Are You Heading For Burn Out?

By Nacie Carson
28 Comments

I always pride myself on my ability to put the nose to the grindstone and go above and beyond, whether that effort was directed toward my blog, my work with clients, or my book. 

Over the last year, 60, 70, and even 80-hour weeks aren’t unusual for me – and recently I’ve noticed it’s starting to show… and not in a good way.

Things are starting to slip, the most important of which is my energy

I have less energy to respond to emails, less energy to be active on social media, less energy to chase down new writing opportunities or book promotion venues. And that is just in the realm of business. I also have less energy to get innovation-inspiring exercise, less energy to make good, healthy meals (hello, pizza delivery boy), and less energy to engage socially.

Yikes.

This is a serious problem that can’t be solved by a Red Bull or two. This is a problem of sustainable resources, and energy is an entrepreneur’s most valuable resource.

Energy: A Renewable Resource

So Tired

Back in April, I wrote about  how to keep your entrepreneurial fire burning. When we talk about energy as our most valuable resource, we are talking about the match that lights that fire. Without the energy, there is no fire to keep burning.

Many of us forget to protect, maintain, and conserve our energy. We pull all-nighters writing code for our websites; we get up at 5am to start identifying prospects online; we take our weekends to develop that new online training program or eBook.  We run through our stores of energy like its a constantly renewing resource that magically replenishes with nothing from nothing so we can keep up our frenetic pace of accomplishment.

While it’s true that our energy is a renewable resource, what’s not true – and what we all take for granted – is that it will renew on its own without any effort on our part. In order for our energy to sustain at a level that will help us to continue to achieve and meet our goals as entrepreneurs, we need to manage it carefully and consciously.

Over the last few months, I’ve been investigating strategies to successfully manage this most valuable resource of ours, so we can keep being the super-entrepreneurs that we are and maintain our capacity for success. 

While I’ve certainly learned many valuable tips (“learn to say ‘no,'” “stop multi-tasking,” “prioritize better,”) there has been one simple strategy that has yielded more benefits than the rest combined: delegation.

Delegation for Energy Management

As entrepreneurs, especially those in the fledgling stages of entrepreneurship, many of us run our own shops as solo operations. This means that delegation isn’t the number one strategy we think of when it comes time to get something off your plate so you can manage your energy. After all, isn’t delegation just for CEOs or people who have huge staffs at their beck and call?

Nope. In its purest form, delegation is about outsourcing tasks to others that aren’t the best use of your time or unique skill set. This can mean business related tasks, like lead generation or web design. However, it can also mean personal tasks, like grocery food shopping or house cleaning.

Recently, in an effort to start to manage my energy better, I hired a social media consultant to help me keep up with and organize my various online accounts. The idea was that with someone else worrying about my tweets, status updates, likes and newsletter posts, I would have more energy to take care of other things that needed my attention. 

At first it started well – with that responsibility off my plate I had more energy to focus on other business ventures and also some self-care needs that had been seriously neglected by my busy schedule, like maintaining my home, handling piles of laundry, eating wholesome meals and getting some exercise.

But as the first month wore on, I started to notice that all the energy that had been freed up from social media responsibilities had been redirected to doing these personal chores that I had grown lax about. 

As I stood in front of my kitchen counter one day preparing my snacks for the week, I started to wonder what benefit buying fruit and cutting it up myself was really bringing to my goals and business needs. After all, if I just spent an extra $1.50, couldn’t I buy this stuff already cut up and ready to eat? Was that the best use of my energy instead of tweeting? Or had I gotten delegation backwards?

I had gotten it backwards. Way backwards.

Delegation as a strategy to manage energy isn’t about giving away responsibilities haphazardly – it’s about carefully considering your skills, unique abilities, and task needs and making a decision based on what will free up your energy to do what it is you’re uniquely qualified to do… not just to do anything. 

For me, social media is a core business skill that is not only personally rewarding but also dependent on my unique voice and knowledge. It made no sense to delegate that task away to make my energy more available to do other things that I’m not even that good at (my melon pieces are always irregular and my laundry always shrinks).

With that revelation in mind, I let the consultant go and used the financial resources I had set aside for them on pre-cut fruit… and a laundry service. And a once-monthly home cleaning service (that does clean baseboards).

The Great Energy Challenge

As you go through the rest of your week, I want you to think about how many of the things you spend your energy on are really worth your energy as an entrepreneur? How many of those things are not, but you use your precious resource there anyway? 

The world is full of other service providers and products that are expressly designed to let you use your energy on the right things, for a price.

Choosing to delegate a task, whether it is making your schedule or managing your contact database or bringing in people to help maintain your home isn’t a statement of something being “beneath” you or not a valuable task, but instead a statement about putting your energy where it will yield the most benefit. That is something unique for each of us.

So I encourage you to take 1 hour of your time to consider where you put your energy and who or what can do it better/faster/easier than you so you can get back to the business of your business, energy intact.

If you have found any strategies for managing energy that work well for you, please share them in the comments section below.

Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey,

Nacie

Photo courtesy of Just Taken Pics on Flickr.

About Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a freelance writer and founder of The Life Uncommon, a career evolution and entrepreneurship community.
Her work on careers and authenticity have been featured in over 200 media outlets, including Portfolio.com, WalletPop, and two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nacie's first book on career "fitness" will be in stores in April 2012. You can contact her via nacie(@)TheLifeUncommon.Net

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28 Comments

  • Great post Nacie. I’m going though the same thing. It’s tough to put a times tamp on sommething when your doing what you love but our bodies were not designed like that. designed.

    I’m going to put more focus on getting rid of tasks that don’t really need my attention. I have a horrible problem with multitasking too.. OMG.. how many of you look at your browser and have 10 tabs open..

    I needed this… Thanks

    • Hi Dennis –
      So glad you found this valuable – one of the biggest challenges we face as entrepreneurs is shifting “doing” to others, in all aspects. Good luck with the delegation experiment, I look forward to hearing how it works for you – for me, it’s made a big difference!

      N

  • Raj

    You may not believe, but I sleep/rest 12 hours a day. Not in a single shot though. I take 4 hours off for exercising / eating/ helping with chores. That helps me to focus on 8 hours very effectively on any day.

    • Wow, Raj – that sounds really interesting! How does that varied sleep schedule influence your social/family time?

  • Hey Nacie
    For me the most important things are nutrition and exercise. If I eat well and get my exercise, everything else flows from there…sleep, work, peace of mind, everything. Sometimes I feel guilty running in the middle of the day, but after I’m done, my productivity goes through the roof. I think it’s a matter of routine and balance. Thanks for the reminders!
    Mark

    • Hi Mary,
      Great insight about taking care of yourself – that is a lesson I’ve learned the round-about way…if I’m not in top fighting shape, then neither is my work product! Would love to hear about how you maintain that balance even when things get stressful!

      N

      • I’ve found that taking short breaks of 15-30 minutes when things get stressful, and going for a walk during that time, gives me a bit to refocus my mind on dealing with the tasks at hand. The physical effort also gives a mental boost, allowing me to conquer difficult tasks quickly and efficiently.

        Basically, I think it’s about getting blood flowing and forcing yourself to break out of the mental rut.

  • I work only 3-4 hours a day. If i have a lot of work, then it could be 8 hours but it’s rare.

    • Hi Anastasia –

      May I ask how you have condensed down your schedule? Was it through delegation or another form of avoiding burnout?

      N

      • Hi Nacie

        No, I don’t. I guess I don’t have much work :) But I try to no stay on the computer too long. It’s not good for eyes.

  • Nice reminder, Nacie. Will set aside some time to think hard about that important question you raised… “who or what can do it better/faster/easier than you”. After all, burning out doesn’t sound much fun :-)

    • Hey Dr. Mani – Burnout isn’t fun, that’s for sure! I hope you do think about it…even just 1-2 small things can make a difference in your ability to sustain productivity!

  • Hey Nacie,

    There a lot of entrepreneurs who seem to want to boast about how many hours in a week they work, as if that is some sort of badge of honor.

    But as you clearly recognize, it is far more about the quality you put in, not the quantity. One person can achieve the same effect as another in half the time.

    There’s also a step beyond that – time away from your business can benefit you. If you’re burning the candles at both ends, the quality of your work will suffer. If you allow yourself time off, your brain has time to rest and recuperate. You’ll find yourself coming back to your work with renewed vigor.

    Saying that is all very well and good – I use my time very poorly and am working far too hard at the moment. Sigh…

    Thanks for a great read :-)

    Tom

    • I don’t want to hijack someone else’s article but I strongly disagree with your comment here. I don’t think it’s a badge of honor, I think in most cases it separates success and failure of a blog as far as goals go whether they be traffic, financial, or simply making an impact.
      Quality, well there is no quality that I see from people not willing to put in the work, a lot of times I see the opposite. I usually hear about quality from my writers who aren’t happy with their pay check this month because they didn’t produce enough quantity. The public decides what is quality, not the person doing the work.
      If I am misinterpreting the comment I apologize..

      • Hi Mitch,

        I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with!

        I don’t see working your balls off as a badge of honor to boast about – I simply pointed out that a lot of entrepreneurs do seem to think in that way (you clearly don’t).

        As for quality, I’m not sure what you mean – are you saying that quality isn’t a good thing? Because I think that’s the only way in which you can disagree with me on that front…

        Cheers,

        Tom

    • Hey Tom and Mitch,

      I agree with both of you – I know some people who want to talk about how much they work like that proves something about their ability to succeed. As you noted Tom, time away from work is beneficial, and as you mentioned Mitch, it’s about doing it until it’s done right, whether that is 10 hours or 100 hours.

      Thanks to both of you for sharing!

      Nacie

  • It took me a while to learn or more so trust in delegating but in my case it hasn’t reduced my workload at all, just shifted things around that I can focus on different things everytime I am able to shift something off to someone else.
    For me being able to successfully grow my business I have needed to lean and understand building and running a business because I never expected my blog to be a business, just a place to talk about college football.
    At some point I hope to bring on more full time help and that will help but it hasn’t worked out so far with the 28 people I have brought on board…maybe someday ;)

  • Of all the activities we give our time to, only twenty percent of those will yield valuable results. Only twenty percent of what we do will have an impact on the quality of our lives .And also make for eighty percent of our results. These are the ‘high-impact’ activities. Ability to locate and focus our energy on these twenty percent high-impact activities is the greatest key for peak performance.

    • Well said! Pareto’s law is something we should all pay attention to!

  • Nacie, I flirt with burnout more times than you can imagine. Rest and relaxation have been at the bottom of my to do list.

    I notice that when my energy gets too low that batteries and my cell phone tends to drain faster than usual. I just use these reminders to slow down and at least get 7 hours of sleep a night.

    • Hey Justin – you are so right…when you start to lose speed it is something that picks up inertia, and you’re depleted before you know it!

      For me, I have a tendency to ignore the signs of a low battery until I can’t ignore it any more…something I am personally working on is more mindfulness about my energy levels.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • I think another commenter has touched a little about this, but one thing that helps me to conserve more energy is to be more healthy. And as a budding entrepreneur, I find it easier to focus on being healthy because if I had to work as an employee I wouldn’t find the time to go for a run or a work out. It’s proven that if your healthier and active, you sleep better and sleep is the main source for rejuvenating.

    But, I like the points you make as well. Focusing your time on the things you do best is one trait every entrepreneur should develop.

    • Hi MoneyPerk – you’re absolutely right about the healthy piece – that is always the first thing I set aside when I get busy, but it yields serious dividends toward my productivity and ability to maintain my energy. Great point!

  • Burn out is usually the consequence keeping going when you are tired. If you think you may be burning out, ask yourself why you push yourself.

    • Evan my friend! Good to see you here!

      As always, your questions cut deep to the heart of the matter – why do you push yourself. I will def. put some thought into this question, and recommend others do as well!

  • Nice post Nacie. Like all budding entrepreneurs I also started out 60 to 80 hour week and no weekends. But then I realized that making money and then spending it on regaining health was not sensible. I now use the most infrequently used word in the entrepreneur world more often to my clients when I have enough work, which is “NO”. Somehow people are afraid to lose client and not worried about their health.

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