a small business owner suffering from burnout

How to Avoid Burnout as a Small Business Owner

You’re working more than 8 hours a day to make your small business a success. Because there aren’t many employees, you’re in charge of almost everything. You’re sacrificing your weekends, your family and friends, and your personal life. 

But the results can be subtle or too farfetched. You’re constantly wondering if this is worth it, whether you should continue, or just stop and take an easier path instead.

Be careful. If you let yourself in this overworking and exhausting mode constantly, you’ll face severe burnout. And it affects everything, from your well-being to your productivity and your small business.

What is burnout?

According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is a syndrome caused by prolonged and poorly managed workplace stress. 

Some common signs of burnout include:

  • Suffering from physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches, etc.
  • Feeling drained in terms of emotion and energy
  • Feeling overwhelmed, distant, and cynical at work
  • Performing poorly at work and even in personal life

Causes and consequences

Burnout often stems from stressful work. If you have a heavy workload, handle too many responsibilities, and constantly deal with time pressure, you’re very likely to face burnout.

But work isn’t the only cause of burnout. What you do and how you see the world can play a big part in causing undue stress. So other factors also include your lifestyle and personality.

Burnout, if left untreated for a long time, affects not only mental health but also physical health. It will lead to more serious problems such as depression, heart disease, substance abuse, etc.

The negative effects of burnout will start to affect every aspect of your life—from how you treat your family to your social relationships.

And the business that you care about and devote most hours of your day to? Burnout drains your energy and makes you want to abandon it, too.

How to avoid burnout in small business

Prioritize tasks

If you run a small business, you certainly have a million tasks to do. To avoid feeling overwhelmed and complete unnecessary tasks instead of important ones, you can categorize tasks based on priority.

You can have different levels of priority for your tasks, for example, Low – Medium – High. Or you can follow the Eisenhower Matrix to decide what to do with your tasks. Then focus on completing tasks lying at the top of your priority list.

Get the hard tasks done

Some aspects of your work might be unpleasant and stressful to deal with, so you procrastinate and put them off as long as you can. Then, when you finally get around to dealing with them, they take far longer and more painful than they should be.

Identify these aspects and devise a strategy for ticking them off your to-do list as soon as possible. Otherwise, they’re gonna hang there and haunt you like unresolved burdens.

Build positive workplace relationships

Having positive workplace relationships can reduce stress, especially during idle and tough times. According to a study by Officevibe, 70 percent of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life.

Although it can be awkward at first to befriend staff and get through that invisible barrier between employers and employees, relationships can be built on a genuine and supportive attitude.

Set your boundaries

Handling too many responsibilities may mean that you’ll respond to every email or take in every task that your staff can’t complete by themselves,.

Don’t push yourself too far. Practice saying “no” to requests that take up your time such as upward delegation. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the commitments you want to fulfill.

There is no quicker path to burnout than taking on every single task that occurs. Evaluate the importance of every incoming task before putting it into your to-do list.

Set work hours

We’re quite familiar with business owners who work day and night for their business. They can easily get lost in work and sleep half the time the body requires to function well.

Although the list of what you have to do is endless and tasks must be done, overworking is one of the most common causes of burnout.

We’re not wired to be super focused more than 4 hours a day, meaning we spend the remaining 4 hours doing tedious and shallow tasks. The fact that you stretch your work hours may mean that you’re not fully focused, so you try to make up by working longer hours.

It might be hard to put aside your work after 5 p.m. if you’re the owner. But at least set a fixed leaving-work time for yourself. Not working after 9 p.m., for example. Allow yourself to wind down and unplug. Put away your laptop, your phone, and your email inbox.

Delegate work

Delegation is necessary for unimportant and non-urgent tasks. But it’s difficult for some managers, especially perfectionists. They may want to have complete control over everything, or believe that performing tasks themselves saves more time than explaining things to employees.

Having someone else do the work can take longer than doing it yourself, and you also give up some control in the process. Employees may not perform tasks exactly as you expected. The extra time you’ll gain will allow you to handle more important tasks and your team can show their abilities. So, this tradeoff is necessary to keep your business running.


To adapt to the speed and competition of the business world, business owners have to devote a lot of time and energy to their businesses. With too many responsibilities and aspects to handle, small business owners suffering from burnout is no longer a rare phenomenon.

Prevention is still better than cure. Take care of your well-being to avoid burnout before it comes to you. This way you’ll always be in an efficient state for managing your business.

To learn more about how you can avoid an overwhelming mix between business and personal life, make sure to check out our post on how you can stay organized digitally, physically, and mentally at work.

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