How to Avoid Burnout in Your Small Business

I burned out in 2020. Big time. And on today’s episode I’m telling you my story and giving you the three things I’m doing to prevent burnout in the future with the hope that you can implement them and avoid burnout yourself.

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How to Avoid Burnout in Your Mama Business

And now – let’s chat about burnout.

This really isn’t the conversation that most business owners even contemplate when they are starting out – which is why it’s not normally talked about until after the burnout happens – some two to three hundred episodes into a podcast. Luckily for you, I’m bringing it up now. Why? Because as a business growth specialist, I see this all of the time, especially in small, family run businesses. And I don’t wish burnout on anyone which is why we are discussing this today.

So, let’s talk about my own story of burnout.

When all of the initial hype began in 2020, business was amazing. I was doing all the things. I was meeting my monthly income goals. I was working with clients. I was active on all the platforms. I was part of a coaching program that was pushing me to get better, faster. I was attending weekly networking meetings, business book clubs and engaging with other business owners on a regular basis.

Things were going well.

And then life as we knew it shut down and counter to the experience that most small businesses had, my business took off in a way I had not expected.

Everyone needed help getting their businesses online so that they could connect with their clients and customers. It should have been great for me, but the truth was, because all of my clients were at home – they now wanted a more hands on approach to their marketing efforts – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but for someone who was used to working by herself, it was a struggle for me to constantly be on the phone, to always have voicemails to return, and to constantly be on demand.

And…I didn’t have any boundaries in place for that. Why? Because I hadn’t needed them before.

So, I’ve got my kids and my husband at home, everyone stressed about what was going on in society and what’s my response?

I’m telling myself that I need to push harder – because this is going to be a huge season of growth for me.

Truly. That was exactly what was going through my head.

And it was a season of growth. I was easily adding $1000 in income month over month, but I was going all of the time. I was on all of the time.

And I remember getting to the middle of the summer of 2020 and my parents had moved to Maine – and we live in Washington State – so a ways away – and I’d never been out there before. So I thought – it would just be ideal if we decided to just use this time and go visit them. I could take my laptop and get stuff done from the road. My husband is a teacher and he already knew that he wasn’t going back to work in the traditional sense that fall, and we had a camper that we hadn’t used a lot. So, we decided that we would just go.

So, we loaded up and decided we were going to take a full month and do the thing. We drove across the U.S., we stopped here and there, saw Mt Rushmore, saw the Baseball Hall of Fame, and we ended up in Maine at my parents place. And I just remember thinking so much during that timeframe that I didn’t want to go home. I did not want to go back to work. I did not want to hear from clients. I just did not want to anymore.

And it was at that point I recognized that something had to change, but I didn’t know what that was or what to do about it. Especially since, this had been my dream, right? To grow a business and have it thrive?

But I didn’t like it anymore.

Ultimately, we returned from our vacation and I got back to work, making a few adjustments. I dropped a coaching program that was constantly pressuring me to do more with time and energy I just didn’t have. But, other than that, business continued as “usual” – whatever that meant.

My husband and kids started to notice the difference in me. My energy was zapped. I was uptight. I snapped at them a lot. I didn’t want to hang out with friends. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like I had anything more to give at the end of the work day, if the work day actually ended. It wasn’t a good situation.

Then, about a month later I went to spend 8 days with my sister in Arizona. We spent time next to the pool, we had Mai Tais, and I did a little bit of business-type stuff but for the most part, I was fully into just being present in the moment. I was relaxed for the first time in what felt like forever. It was another instance of I just didn’t want to go home, I just didn’t want to return to my office. I just didn’t want to.

And then…

And this is getting a little off track, maybe, story-wise, but I promise I’m getting to a point and I really do think this is important to share.

And then my husband and I found out that we were pregnant and that was a huge surprise because we’ve been married for 15 years and had never been able to get pregnant. So talk about a huge surprise, huge life change, huge reframing of mindset. And we have teenagers, but it was a whole different thing to have a baby.

It was at that point that I turned to my husband and said, in tears, “I just can’t do my business the way I have been. In fact, I’m not sure I even want to do my business at all anymore.”

Let me just tell you right now that I have the absolutely most amazing husband on the planet, because he just looked at me and said that he was fine with whatever I decided.

But I felt like such a failure. Honestly, the whole thing felt like a failure.

What Burnout Looks Like

Now, I did a little research, because while I know burnout is real – I’ve obviously sharing my story – sometimes it helps to hear it from a credible source.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as: a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

  • A sense of reduced accomplishment
  • Loss of personal identity

Sounds terribly bleak, right?

Now – I’m giving you my story, but burnout shows up differently for every person. There do tend to be common reasons why people get there, though and the key is setting yourself up for success NOW so that you don’t find yourself in that state in the future.

How do we do that? Well, here’s the three things I used to pull myself out of that state of burnout I was in and am now using to prevent future burnout. And, you know me – I LOVE my action steps, so you’re going to leave this episode with something you can put in place immediately – no matter where you find yourself in your business journey.

Strategy #1: Inventory Your Activities

After my discussion with Justin, I knew I had to make some serious changes. So I started to rethink things, starting with what I was doing and why, by asking myself a couple of questions:

  • Question 1: Is this essential to run my business? (As in, if I don’t do it, my business will fail.)
  • Question 2: Is this bringing in the results I wanted to see as far as client leads or increased income?

After identifying those questions, I inventoried every activity in my business asking myself those two questions. If I answered no to either one of them, I quit doing that thing.

Contrary to what most people would do, I eliminated a lot:

  • I stopped posting on social media for a time. I recognized that while I did get the occasional client from there, I was expending more energy than I could afford to.
  • I quit my local networking group. It wasn’t bringing the client leads I’d hoped for and I knew I wasn’t reaching my ideal audience through it. And yes, I’d paid my yearly subscription fee, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t helpful so it had to go.
  • I eliminated services that were no longer serving my business. Specifically, I stopped offering social media posting services and hourly a la carte packages.

If it sounds like this was an easy process, just know that it wasn’t. I got a lot of pushback from clients and even my team in the process and as a people pleaser, I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about who would say what the next day.

Ultimately, once I’d made the decisions, my business felt exciting and purposeful again. I didn’t dread waking up or going into my office.

Now, a year and a half later, I’m constantly running my activities through this checklist. Because, if it isn’t necessary, it isn’t staying. And while you might be at the very beginning stages of business, I think this is important to think about because as you get further into the process of running your business, it’s easy to see someone else doing “all the things” and having great success. But if it’s not actually moving the needle in your business or helping you move closer to your big goals, then it’s just another busy task you don’t need.

So, then first strategy to use to avoid burnout is to take inventory of your activities.

Strategy #2: Trust Your Gut

Your intuition…

Your…well, whatever you call it.

And that may sound really odd coming from someone that delivers practical and very actionable advice during each podcast episode, but stick with me, because I think you’ll find there’s something you can apply to your own life here.

There were a lot of points looking back that I can see I didn’t trust my gut. Times where I knew that it wasn’t the perfect situation for me, and yet I did it anyway.

For example, at the end of 2019, I felt that I needed a coach. And I did. And I think there are a lot of coaches out there that are absolutely fantastic, and having a coach can do great things for your business, but in this case, I went with a coach who was not the right fit for me.

I knew that in our second weekly session. And yet – I stayed in her program for 6 months! 6 months! I didn’t trust my gut and I paid for it – literally and figuratively.

And I realized that while I didn’t trust my gut, it also went a little bit deeper than that for me. And maybe you find yourself in the same place.

As a people pleaser, I hadn’t given myself the permission to say no. And so, because I was already knee deep into the process, I just figured I might as well stay the course – after all, quitting equals failure, right?

Wrong. What I learned was that not leaning into my gut instincts is where failure began. And once I figured that out and allowed myself the permission to lean into what was right for ME – not someone else – that’s when I started to see the way out of the burnout pit.

We’ll chat a lot about this in future episodes, but I really want to make sure you understand that it’s important to trust your gut when it comes to your business. Because, as business owners we encounter so much information about what we should or should not do, but not all of that is right for our businesses. So, trust your gut.

So, then first strategy to use to avoid burnout is to take inventory of your activities and the second is to trust your gut…which leads us to the third strategy for avoiding burnout in your mama life and business which is to…

Strategy #3: Seek Connection

…and this has to be the right connection.

As I ran my business through the “keep” or “let go” questions, it didn’t take long to realize that I was missing connection. Sure, I had been filling my days with discussions with other business owners and making connections in terms of getting client leads, but I had not been actively allowing someone to hold me accountable.

And friend, adding this one thing made a world of difference for me.

In my case, it’s two amazing women who have known me pretty much since my business launched. We now meet bi-weekly and don’t mince words with one another. That means, that when things are going well, we really celebrate. And I don’t know about you – but finding someone you can truly celebrate wins with is HARD!

And when things aren’t going well, we troubleshoot, offer support, and listen. Because sometimes just having the ability to talk it out can open up new possibilities.

We bring our collective knowledge from our various industries, coupled with resources we’ve come into contact with, and together we are so much better than we are alone.

They knew my goal in 2021 was to simplify. And every time I brought a new idea to the table, one or the other would ask if it fell into my big goal for the year. On multiple occasions, I had to say no, but you know what – because of that input, I didn’t add anything to my business that further complicated things or led me back into the path to burnout.

I’m so thankful for that.

And – I want to challenge you to seek out someone to help you stay accountable, to your goals, your action steps, to your why. Do it now, before you get to a place where you are desperate. You might find that in a group of business owners you already know or a trusted friend, but if you’d prefer to have someone that knows the ins and outs of the online business world and the mama world, too – I’m opening a couple of spots this week for 1:1 coaching sessions with me. Head over to brumleymarketing.com/strategy for more information.

I’m happy to report that now, two years after the burnout spiral started in my business, I’m running a business I absolutely love, without feelings of guilt or overwhelm. Rather, I show up each day excited about the possibilities, because I’m focused on the things that matter when they matter the most.

And that, my friend, is what I want for you.

Avoid Burnout in Your Own Mama Business

Now, I’m a huge proponent of taking action, because action is where the dreams turn into the reality. And that’s why every Mama Business episode comes with action steps you can take immediately to up level your mama life and business. Ideally you’ll take action on all of the things we’ve discussed today, but if you only have time for one, it’s this:

Inventory your activities. Take those questions and ask them every time you create another product or service. Every time you think you need to add something new to your schedule or take on another responsibility. If you begin practicing this now, you’ll save yourself a world of hurt in the future.

I know from personal experience that I am more likely to accomplish what I set out to do if I am accountable to someone. So DM me on Instagram and let me know when you will complete this process in your own business so that I can cheer you on throughout the process. Because, mama, I am cheering you on.

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