As a small business owner, your "normal business hours" are probably nebulous ... at best. Your business is your passion, and if you're not at work, you're probably thinking about it, and that can lead to burnout.
While burnout isn't unique to entrepreneurs, it's especially important to keep tabs on your energy levels — not only for your own well-being (although that's obviously an important reason), but also because your business can't really function without you.
Here are six productivity tips that can help you overcome the workday crush and get back to being your best self.
1. Put Your Health First
You've probably heard it a million times, but adequate sleep and relaxation, a nutritious diet and regular exercise are necessary for good health, and you need to make your own health a priority. When you're run-down, you burn out faster. Sleep deprivation can also hurt your ability to focus and perform higher-level cognitive functions, like planning and problem-solving, according to Harvard Medical School. Don't think you have the time to focus on your health? If it helps, think of it as time spent on your business (because it is!).
2. Set Priorities
Small business owners have to-do lists that never end, but no matter how hard or long you work, you can't get everything done — no one can. You must accept this, and that means you have to set priorities. Break up your list of tasks by importance. Make a plan to tackle one to three "big" tasks each day. Then be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish.
3. Manage Your Energy
Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day and schedule tasks accordingly. If you tend to feel fresh and well-rested in the mornings, use that time to do creative work and make important decisions. Whenever your energy is at "medium," transition to tasks such as research or learning, which require less mental energy. And when your levels are low, tackle administrative or repetitive work, such as filing or email. Mapping out your day this way can help you get more done.
4. Ask for Help
It can be hard to admit, but you can't do everything yourself. Instead of wasting a lot of time trying to complete something that is difficult for you, delegate it to an employee who excels in that area or outsource a task, such as payroll, to a professional. You can help maximize your time and resources by sticking to your strengths.
5. Set Boundaries
You strive to make your customers happy, and sometimes that leads to saying "yes" when you really want to say "no." Before problems and burnout arise, create a list of what you will and won't do. Then stick to it. For example, create strict working hours and turn down opportunities that present themselves outside of that scope.
6. Take Regular Breaks
The great thing about being the owner is that you are your own boss. You can leave at midday and take a walk, knock off early on Friday afternoon or shut the doors for a week and take a vacation. It's important to schedule regular breaks, both big and small, to keep from getting burned out. Simply taking a lunch break away from your desk helps boost your creative thinking, according to a study from the University of California, Davis, reported on by the Washington Post.
More and more productivity tips are pointing to the power of breaks, so take them regularly and make them count. If you have trouble getting out of "work mode," try a mindfulness or meditation app, and don't worry — your business will still be right where you left it when you return!
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