November 21, 2010
Self-employed? 7 ways to avoid burnout
Welcome to the month of the self-employed professional. Last week marked the second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, which mobilized current and hopeful self-employed folks to participate in 30,000 small business events around the world. Not to be outdone, President Obama declared last week National Entrepreneurship Week and last Friday National Entrepreneurs' Day.
If you've been self-employed a year or more, chances are you know firsthand how easy it is to get so wrapped up in your work that you let all semblance of a personal life go to pot. As a longtime freelancer, I'm no stranger to such self-employment burnout. I like my work, so I do a lot of it. Show me the midnight oil and, more often than not, I'll find a way to burn through it.
The trick, of course, is to keep your enthusiasm for your work alive through the crunch times so that running your business doesn't become just another Monday-through-Friday slog. Herewith, the top ways I've managed to stave off entrepreneurial burnout over the years, some years more effectively than others:
1. Build leave-the-house time into each workday. Even a trip to the post office or grocery store helps. I have a dog, so long daytime walks are mandatory for me. Other entrepreneurs I know work in a cafe or coworking space to mix things up.
2. Shoot the breeze -- online or off -- with self-employed and other pals at lunch, on breaks, or after work. A virtual water cooler is a must. That said, limit social time during business hours to a few minutes or your workday will never end. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a fan of meeting other self-employed folks for lunch, unless I've actually given myself the afternoon off, which I think is inevitably what those entrepreneurs' lunches amount to.
3. Stick to a schedule. And not just "exercise/shower/eat 7 to 9 a.m., work 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., eat/email friends 12 to 1 p.m., work 1 to 5 p.m." or whatever your routine is. Try to designate certain days and times of the week for marketing your business, tackling administrative work, and doing actual billable work as best you can.
4. Take power naps if you must. Seriously. Attempting to be brilliant while exhausted stinks and takes twice as long. Naps are the savior of many a self-employed professional.
5. Try a new activity -- a new type of workout, a new recipe, a new museum exhibit, a walk through a different neighborhood -- at least a couple Saturdays or Sundays a month, or whenever your days off are. Doing so helps further remove you from the repetition of the workweek.
6. If you can't afford a vacation out of town, spend a long weekend filled with some of the above items. So much better than just doing laundry, buying groceries, and cleaning your bathtub.
7. Confab over dinner or beverages with entrepreneurial pals at least once a month. Web communities and social networks are great, but you need face-to-face colleagues to grumble and swap ideas with from time to time.
How about you? If you're self-employed, what do you do to keep the job fresh and stay enthusiastic about your work?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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