Last Monday, on Labor Day, I hit a wall. Our shop has been open since August 5th, and I’ve been there everyday. Whether I’m working the front desk, tagging new merchandise, painting the back (because we opened before our studio/workspace was complete thinking we could do it over time on slow days – big mistake!!), or catching up on emails and orders, I’ve been there. On Labor Day, there I was, once again laboring in the shop and I realized that if I didn’t close down for the afternoon I might never come back. I mean, in all seriousness, I’d definitely have been back at in the next day, but I needed a break.
This burnout came because I’ve been severely lacking in the work life balance area. Or work life juggling (the reality). Ever since last Monday, I’ve been actively working on attempting some form of work life balance. It’s tough, there’s always something to do in a new or existing small business. If you’re not there doing it, most likely no one is.
Literally every morning when I get out of bed I think I need to get to the shop to do x, y, and z before we open or Tonight, when I get home, I need to catch up on x or If I can just hammer out a few of these to dos this morning, I’ll be able to start working out tomorrow morning. Now, I have to force myself to remain calm and collected, and remind myself that those things will still be there when I’m done with my workout or run. This happens every. single. morning. Like, take a chill pill, Meredith! The world will not fall apart because you didn’t put that new skirt on the floor. No one will ever know the things that you didn’t get done except for you.
SIGNS OF BURNOUT FROM LACK OF WORK LIFE BALANCE
How do you know when you’ve hit that wall – the following list of identifiers will help you decipher your feelings and help you trace them to burnout at work.
- Lack of Motivation – No enthusiasm for the business that brought you such joy before? Slower to get to your studio, office, or even just the kitchen each morning?
- Problems with Either Family or Coworkers – Many people think that the lack of work life balances mostly affects our relationships with family and friends, but it can also cause conflict or withdrawal at work.
- Lack of Attention – Stress narrows our focus to help us deal with a problem. Long term stress lessens our ability to pay attention to other things.
- Frustration or Negativity – Do you feel like you are experiencing more negative emotions than what is typical for you?
- Unhealthy Behavior – Drinking, smoking, not working out, eating junk food, not eating enough and not sleeping enough can all be symptoms of burn out. DING DING DING – this is me. I haven’t been working out, I’ve been wanting pizza and tacos, or I’ve been totally skipping lunch and snacks while I’m at work all day.
- Exhaustion – Do you feel tired alllllll the time? You’re waking up from a solid 9 hour night and want to nap 1 hour into your day? You have no energy to even do fun activities or see friends?
HOW TO RECOVER FROM WORK LIFE BALANCE BURNOUT
First, let’s look at ways to get back in your groove if you’ve already suffered from burnout.
- Prioritize – Create a calendar of what you need to do for the day, as well as what you want to do. I like to use iCal on my computer for this because I can block off segments of time and visually see if my day is balanced between work and life. Set priorities for both your work day and your personal day (like cooking dinner with your boyfriend/husband or enjoying a magazine in the evening).
- Say no – Don’t be afraid to say no! Say no to a redundant, boring or repetitive task or delegate it to someone under you.
- Check email once each day – This one is so, so, so important. If I don’t follow this advice, I can spend all day on my inbox and feel like I didn’t get anywhere. Now, I try to spend one 30 minutes chunk of time on emails. This sounds like short amount of time (it is!), but this forces you to be concise, answer the most important emails, and move on with your day. I try to scroll through and quickly choose 10 emails to take care of as fast as possible. If you miss an email and it’s important, don’t worry, they’ll follow up. It’s even better if they pick up the phone to chase you down! It takes so much less time to pay an invoice, schedule something or touch base over the phone than through a string of emails.
- LEAVE WORK AT WORK – I’m really just yelling at myself here. There’s no reason to ignore your need to binge watch Stranger Things just because you feel like you should knock out a few more emails or whatever.
HOW TO PREVENT BURNOUT
So, if you haven’t reached the point of burnout yet, these habits are great ways to ensure that you continue to have a quality work life balance and feel satisfied in both your job and your home life.
- Have alone time – Spend time by yourself each week working out, taking a bubble bath, reading or going on a hike.
- Take lunch – Get out of the habit of eating lunch at your desk every day. Take your lunch break outside of the office if you can. The fresh air and scenery will do wonders for your productivity in the afternoon once you return.
- Turn off emails after work – One of the best things I did when I was working in architecture was to never set up email forwarding to my cell phone. When I left work at the end of each day, I was done. When I took a sick day, I wasn’t tuned into the office at all. My boss had my cell number and could reach me if there was a major issue. In the year that I worked in that office, I only received two phone calls when I was out of the office. My inbox was full each morning, but my nights were free of work-related ’emergencies.’
- Delegate – This can be hard for a small business. Many times you are the sole employee. If you aren’t, oftentimes your partner is also your partner in life (and your equal at work), so you have no one you can delegate to. It can be hard in the beginning to justify the additional cost of hiring an employee, but once you do be sure to delegate tasks to them – that’s what they’re there for!
- Go on dates with your partner, especially if you also work together – Keep that flame burning!
- Hang with your girls – Coffee dates, happy hours, hikes. Anything you can make time for and do with your girlfriends is a must at least once a week.
I feel much better this week. Taking that afternoon off on Labor Day was crucial, and I’ve been trying to wake up early enough to workout each morning before work. I have to remind myself everyday to live a balanced life, but maybe someday it won’t be such a struggle!
What are some habits that you’ve formed to help you achieve work life balance (or close to it)?