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Preventing Burnout; Taking Care of Yourself
Written by Mary Nelson Zadrozny
© 2004-2011 Just Imagine Design & Publications
Running your own business, especially a creative one can be very demanding and tiring. When you work alone, you have to wear many different "hats". You are the CEO, the office manager, the accountant, the marketing manager, the customer service rep, the purchasing agent, the webmaster,and as my sister would say the "worker bee".
Here are some ways to handle the stress better:
- Being organized is one of the biggest keys to getting it all done. Make it easy for yourself; the more organized you are, the less time you will waste and the more efficient your business will be. See our "101 Ways to Improve Your Craft Business" booklet for organization tips.
- Schedule down time and vacation time. Especially when you work out of your home, it can be tempting to work long hours. You pass your work area and see something that needs to be done; before you know it, there goes your Sunday afternoon. I think it is very important to have at least one day a week where you do not work at all. I also think you need vacation time during the year. Otherwise you run the chance of burning out. Yes, a lot of work needs to be done, but we also need to recharge our batteries on a regular basis.
- Don't forget relaxation techniques like meditation, exercise, yoga, and walking to regenerate your body. Balance of mind, body and soul will only enhance your creativity and help you maintain your stamina to meet the needs of your business for the long term. Sometimes when you feel that you have the least amount of time to spare for a break is when you really need a break the most.
- Reward yourself for the tasks you complete that are particularly difficult. When you work alone, there isn't a boss to pat you on the back and say "Good Job", so you must be the one to do it. Celebrate milestones and even small accomplishments by treating yourself to something special. It doesn't have to be expensive, in fact it doesn't have to cost anything at all. What about a hour reading a novel, a nap, a glass of lemonade on the porch, doing something you enjoy?
- Develop a support network. Talk with other small business owners, especially those in similar lines of work. Sometimes discussing the unique problems of being an entrepreneur can be helpful. We often face the same problems and just knowing you are not alone in how you feel can be a relief. If you don't know anyone locally to network with, try looking on the internet for groups to join. One place to start is http://groups.yahoo.com/ - groups are listed by category.
- Review your goals and adjust accordingly. Especially in the early stages of a new business, sometimes we accept projects that may not be profitable or take on jobs we would rather not be doing just to get some money coming in. If you really hate an aspect of your business or you've gone off in a direction that is more frustrating than profitable, it's time to reevaluate your business structure. You created your business from nothing so you can recreate it any way you want. If you are doing too many different products, discontinue what you don't want to do anymore. Weed out the shows or shops you have your work in that aren't profitable. Know when to accept a bad decision as a mistake and move on.
- Know when to hire help. Many business owners could be called control freaks and rightfully so. We've worked hard to make our businesses become successful and we have a lot at stake. But there comes a time when you have to admit you can't do it all. You have to take the next step and surround yourself with the best people for the jobs that you no longer have time to do. That way you can devote yourself to the important work without getting bogged down.
- Try to switch tasks often during the day if at all possible. Sitting or standing in one place doing the same task for too long is not good for your body at all. Many creative people know the pain and frustration of injuries like carpal tunnel, frozen shoulder, neck strain, and many other illnesses caused by repetitive movements. It's very easy to get lost in your work while painting, working at the computer, etc. I know some people who set a timer for every 20-30 minutes so they are reminded to get up and stretch.
- Doing nothing is ok! For many business owners, this is a tough one to do. But time to sit back, day dream, and play is good for your soul. It's not wasted time - often I find that when I walk away from things for a while, a new idea or solution to a problem will easily surface after I've cleared my mind.