This is a guest post by Rebecca Fraser-Thill.
Rebecca writes about how to forge meaningful, self-driven work on her website WorkingSelf.com. She has been teaching psychology at Bates College for ten years and holds a Master’s in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University. She is also a career coach, keynote speaker, freelance writer and mom, when she isn’t spending her days exploring the rugged Maine coastline.
One of the reasons you started a business was probably to be your own boss. But who would’ve thought you’d be the most demanding boss you’ve ever had?
With the pressure we put on ourselves, it’s no wonder many side hustle entrepreneurs suffer from burnout, including pessimism, physical and emotional exhaustion, and lowered immunity.
Since your side hustle can’t thrive when you’re ailing, here are five tips to ward off entrepreneur burnout.
1. Let Your True Self Drive Your Business
Work-life balance simply doesn’t exist, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. Researchers find that the healthiest approach to work-life involves blending the two domains, enabling them to feed one another.
If your work and your personal life are one and the same – particularly when you have no “work hours” and no “office” to commute to – then you’d better darn enjoy the work you’re doing.
That’s why one of the best ways to avoid entrepreneur burnout is to design your business so that it’s a natural extension of who you genuinely are.
If you’re just starting your business, set aside some time to reflect on your vision for your life and the legacy you’re hoping to build. In what ways will your proposed business work toward these goals? In what ways may it detract from them?
Based on what you learn from this self-review session, you can make intentional choices about structure, products and marketing.
If you’ve already been running a business for some time, it’s not too late to enhance the blend between self/work. Make the time to identify the aspects of business management and the services and/or products energize you, and those that don’t.
Attempt to outsource the tasks that drag you down (e.g., using Fiverr, for example) while increasing your marketing of the services and products about which you’re most passionate. Redirecting your business so that it better fits you – rather than letting your customers direct your path – can head off burnout before it begins.
2. Make Sure Your Side Hustle Calls on Your Preferred Skills
You might be thinking, but my business has nothing to do with who I am. There’s no possible way I could change it at this point. And frankly I don’t want to.
Many entrepreneurs have been successful – and have fought off burnout – while engaging in businesses that run far afield of their interests and desires.
A great example is Pat Flynn, who makes a lot of money from the niche websites he builds. His sites (e.g., about security guard training) have no overlap with his life or his interests; he simply picks topics based on search rankings and a market vacuum.
Still, he seems highly engaged in his work, and appears to fight burnout effectively. How? By consistently using skills that he enjoys and that come naturally to him.
For instance, in answer to the question of how he writes content for sites he knows nothing about, he responds:
“When I created GreenExamAcademy.com, I also didn’t anything about that particular exam either, and because of this, the content I wrote on that site was perfect for someone who didn’t know a thing about it, because I didn’t either. As I found out new pieces of information, I was able to easily translate it in a way that any beginner could understand. This is something I know I’m good at.”
Bottom line: If you’re not going to found your business around your interests and passions, at least mold it around your most beloved and strongest skill sets. To do otherwise is to ask for burnout.
3. Change the Comparison Game
There are few things that burn us out faster than comparing our business to other entrepreneurs we know.
Benny Businessman has that much traffic?! Sharon Saleswoman sold that many units last year?! The stress of seeing how we match up against others – or don’t – can tear us down, bodies, minds and souls.
In her recent post “The Comparison Bug” entrepreneur Melissa Anzman wrote:
“In the corporate world, comparison felt different. Other people’s success was motivation for me to keep moving forward. It just felt like I had a path – and the comparisons helped push me onto the ‘right’ one. My success was more linear. More visible. More within my own control.”
As entrepreneurs, however, she suggests that we tend to feel more exposed and responsible. This can cause our comparisons to cut sharper and deeper than they ever have before.
While it’s impossible to stop making social comparisons – they’re hard-wired into us and do serve some positive purposes – you can change the way you make comparisons.
Sure some people are doing “better” than you; it’s inevitable. But many people aren’t.
And hordes of others wish they owned a business, but they haven’t even gotten the nerve to start trying yet.
Ultimately, it comes down to what Anzman says: “It’s not about what they are doing…it’s about what you are doing, right now.”
4. Take “Entrepreneur Dates”
They’re intended to recharge and reinvigorate the artist and her work.
A number of years ago I was focused on fiction writing and made the time to schedule weekly Artist Dates. My dates weren’t elaborate – some involved going to the local art museum or to the bookstore, while others were as simple as setting aside an hour to read any book I wanted – but they infused me with inspiration, inner calm, and a weekly reminder of why I’d gotten myself into the roller coaster of fiction writing in the first place.
As entrepreneurs, we’re in need of similar sustenance. Schedule one hour a week for an “Entrepreneur Date,” during which you do anything that gets you back in touch with the excitement you felt when you were just starting out.
You might watch some videos from past World Domination Summits, go on a Marie Forleo binge, re-read one of Chris Guillebeau’s books, or simply sit down and journal about your dreams of where you’re heading.
Of course in the busy life of an entrepreneur, even one hour may seem like a loss of precious time. But according to Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this hour is an investment, not a loss.
His final habit, Sharpen the Saw, draws on the analogy of a woodcutter who’s working ineffectively because he won’t make time to sharpen his saw.
“Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you… Feeling good doesn’t just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you.”
5. Schedule a Pseudo-Sabbatical
Taking Entrepreneur Dates one step further, you may want to occasionally take a full-on pseudo-sabbatical.
Solopreneur and business coach Jenny Blake used a pseudo-sabbatical as a time to give herself “permission to work according to my own energy, creativity and inspiration.” She set aside a month during which her email auto-responder warned that she would be slow to respond, and allowed herself to work as much or as little as she wanted, depending on the day’s flow.
It’s important not to “do nothing” during this time; simply vegging out is unlikely to offer any lasting rejuvenation (as if Side Hustlers could stand that anyway!).
Instead, plan some extended Entrepreneur Dates, such as attending a conference purely out of interest – no intentional networking agenda allowed! – or signing up for a workshop that you’ve been wanting to experience for years.
Blake wrote that she was taking the pseudo-sabbatical:
“To honor my values of freedom, health, happiness, rest, and celebration. It’s about giving myself a little more permission than usual to take time off — to let my mind loose to dream, scheme, CREATE, and generally just roam free around my biggest ideas.”
Given that we’re drawn to entrepreneurship for precisely the reasons she lists, a regular pseudo-sabbatical might be just what you need to not only avoid burnout, but to take your side hustle business – and you – to the next level.