Preventing burnout among entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur, you have countless tasks to manage in order to keep your business running and growing. It is easy to get lost in the workload, to the point of exhaustion where your body gives out on you...
In this article, I'll give you some tools to help you manage your busy day-to-day entrepreneurial life as calmly as possible. These tools are derived from my experience in entrepreneurial coaching.
Learn to say no
Especially when you are starting out, you may be - legitimately - tempted to say yes to virtually everything your clients ask for. Your first clients are important, of course. However, it would be a mistake to commit yourself to projects that are not profitable or feasible with the resources you have at your disposal. Not being able to say 'no' can lead to a spiral of physical and psychological overload.
To help you develop what is known as assertiveness, two methods have proved their worth:
Questioning: always take at least 24 hours to think before accepting or refusing a job that you are unsure about, and ask yourself the right questions:
- Do I have enough time to carry out the job?
- Do I have the necessary technical skills?
- What do I risk by refusing?
- What happens if I lose this client?
- Is this job profitable?
- Am I willing to lose money?
- Finally, what do I have to gain or lose by refusing the job?
The DESC method (1): to express dissatisfaction or outright refusal in a structured and thoughtful way, you can follow this framework:
- Describe factually: For example, “I notice that you have changed the deadlines of certain deliverables for this project.”
- Express your feelings (starting with "I"): "I am in an uncomfortable position, I do not feel aligned with these new goals.”
- Specify your needs factually: “I cannot guarantee the quality of the deliverables within this timeframe, I need two weeks more to get the work done.”
- Conclude with a concrete and negotiable request, in other words, propose a solution:“Can we review the deadlines together and the expected project outcomes this afternoon to agree on a delivery date that works best for both of us?”
- If you don't want to lose the client in question but you can't meet their needs, offer to work with another service provider you know. This professional and solution-oriented attitude will not be forgotten! This will strengthen the relationship of trust between you and the client. You will benefit from this afterwards, either for a new assignment or because this person will have warmly recommended you to their network for your professionalism and transparency.
Learn to let go
The first step is to accept that you do not have control over all situations: a late bus, a prospect's refusal, the loss of a client, a prospect who does not show up for an appointment, etc. Instinctively, you may tend to over-interpret the situation: "people are not serious, it always happens to me, I have no luck, etc.". Although natural, this reaction is exhausting for the body and mind and is counterproductive.
It is important to find ways to quickly detach yourself from an anxiety-provoking situation. Here are some exercises to adopt, test and repeat, even when you are relaxed, in order to fully integrate the process.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise
- Sit with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor
- Touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue throughout the exercise
- Breathe our all the air in your lungs through your mouth
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose, counting to 4 (in your head)
- Hold your breath to the count of 7
- Exhale fully through your mouth to the count of 8
- Repeat this exercise 3 times
The STOP technique
- S = Stop: take a break, stop what you are doing. Put a hand on your belly and/or your heart to feel your breathing better.
- T = Time: focus on your breathing while being fully aware of the air coming in and going out.
- O = Observation: observe what is happening, what you are feeling all over your body, welcoming all sensations without making any judgement. What are you experiencing? What emotions are you going through?
- P = Presence: stay in touch with this experience for a few moments and become aware that the emotions are like waves that rise and fall until they disappear
The paper exercise
- Make a list of all the topics that are mentally polluting you
- Put a dash next to all the topics that you can solve by yourself, that are dependent on parameters that you control, citing the parameters each time (a dissatisfied customer, too many orders to manage)
- Put a cross next to all the situations that you cannot control (a project that is delayed because the person in charge is ill, the price of a raw material is rising, a problem with the delivery person)
- Take up the topics with dashes and deal with each topic one by one
- You can now visualise the situations you cannot act on and therefore should not waste your time! For these, the one thing you can change is your point of view.
To stay the course…
It is important to keep in mind that burnout is a very complex issue, it will depend on many factors, both personal and professional. The key to optimal health depends on:
- The balance you strike in your life (sport, work-life boundaries)
- Your knowledge of yourself (your limits, your resources, the elements that can promote or alleviate stress)
- Your ability to recharge your batteries, to take time for yourself
- Your ability to put in place strategies or methods to manage your daily life (organisation, letting go, etc.)
- And finally, your ability to be resilient, in other words, to accept that life is not a long, quiet river, that not everything can be planned and controlled, but that you have the resources to overcome the obstacles.
If you feel the need, don't hesitate to call on a professional to accompany you in this search for balance (to prevent it from being too late one day). Once you've crossed that almost imperceptible border from orange to red, it's much more energy-consuming to shift back to green...
(1) Technique shared by Aurore Jurga, psychologist specialised in cognitive-emotional-behavioural therapy, psycho-education, meditative approaches and immersive virtual reality, during the workshop "Letting go in your daily life as an entrepreneur" on 3 May 2022 organised by nyuko
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