When you’re getting shit done, you’re probably feeling quite proud of yourself (and rightfully so!). But all the doings and happenings come with a price: it takes a lot of energy, focus, and dedication to make progress, especially if “doing” is the only way you know how to operate. And sometimes, at the end of the day, the only thing you’re feeling is burnt out.
Don’t feel guilty. This happens to the best of us, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting you’ve had enough. When you reach that stage of feeling burnt out, it can be all too easy to call it quits and throw in the towel. But the moment you do, all that hard work you pushed yourself to do, all those late nights and all-nighters, all the sacrifices, and all the stress are for nothing.
My best suggestion, though I know it’s sometimes easier said than done, is to get shit done without reaching the point of burnout. Here’s how I do it:
Think Long Term
Picture this: you just got a few new clients. You’re so excited at the prospect of more business, so you extend your working hours. Soon, you find yourself staying up until midnight a couple of times per week to keep up with the workload. Eventually, you’re working a couple of hours on your days off, too. At first, you really don’t mind doing this because it means you’re dedicated and getting shit done. You have something great to show for it, and your bottom line looks healthy.
It should be no surprise that sooner rather than later, you’re going to burn out if you stay on this track. You’re working more than you used to and sacrificing time off — time that could be better spent relaxing, enjoying time with friends or family, or doing things that interest you. Eventually, you may come to resent your business and want out because it never gives you a break.
This is just one of many examples I’ve seen entrepreneurs make that leads to burnout, but the premise is the same: they weren’t making long-term decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with staying up late one night on occasion to wrap up a client project or get ahead, but it’s not something you want to do for the long term. There’s no way that working 16 hour days plus time on the weekends can be sustainable, especially if you have a family and other responsibilities.
When making decisions, you should be viewing each one through two lenses: the short-term impact and the long-term gains. Know when an activity isn’t sustainable and have a plan to cut it off before it leads to burnout.
Learn How to Say No
Too often, entrepreneurs are eager to take on whatever business they can. It’s an admirable move because it looks like you’re trying to make your business work, but this can have severe consequences if you get to the point of feeling overwhelmed. Plus, when you’re saying yes to everything, you may get an opportunity you want to take but can’t because you have too many other commitments.
Part of long-term planning is to understand how much you can feasibly take on, what you want to take on vs. what you want to leave room for, and then saying no to anything that doesn’t fit your ideals.
Delegate and Automate Tasks
Truth be told, you can’t say no to everything. For whatever is left on your plate after turning down things that don’t fit into your plan, you can turn to delegation and automation. If it’s in your budget, pay someone else to handle the things you can’t do or don’t want to make time for (taxes, anyone?).
Take it a step further and embrace automation to get rid of tedious tasks without having to pay someone to do them. Automation can do a lot for the entrepreneur, from sending client invoices to marketing to some of your project management tasks. Zapier is one of my favorite tools because it can “automate” tasks that otherwise couldn’t be automated.
Avoid Distractions at Your Peak Energy Level
I mentioned using your energy levels to get shit done in a previous blog post, but I’ll recap here: conquer tasks to match your current energy.
When your energy is at its highest point, this is the time when you do NOT want any distractions. You want to pour your energy into the activities that need to be done, so this is the time to tune out everything else and get to work. You may find that you blaze right through your work and actually have more time to spare.
Not doing this could mean falling behind in your work, which sets off the domino effect of working later hours, feeling stressed about falling behind, and eventually getting burned out.
Cut Back Your Work Hours
Part of the productivity myth is believing that the more you work, the more you accomplish. This can be true, but it can also be the opposite of getting shit done. Just like when you work out, your muscles don’t get bigger or stronger unless you’re stepping away from the gym and giving yourself time to rest and repair. It’s the same concept with work: you need time to rest and recharge so you can focus your efforts, regain energy, and continue pushing forward vs. spinning your wheels.
According to HBR, the easiest way to do this is simply to cut back your work hours. It’s okay not to work an 8-hour day five days a week. It’s okay to start work late or finish early. It’s okay to go to bed early to get more sleep.
Wrapping It Up
Stop feeling guilty about not hustling all the time. You owe it to yourself to take time for yourself so that you can continue to show up every day and avoid burnout. Work is important, but so is your health, including your mental health. You will not get shit done efficiently and effectively if you are burnt out and feeling overwhelmed. Your clients won’t get the product they wanted because you will be spreading yourself too thin. By prioritizing your time, you can ensure that you don’t get burnt out and can get shit done and hustle.
For more insights, head back to my blog.