Updated: May 12
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin
This blog is about avoiding, not recovering, from burnout. I might write that one next.
For a long time, I’ve told people I don’t like the term ‘work/life balance’ because it implies a struggle. You have to pay for one with the other. I prefer to think of it as Life Harmony. You can’t unplug from work and go have fun if work is a mess, and conversely you’ll grow to resent your work and the opportunities it brings if you’re always leaving the party (so to speak) before you want to.
Harmony accentuates the melody. The melody of your life is ongoing, and harmony comes in and out to add to the beautiful song. You can – and must – harmonize your life where some things may be louder at some times, but it’s the rhythm of the melody that carries you, and all the different areas of your life create the harmony to your song.
I have some authority to discuss this because:
A. I have been running my own successful business for a long time. I’ve made a living and a life and managed to secure my financial future while all the way along I have enjoyed an enviable amount of personal time off to explore and generally live a life less ordinary. “Happy” is one of the top character traits that people who know me would share if asked to describe me. “Dennis is happy.”
B. I was so burned-out last year I didn’t even recognize it or myself. Literally, my big brothers were checking in on me. “You okay, Den?” I was very, very far from happy.
C. I care about you and appreciate that you read the blog and pay attention to what Tom and I are working on, and if I can help you live a better life, then I’m happy to share what I know.
Rather than make an excuse for myself, to allow that 2020 was an annus horribilis and share all the evidence to justify why I, of all people, got swallowed whole, I’d rather not. We all suffered, some worse than you or me, and for some the struggle continues and may get worse.
Also, horrible years and life-altering events are a part of life. Expect more of it.
Unpleasant events happen and when they do, you will be rewarded for having controlled what you could. In this case, it was very helpful that I had a lot of money in the bank and in my company to weather this storm, a storm which is far from over.
1. Control the controllable.
Save your money. Live below your means. Don’t take on too much at one time. Don’t let things pile up. Pace yourself. You have heard this a million times, for a reason.
2. Work like an entrepreneur, not a bureaucrat.
Yes, you have heard this before from Dan Sullivan who made an indelible mark on me and my life over 20 years ago when he helped me understand that working hard from 9-5 on whatever needed to be done wasn’t going to work.
“Free day” means what it should mean. A 24-hour period where you do no work.
“Focus day” is a day where 80% of your energy is focussed on making money. This probably seems obvious, but we live in a world where multi-tasking is praised (??) and where a myriad of distractions makes it feel impossible to fully place our attention on any one thing. How many devices do you have on your desk right now that chime, beep or ping?
“Buffer day” is time or a day spent preparing for both focus and free days. AKA every Monday and Friday of my life.
3. Start Smart.
Get up early and work and create before anyone can highjack your day. Start with a morning ritual that works for you and is easy to accomplish. Most importantly, let it be one that makes you happy. Happiness, as a state of mind first thing in the morning, is a tremendous advantage. It sets up your week.
• I usually post to my social media network in the morning when I’m having a coffee.
• I take a look at my day, visualize and plan it out.
• My general rule is no alarms or surprises.
4. Your energy will follow your thoughts.
What you focus on will grow, so if you focus on everything that isn’t working, you can expect those things to expand in your business and stress you out. Sorry to repeat myself, but go to bed early, get up early, and write out what you want to accomplish today. I do this in the morning and again just before I leave my work. I tidy up the shop, peek at what I’m doing the next day so that when I go home to be with my family, I’m actually there.
5. What needs to happen next?
Learn to love this question and not “How will I/we get this done?” When you think about “how,” you will feel a rush of anxiety going through your system that sets you off in many different scenarios.
Asking “what needs to happen next?” puts your brain in solutions mode. Make a list, then prioritize. One step at a time, asking questions around next required actions will keep your brain focused on a solution rather than spinning tires that leads to burnout.
This last one needs to be shared, so consider it a bonus. We should always leave a little extra, right?
6. Don’t compare yourself to other business owners.
Negative self-talk is probably the greatest threat to your success. You’re allowed to not be great at everything. And good news, you can learn how to be better.