Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, burnout pervades the workplace. It often manifests as an increasing lack of enthusiasm and engagement and typically results in lower productivity and decreased confidence, as well as feelings of ineffectiveness.
Although “burnout” is a common buzzword these days, legitimate burnout can cause severe mental and physical health issues. In this article, we share tips on how to avoid burnout and advice on how to sustain a healthy work-life balance.
9 tips on how to avoid burnout
1. Delegate tasks 🤝
Whether you’re a business owner or a people manager, it can be tough to delegate. But if you’re starting to feel burned out at work, it’s important to get help, such as hiring new team members or outsourcing tasks, as soon as you can.
When delegating tasks, try to offload the tasks you might not be as efficient at completing compared to another employee or outside resource.For example, if you’re starting a new business, you likely want to focus your energy on acquiring new clients and making sure they’re happy, as opposed to spending all your time on accounting. In this case, hiring an accountant or using accounting software can take a ton of extra work off your plate.
That’s what business owner Sonja Detrinidad decided to do. After launching her plant-care business Partly Sunny Projects, Sonja found herself getting more orders than she could manage—so she began outsourcing some of the work to her husband, and eventually hired an employee to manage shipping. “I’m OK focusing on the one thing that really works for me right now,” she says.
Investing in the right tools to help you automate processes is another great way to make your job easier. In fact, Shopify has a number of tools that can help. For example, Shopify Flow can help you automate tasks, like reordering inventory and managing fraud concerns, while Shopify Experts can help you find specialists to support you with your business.
2. Stick to a set schedule ⏰
To ensure you don’t overwork yourself and still have time for your home life and loved ones, you’ll want to put boundaries around your work schedule.
If you’re expected to work a 40-hour week, only work a 40-hour week. Maybe your manager is flexible and lets you set your own work schedule. If so, create a schedule that works for you and allows you to maintain a work-life balance. That could be four 10-hour days or five eight-hour days.
If you’re self-employed, decide how many hours you’d like to work each week, then break that down day by day. You might choose to have a three-day weekend, so you’ll break those hours down between Monday through Thursday. Or you might prefer to work four hours each day, weekends included.
Make sure you commit to a set schedule each week that won’t cause burnout in itself (i.e., make a realistic schedule that’s not 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every single day). And if you need to work more during your busy seasons, that’s fine; just make sure it’s only a short-term adjustment to your schedule and plan ahead of time.
If you’re struggling to find the best schedule, getting input from those closest to you (like your spouse) can be a great help. “Early on, my wife drew a line in the sand and said she wanted me home by 6 p.m. every night,” says Tarik, founder of TY Fine Furniture.
“Having her set that boundary made a huge difference. We both shifted our work week to match my showroom hours, so I work Tuesday to Saturday now.”
3. Take time to unplug 🔌
Just because you’re a business owner, a people manager, or an essential employee, it doesn’t mean you’re less in need of a vacation.
According to Dr. Sahar Yousef, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, time off is the only cure for burnout.
“Burnout is a long-term phenomenon … that can eventually debilitate us, making dedicated time off the only cure,” she says.
If you’re worried about taking a vacation, here are a few tips for being able to step away from work and unplug:
- Compete work ahead of time so you have no tasks during your week off.
- Let clients and co-workers know you’ll be out of touch for a week.
- Prepare your team and give them a point of contact for emergencies.
- Create an email autoresponder that lets people know when you’ll get back to them.
4. Switch up your routine 🌳
Sometimes a simple change of scenery can work wonders for your productivity. When you’re sitting in the same chair in the same room doing the same work day after day, it can really start to eat at your energy levels.
This is why it’s a great idea to switch up your routine every now and then—especially when you’re starting to dread work time.
When you’re sitting in the same chair in the same room doing the same work day after day, it can really start to eat at your energy levels.
One way to do this is to change up where you’re getting your work done each day. If you can, work from the office one day (if you have one), work from home the next, and head to a coffee shop another day.
5. Prioritize self-care 🛁
Self-care is always important, and though it’s not the only key to avoiding burnout, it’s a big contributor.
Self-care means actually carving out time for taking care of yourself: Getting enough sleep, eating three meals a day, and taking time to do things you enjoy.
For entrepreneur Monisha Edwards, making candles became a way to calm herself after a stressful period of her life. That act of self-care eventually blossomed into her business, Scent & Fire. She learned first hand the toll of not taking care of herself and has now become a mental health advocate.
By putting your well-being at the forefront of your priorities, you’ll be on the right track to keeping your mental and physical health in check.
6. Build a supportive network ☎️
For business owners, it’s important to connect with people who are going through the same motions as you. Because running a business is a unique journey, it can be hard for others to relate—which is why so many entrepreneurs face loneliness and stress.
Likewise for the people manager and independent contributor. Consider finding a mentor or business coach, or joining a community that gives you the chance to chat with other individuals who are facing some of the same struggles you are.
Because starting a business is a unique journey, it can be hard for others to relate—which is why so many entrepreneurs face loneliness and stress.
Check out Shopify’s internal merchant community. Here, you can find answers to business questions, meet like-minded individuals, and create connections that will help make work more rewarding.
Furthermore, make sure that those close to you in your day-to-day life are just as supportive of your quest to avoid burnout and can help you find the right balance between your job and home life.
7. Exercise regularly 🥾
Exercise has a number of health benefits that can help you avoid burnout. From reducing anxiety and depression to improving your mood, self-esteem, and cognitive function, bringing exercise into your daily routine can give you a better mindset when it comes to work.
You can do a yoga routine each morning, hit the gym—even something as simple as going for a daily walk or run can be a big motivator for getting things done throughout the rest of your day.
8. Do things you enjoy 🧶
Even if you love your work, if you do nothing but work, work, work, you’re creating a recipe for burnout. Take time to find a hobby and regularly take work breaks to do something else that you enjoy.
Read a book, go to a park, watch a movie or TV show, listen to a podcast (hard mode: one that’s not work-related), make something with your hands, find a video game that you love. There are so many options out there for you to explore.
Engaging in a variety of activities (i.e., having hobbies that are vastly different from what you do at work each day) can also improve cognitive abilities. So finding a new hobby can keep your mind sharp, which is always a good thing.
9. Talk to a therapist 👂
If you’re feeling burned out or unhappy with work and your day-to-day life, the best thing you can do for yourself is to speak with a mental health professional. In fact, many therapists specialize in helping professionals, including business owners, with burnout and other related symptoms.
Speaking to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through and has the tools to help you overcome it can be a real game-changer at home and in the workplace.
6 signs of burnout
Because burnout can lead to significant health problems, you should keep an eye out for symptoms and know the steps to take when you start to experience it.
The top six signs of burnout include:
- Exhaustion. Chronic emotional and physical exhaustion is a tell-tale sign that you’re getting burned out. If you’re struggling to get out of bed each morning, even after a full night’s sleep, you might need to take a break.
- Cynicism. If you’re losing interest fast and having negative thoughts about work, that’s a sure sign you’re burning out.
- Irritability. This encompasses being irritable and impatient, even at the smallest obstacle.
- Inefficacy. Burnout can make you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing, even keeping you from being able to problem-solve or come up with new ideas.
- Depression. Often people mistake burnout with depression or depersonalization, as they have similar symptoms. If you’re feeling depressed, it might be time to take a look at your work-life balance and day-to-day stressors.
- Lack of focus/motivation/productivity. Low productivity and procrastination are also major signs of burnout, especially if you’re used to being “on” and available all day.
If you’re starting to feel burned out, it’s a good idea to work some processes into your workday and personal life that can help you alleviate stress and prevent you from overworking.
Success doesn’t have to mean nonstop work
Don’t get caught up in the mindset that makes you think you have to work nonstop to be successful. Our brains don’t work that way, and it’s better to put practices in place that can help you avoid burnout in the long run.
Find a work schedule that works for you, exercise and find new hobbies, and prioritize time management to ensure you can keep a healthy work-life balance.
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How to avoid burnout FAQ
What is burnout?
The World Health Organization defines burnout “as a syndrome … resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one
- reduced professional efficacy.”