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The 5 Myths Of Business Owner Burnout

Written by: Ellyn Schinke, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Ellyn Schinke

More and more, I’ve been finding myself serving business owners. From the financial advisor at my neighborhood brokerage to the realtor from the DC metro area, small business owners are more and more making their presence known and their burnout felt. And it’s no wonder. Business owner burnout is a common phenomenon that can have serious consequences for both the business and the owner. Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding burnout that can make it difficult to address. Here are business owner burnout myths.

Tired businesswoman sitting at the desk checking products

Myth No.1 Burnout is fixed with better systems

While it is true that improving systems and processes can help prevent burnout, it is not a cure-all. I think sometimes we forget that—especially as business owners. Perhaps it’s because of our respect and awe of good marketing, but when a new productivity app is touted as the end-all-be-all of business owner productivity, we have a tendency to trust it. But, here’s the problem with that: burnout can be caused by other factors. In my burnout quiz, I have you answer questions that help you determine your burnout type (i.e. the type of burnout you’re most likely experiencing at this moment). That’s an important question because what you need to do to prevent that type from getting worse will depend upon which type you’re experiencing. Therefore, it is important to address the root causes of burnout rather than just trying to fix the symptoms. Business owners should analyze their work processes, emotions, organization and systems, as well as their levels of boredom or “going through the motions” in their lives to identify factors that are causing stress and take appropriate measures to address them.

Myth No.2 Burnout means you don't like your business and you need to quit or change your business

Burnout doesn't necessarily mean that you don't like your business or that you need to make drastic changes. I think that’s a common “fix” for burnout—”Oh, I’ll just leave my job!” It's a natural response to stress and overwork, but it’s also likely the wrong fix. I work with high-achievers because, for them, stress, overwork, and all the things that drive us to burnout are their lifestyle and it frankly doesn’t matter what type of work they’re doing or what job they’re in: they may still end up back at burnout. Now, the exception to this is situations of emotional burnout. Unsupportive (read: toxic) work environments can absolutely lead to burnout in our lives and, in these situations, yes, leaving—or in an entrepreneurs case, quitting—might be your best option. But the fact of the matter is, there could be a lot more going on there. You might be burned out not because of your business, but because of bad systems. You might be burned out because of values conflicts your work creates, a lack of freedom in your lifestyle, or contracts that don’t give you permission to uphold any boundaries with your clients. There are lots of reasons. So, basically, your business might not be to blame! Business owners should take some time to reflect on their feelings and identify the root causes of their burnout.

Myth No.3 You burn out because you're weak or can't hack it as a business owner

This myth is not only untrue, but it's also harmful. I remember a talk I gave almost a year ago now. It’s one of the first times I had put the slide “burnout does not mean you’re weak” in a presentation, and it was immediately the first thing someone commented on. Because it’s the truth. Burnout can happen to anyone, regardless of their strength or ability. It's a sign that something is not working in your business or in your life. It’s a sign that you have a mismatch between what you have on your plate and the resources—time, money, bandwidth, etc.—to handle it. It says nothing about you and a lot about the situation and it's important to address it in a constructive—rather than shaming—way. Yet, so many of us simply throw up our hands and decide we can’t hack. That’s wrong. That’s, frankly, utter BS. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as bionic men and women, superheroes like Thor and Wonder Woman who can literally deflect the dangers of life. We’re not. We’re humans with human needs and human capacities and if you keep treating yourself as if you don’t have those, you will burn out. And it might require you doing some work to change the very way you think about and pursue success and achievement So, seek help from peers, team members, or professionals to identify the underlying causes of their burnout and take appropriate measures to address them.

Myth No.4 You just have to get through it and then burnout won't come back

Unfortunately, burnout is not a one-time event that can be easily overcome. For some it is—because I don’t think anything about burnout deals in absolutes. However, for high-achievers and high-performers, it’s in their very DNA to overwork themselves. DNA might be a stretch—it’s more something that they have been conditioned to pursue through external validation their entire lives. And I can call us out on that—I am this person.

For high-achievers, I have described burnout as less of an “occupational phenomenon,” as the WHO calls it, and more as a lifestyle phenomenon because, let’s be honest: we don’t know how to stop. As such, burnout can be more like a recurrent condition. In my work, I call this a burnout cycle wherein high-achievers experience a cycle of burning out, breaking down, and bouncing back every 3, 6, 12 months…really it can be at any frequency. That’s why it’s so important to know yourself, develop that self-awareness and then take steps to manage the burnout in your life. How? Well, my 3 steps to sustainable success boil down to 3 things: sustainable mindset, sustainable self-care, and sustainable systems.

Myth No.5 Changing stress management is about sweeping lifestyle changes

While major lifestyle changes can certainly help with stress management, they're not the only solution. In fact, I just finished working with a client who made a point of saying, “it surprises me still that it really wasn’t about anything really major. It was all small things.” That’s exactly how I think we manage and overcome burnout. Because when you’re burned out, you’re too overwhelm for the big, crazy changes. The little ones are the one things that seem manageable, right? But, I think Dr. B.J. Fogg of Tiny Habits fame has showed us that, well, tiny works! It’s the same things in our businesses and in preventing our business owner burnout. Don’t overhaul your entire business. Make small changes. Shift how you create your content, leveraging workflows instead of starting from scratch every time. Start creating templates for the things you use over and over again. Start with 1 new self-care habit, instead of overhauling your entire morning. Slow and steady may not make you go viral, but it works.

So, for all my fellow business owners out there, don’t sleep on burnout…and don’t judge yourself for feeling it. Just like with everything, it’s just data (says the former scientist). Let it inform your life and your decisions because, ultimately, you build a business that becomes a legacy by doing one important thing: being around long enough to see it through.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Ellyn Schinke Brainz Magazine

Ellyn Schinke, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ellyn Schinke is a former scientist turned top coach and international speaker specializing in burnout and stress management. After burning out while pursuing her Ph.D., Ellyn was sick of all the cookie-cutter, BS burnout tips online and sought out the real, tangible tactics that would actually make a difference in her life. As a result, burnout when from being her lifestyle to her passion. Now, she's focused on helping corporate professionals and businesses free themselves from burnout and take back their lives. Ellyn is the founder and CEO of Coach Ellyn LLC, one of the top burnout coaches on Google, host of the Burned Out to Badass podcast, and more. Her mission: Make burnout a choice.



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