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How to avoid turning the freedom of being your own boss into a stress-filled nightmare

Working for yourself. Freelancing. Becoming self-employed. Setting up your own business. However you describe it, being your own boss seems to offer amazing opportunities for the right kind of people.

If you’ve already embarked on this route then I’m almost certain that you’re a highly motivated, passionate, and driven individual with a strong belief in what you do. I’ve very rarely worked with anyone who’s set up on their own who doesn’t have these fantastic qualities.

However, these also tend to go hand-in-hand with another less desirable trait – finding it hard to “let go”.

In the early days of setting up on your own, this can be a real plus. It means you can take total control of every aspect of your business that will make money – your market, your customers, your competition, trends in your business sector, networking and marketing yourself, and so on.

As a business owner, you’ve also been used to handling all the many tasks that don’t directly make money but need to be done because they’ll either generate income down the line, or they are just part and parcel of business. Invoicing and banking, juggling your diary, making prospecting calls, handling incoming enquiries, sorting mailshots, updating your website and social media, looking for networking opportunities, research new markets, sorting out training or CPD courses. Even things like remembering to renew your business insurance or booking the car in for a service need to be kept on top of.

There comes a point in most people’s business life where your workdays are completely filled with productive, income-generating activity. That’s fantastic, but it means you’ve got to find extra time for all the other things! For many people, working late into the evenings or at weekends to keep on top of it all becomes a necessary bad habit all too easily.

The increased pressure to handle everything yourself, coupled with your innate difficulting in handing over responsibility to anyone else can combine into a perfect storm of stress that can start to impact in both psychological and physical ways. This is often referred to as burnout.

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” that’s characterized by three major symptoms:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from your work, or negative or cynical feelings towards it; and
  • a reduction in your professional performance.

So what can you do as a business owner to avoid the pitfalls of burnout?

  1. Don’t believe you can do everything yourself

No matter how good you are, it’s impossible for anyone to keep on top of everything with only 24 hours available in a day. It is not a sign of weakness or incompetence that you can’t handle all the tasks your business demands without working late into the evenings or sacrificing weekends. Remember, your core talents and abilities are what make the business, not whether you can keep on top of your expenses.

  1. You need time away from your business to give it your best

Work-life balance is so important. A lot of entrepreneurs and self-employed people completely ignore the fact that you need time away from work in order to give your best at work. You know you’re at your best when you are feeling refreshed energised, not when you are feeling tired and regretting missing out on time with family, friends or hobbies.

  1. Get help with areas of your business that you shouldn’t be focused on

If you’re an ace at marketing, networking, and selling, then you need to be spending all your time doing exactly those things. Consider contracting a virtual assistant or an admin support service to take on the tasks that need to be done, but that don’t use your skills and strengths. This can be a really cost-effective way of getting exactly the help you need to free up your time – either to become more focused and productive, to spend more time with friends and family, or both!