How to Avoid Burnout in the New Year

7 steps to find your way back to healthy well-being & a productive work life.

As we embark on the new year, some of us out there may have some doubts. The challenges that 2023 threw at us may have been daunting. But what I have learned is while the challenges may seem like they are coming from outside influences, they often stem from internal struggles. Fear, shame and regret are the real villains, and they are not mere emotions; they are barriers to action, innovation and growth. If you are feeling some burnout, I want to provide some improved internal dialogue to move us past burnout to growth.

The reason focusing on burnout is so important is because it is crucial to growth. We can’t just pause and recharge and then go at it again with the same mindset. Think about a parked car. No matter how long it sits there parked, it won’t change the fact that you cannot steer that car. It has to be in motion to change its direction. Brushing burnout under the rug can lead to a fear of failure that has the potential to paralyze you. But that fear is a good sign because it also means there’s something valuable at stake.

Each “what if” left behind opens the path to a “what’s next” or a new opportunity waiting to be seized. We must start by defining burnout. Burnout is a feeling of overwhelming stress and exhaustion. You may feel emotionally drained and unable to meet the constant demands of your business. This often results from long hours, the stress of managing multiple roles, financial pressures and the high expectations we set for ourselves.

The first step is to spot the signs of burnout – those subtle and not-so-subtle signals that something needs to change. Chronic fatigue that lingers, a growing detachment from your reason – or your “why” – or continually questioning why you even keep going. Irritability and a sense of ineffectiveness are a few other red flags. You might also be feeling a more pessimistic outlook and become more critical or cynical.

Extended burnout can also lead to forgetfulness and an inability to concentrate. You might feel trapped by your job or business rather than empowered by it. If you are feeling the effects of burnout or even extended burnout, it might even feel like your typical mode of operating. The great news is that you have a choice to switch some things up. As challenging as it might feel, it can be as simple as choosing to think differently.

You have to take the first step, and you can do so by recognizing burnout’s signals. Below are seven strategies that can guide you back to well-being and productivity. It’s not just about shutting down and recharging – that’s only temporary. Try these steps instead:

  1. Pause & Reflect

Start simply. At first glance, this might look like recharging, but it is quite different. It is a choice to take a pause to reflect and gain clarity. Sometimes burnout can be caused by being out of alignment with your priorities and being pulled in too many directions. Pause to ensure your actions align with your values and goals.

  1. Clear the Decks

Take deliberate action to remove all the clutter surrounding you. This includes tasks and obligations that aren’t serving your core objectives. Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed because we’re trying to juggle too many things. By stripping away the nonessentials and focusing on what matters, we allow the lesser tasks to naturally fall away.

This isn’t about doing less for the sake of it; it’s about creating the mental and physical space to reorganize and work in a meaningful way. Dedicate this reclaimed time to reorganize and recommit to the work that genuinely drives progress. It’s a strategy not just for efficiency but for sanity – allowing us to breathe, recalibrate and move forward with purpose.

  1. Reprioritize

We don’t have a time management problem; it’s about priority management. We need to take full responsibility for our story and our outcomes, and ask, “What is truly important?” It’s not just about urgent tasks, but what genuinely moves us forward. Prioritizing is about having a standard that helps us decide what’s crucial and what’s not. Without it, we’re just reacting to everything thrown our way and everyone else’s priorities. We’ve got to say no to the nonessential to recalibrate from burnout.

  1. Physical Wellness

When we discuss burnout, we can’t ignore the physical side of things. Mental stress and physical health are two sides of the same coin, and neglecting either can throw us off balance. Self-care is key, and it’s got to be scheduled and made a priority. Whether it’s yoga, meditation or just a walk, it’s about making time for it. It’s about getting your physical self in line with your intentions for your success.

  1. Reconnect With Your Passion

“Why am I doing what I do? What’s the real drive behind my business or job?” It’s easy to say it’s all for the money, but let’s be real – there are simpler ways to make a buck. No, you chose this path for a reason – a reason that’s yours alone. Maybe it’s the creativity, the support you give and get, the joy of learning or the thrill of creating. Whatever it is, it’s your unique passion. Our reasons for pushing forward need to outweigh our excuses for holding back. Once you tap into that, you hit a state of flow and everything changes. You’re no longer working; you’re creating, enjoying and living your passion. That’s the magic of finding your reason. It’s not just about being successful; it’s about being successful for your reasons.

  1. Delegate & Outsource

Many small business owners are too hands-on sometimes. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit! We want everything perfect, under our control. But we can’t do it all, nor should we. Delegating isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a savvy business move. If you’re a solo act, you might think, “Who do I delegate to?” This is where outsourcing shines.

It’s not just about cutting costs; it’s about investing in your business so you can focus on what you’re genuinely great at. Virtual assistants are a game-changer, giving you the freedom to focus on your genius zone. Do not get stuck on the immediate costs – it’s the return on investment that counts. Every minute you spend on tasks outside your expertise is a potential dollar lost. Shift your mindset.

  1. Find Balance & Support

Finding balance is an art and we often miss the mark about what true balance is. It’s not about dividing your day into perfect thirds. Balance is about adapting to seasons and cycles, and understanding when to dive deep into work and when to step back for family and self-care. We must look at the cycles and make incremental adjustments to have balance.

Say you’re too wrapped up in work – don’t just drop everything; start by scheduling intentional family time. Find strategies that don’t involve going cold turkey on aspects of your life, but rather, introduce changes that balance out over time.

The best way to accomplish this is to find some support. You have probably heard me say this, but success is a team sport. Whether it’s peers, mentors or mastermind groups, finding support is about taking the step to ask. It’s OK to have a moment of feeling overwhelmed, but it’s what you do next that counts. A support network like a mastermind group can be the difference between success and deeper overwhelm. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is the incremental steps taken consistently that lead to dramatic shifts over time.

Recognizing burnout and its signs is crucial to sustained success. It can and will get the best of us, so having the tools to navigate it is something we want to keep at the ready. By following these steps, you can get back on track quickly. The opposite of burnout is growth, innovation and fulfillment. The power to change your story and overcome burnout is something you can choose, and the strategies are simple at their core. The difficulty lies in faithfully implementing them.

Aaron Montgomery

Aaron Montgomery has nearly three decades of in small business support. He is the co-founder and CEO of Our Success Group, which helps businesses with goal setting, business planning and customer-focused marketing.

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