Hi, I'm Ashlie. Owner and lead designer at Wolf & Willow Design! I'm a 12 year corporate accountant turned full-time designer helping other small-business entrepreneurs chase their dreams. I'm also a wife, #girlmom, and Air Force veteran.
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Burnout, overwhelm and even depression are unfortunately common feelings to experience at any point of an entrepreneurial journey. Whether you’re just getting started and feeling the pressure of working a 9-5 job while building a business or you’re a seasoned business owner buried under project deadlines and the stress of turning a profit — no one is immune to entrepreneur burnout.
Here are five key things you can do to combat burnout and keep your creativity and business momentum going.
Making time for yourself means dedicating time every day (or at least most days) to do something you enjoy. Whether that’s taking a walk, reading a book, or spending time with friends and family, you want to make sure you’re making yourself a priority just as much as your work. Too often, we entrepreneurs can get so focused on work and on our to-do list that we neglect taking care of ourselves.
One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is you have total control over your time and schedule, but no one tells you how hard it can be to adjust to that newfound freedom. In the beginning stages of starting your business, I believe it’s especially important to get used to balancing your work schedule with your life schedule because it’s easy to get caught in the hustle and grind.
Personally, it was tough to transition from a life run by an alarm clock and strict deadlines to setting my own schedule. One mistake I made in my first year of being a full-time business owner was burying my head into the grind. I often found myself working late hours even though I technically didn’t have to — all because I was conditioned by my corporate schedule. I didn’t even realize how much I was working until talking to my grandmother one day who said, “Ash, I think you work more now than you did when you were working outside of the house.”
The ironic thing was, that was the main reason I left my corporate job! But when I zoomed out and looked at my situation, I realized I was stressed, overwhelmed, and so afraid of my business failing that I was throwing every bit of energy I had into it. It was an unsustainable way of running a business. Needless to say, it took some adjustment to live life a bit slower and remember that not only do I want to have a better work-life balance, but I also need it.
Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint — and destroying your mental health isn’t going to do you any favors.
There are two parts to setting boundaries. The first is being honest with yourself about how much work you can realistically handle in one day, a week, or a month. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time, that might be an indicator you’re taking on more than you can realistically handle.
Take some time off to relax and recharge. I know it feels like the last thing you want to do, but stepping away from your project temporarily or scaling your workload back entirely can help you gain some clarity on how you should resolve this problem.
Another way to set boundaries: setting an established set of working hours and logging off when it’s time to log off. This can be super tough if you work from home because it’s easy to work late since your office is also your home, but not setting boundaries around when you need to log off for the day will only lead to increased stress and burnout.
If you’re not familiar with the term already, burnout is a term used to describe physical and emotional exhaustion. It’s a common problem for creative entrepreneurs, who often work long hours in an effort to achieve success.
TLDR; be realistic in your capabilities and establish clear working hours.
Even though you get to set your own schedule, that doesn’t mean you can throw your planner to the wind. Treat your business just as you would at any 9-5 job.
I know this can be difficult because, at a 9-5 job, you don’t always have to look at the big picture and plan ahead for how you want to accomplish your overarching goals, so here’s my strategy:
I like to start looking at the whole year and working my way backward. On my annual calendar, I’ll write down any bigger, non-negotiable dates such as vacations, my daughters’ school breaks, etc.
After establishing those bigger dates, I break up my year into quarters and do the same thing. After that, I go more granular and look at each month and then weeks. Once I get to months and weeks, I look at any commitments that could take me away from my work. For example, family engagements or my kids’ extracurriculars.
After that, I make a game plan for all the things I need to get done for my business such as blog writing, social media, client work, etc. Everything gets written down so that I have a clear idea of when things are due to keep my business running and keep my clients happy.
Finally, I’ll block out specific days and hours each week to work on my business. These are the days I don’t want anything else to interrupt me.
And don’t forget to schedule some free time too! Creative entrepreneurs often put in long hours, but it’s important to have a routine that allows for rest and relaxation. (See tips one and two.) This way, you’re able to maintain your energy levels and continue working at a high level.
It’s so easy to get lost in your work. Sometimes we even dread it or take it for granted. And when your work starts feeling more like a chore, you’re no longer serving your passion. So make sure to be on the lookout for any wins you can celebrate, no matter how small they may seem.
Did you get your first DM? Did you book a discovery call from your website? Are you seeing an increase in engagement on social media? Whatever it is, it helps to maintain positivity by viewing every single win as a step in the right direction.
If you’re anything like me, you started this journey because you wanted to make a living doing what you enjoy. Celebrating wins can remind you why you started your business and why it’s worth persevering.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it to my grave: having a team is so damn powerful. Having a team working with you benefits so much more than just outsourcing your work and delegating tasks (although, that’s a huge part of it). I learned that surrounding yourself with people who support you and believe in you (and your mission) makes everything seem possible.
I 100% would not accomplish what I have in my business without my team. They’ve become my very close friends in the process, too! So not only do I have a team to help me tackle the ins and outs of running Wolf & Willow, but I have a team of people to cheer me on. That in itself is invaluable.
The first way to tackle burnout should be obvious, but many times it’s not. The key is to understand when it’s happening.
It’s so important to listen to your body and your mind to know when you’re starting to enter that realm of abnormal and unhealthy levels of stress.
Allow yourself time to recoup and come back energized and ready for more. And if you do find yourself struggling with burnout, reach out for help! My team and I are always standing by, and our DMs are always open.
Till next time,