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Let 2024 be different: A blueprint for Business owners to bulletproof themselves from burnout

As a business owner — be it a startup, in the funding phase, scaling, or successfully launching your business — you are no stranger to the demands and pressures of running your business. However, with the start of a new year, funding cycle or business year-end, the need to be on top of everything is essential. This presents pressures to do better than you did in the previous year in almost every dimension, and your chances of burning the candle at both ends are equally valid.

As you all know, however, if you do not, an alarming number of entrepreneurs, startup owners or SME owners find themselves not as successful as they would have hoped, and some are even closing down. This can be attributed to several factors around business skills and funding; however, mental health difficulties and burnout play a significant role, too.

In this article, I am not planning to bore you with how atrocious the statistics and numbers are. We will explore strategies you can employ now early in the years so that at least, come year-end, we do not sing the same year-end song, “I am so exhausted, I am fatigued, and I am burnt-out”.

Prioritise recovery:
First, I want you to understand that you must prioritise recovery. Please note that I did not say rest or self-care. Those are important, but I want you to look at them as the ways to recover; they are the stepping stones. Set aside time and resources to build recovery into your daily, monthly and quarterly routines. This means making routines to help you recover in the following areas: physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and mentally. I put recovery first because running your business will deplete the fuel from these areas, and therefore, refuelling these sources is essential.

  1. Set boundaries

In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, the various areas of your life overlap and overshadow each other easily. The first and foremost reason is that for most employees, their businesses are their livelihood, which directly translates to their business being them. Therefore, the lines between business and life become blurry and sometimes non-existent. We bring work to the house and the house to work because our business is all we think and obsess over.

There is, however, a solution: setting boundaries. The first and most important person you need to set limits for is yourself. Set boundaries for yourself, and then you can extend them to others, be they your spouse, children, business partners, investors, coaches, or friends. It all starts with you. Imagine having a house with a beautiful boundary wall and those automatic gates that spell elegance. However, whenever you enter or exit your home, you never use the gate, coming in and out through the boundary wall. What will that teach the people who visit your house? So honour thy house first and then enforce with others.

Doing this will mean that you must clearly define those boundaries and how soft they are. Secondly, you must establish the consequences of not adhering to those boundaries. And lastly, always follow through on the consequences you put up. Always.

  1. Set realistic goals

You have set goals for the year; if not, put them and work on them in order of priority. This means breaking them into manageable tasks. Break the goals into quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly tasks. This will help prevent feeling overwhelmed, which often depletes your energy levels. Always pair your prioritisation list with the following: whether you have the capacity, skills, or can achieve something alone. Your capacity must inform the goals you set, your skill level to achievethat goal and whether the goal is solo or communal.

  1. Delegate or ask for help

This means recognising that you can limit yourself and that others can assist even though they might not do it as you would have. However, chances are, you would not do it like you would have to since there’s already too much on your plate. To delegate effectively, establish a skills inventory of your support structure and select which tasks are important but are not an effective use of your time, skill and capacity. Based on the former and latter, determine what you need to delegate and ask for help.

  1. Invest in play

This reiterates the first recommendation around recovery, however, with a twist. Introduce play and enjoyment elements into your work and life to remove the obligatory curse that comes with the things we commit to. Find a way to enjoy what you do; this could mean doing something enjoyable in spaces or with people you find joy. The idea here, and we can explore it in another article, is to bring play back into your life. A meme I read said, “Whatever you do today, do it with the confidence of a four-year-old in a Spiderman costume”. So imagine what and how that 4-year-old would be, then try to emulate that.

In 2024, commit to yourself and your business by adopting these energy-expanding and recovery-focused strategies. By prioritising your well-being and implementing these practices early in the year, you’ll safeguard yourself against burnout and lay the foundation for a successful and sustainable entrepreneurial journey. Remember, a healthy and energised leader is the driving force behind a thriving business.

Bafana Masilela

Psychologist and Business Coach

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