’s important to have people around you to share the good and bad times in your business.
Homeworking can be a lonely way of working, connecting with fellow homeworkers will help ensure that you get the support you need to keep you on the right track, get focus and motivation, get questions answered by those who have already faced similar issues and be able to share your knowledge with others. These are all important factors in making steady progress and avoiding burn out.
Building connections with fellow homeworkers will also save you talking constantly about homeworking and your business with your family 🙂
For inspiration on building your micro business as a homeworker, be sure to check back here to the Micro Business Hub each day, better still subscribe to future posts by email using the box under this post, to ensure you don’t miss any.
To meet lots of other homeworkers, who will be all too glad to share, encourage and help in your homeworking journey join the LinkedIn Homeworking UK Group, run by Hub Contributors Rosie Slosek and Lynn Fotheringham. A great group where the discussions are focused and useful.
Today’s Micro Action
Are you keeping a steady pace, or are you on the road to burn out? Take a few minutes today to consider the five tips above. Which could you use to make a positive change in your homeworking and life? Once you’ve picked the relevant tips, take action and remember – you’re the boss!
Do you have more tips to avoid burn out? Please join me for a discussion in the comments.