Founding a startup could be a liberating feeling – you’re finally in charge of everything concerning your career. All the pressures of a regular office are gone – working for someone else, trying to meet their expectations and constantly being under pressure from them. Now you’re on your own and all you see is the infinite opportunities you can take advantage of.
But that feeling can easily fade and new pressures take the place of the ones you just let go of. The expectations of the employees who now depend on you, the infinite opportunities now a sea of missed opportunities and potential missed opportunities. How do you keep a career that was once exciting from becoming boring and washed out? How do you avoid burning out?
Work ahead: One of the ways solo entrepreneurs can do this is by working ahead. Unexpected events always occur and these could set you back a long way. An illness, an emergency or an urgent trip could disrupt your schedule and if you’re a solo entrepreneur barely keeping up or already falling behind, it could set you back even further. It could take some extra effort, but the added task here and there pays off dividends that would be enjoyed later on. If you feel as though major tasks are too much to be completed beforehand, try doing a little at a time ahead of when it’s scheduled. Plan for days when you won’t be able to work and keep ahead of your schedule so you’ll always be ready for whatever comes. This is also helpful for days when you don’t feel like working or have an unscheduled engagement. If you’re ahead of work, you could easily take time off and still stay ahead.
Delegate tasks and outsource: At the early stages of a business, a solo entrepreneur will have to perform a lot of tasks – if not every one – by himself. But time will come when you can delegate some of these out and you should take full advantage of such times. Outsourcing is also another way solo entrepreneurs can give out tasks. This involves hiring out work that would otherwise take a lot of your time and would not be accomplished as well by you to experts. This relieves the stress load on solo entrepreneurs and also leaves them free to handle other tasks or have more time for themselves, while having the task in question completed by an expert.
Have an emergency fund: Several new solo entrepreneurs find themselves strapped for the cash required to run their businesses, especially in the earlier stages. This may push them to take on jobs they may not be well suited for, and that will take too much time, energy and resources from them. It’s best to give your business a buffer fund for times of emergency or for when business is slow and clients are few. Calculate the cost of running your business for about a 6-month period and set this amount aside for dry periods. While a solo entrepreneur can live on very little, a business cannot survive if there are no funds for running day-to-day operations. Just remember to replenish the funds when business is back to normal.
Have personal time: When you have a regular job, there is a clear divide between work hours and personal time. When you’re an entrepreneur – especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur, it’s easy to forget that you need time for yourself and work round the clock all week long. Having an irregular sleep pattern, taking no time off and generally burning your candle at both ends can have negative effects on your productivity. It may seem as though you need to always be on the job, but not having “you time” doesn’t help in the long run. Solo entrepreneurs should have at least 24 straight hours every week when they don’t work, even if it means handling mundane tasks like laundry or cleaning out their home. Taking your mind off work for a while will help your productivity immensely.
Take care of yourself: Exercise, healthy eating and enough sleep should not be optional if a solo entrepreneur is to avoid burning out. Sleep deprivation makes for less efficiency, less focus and an increased risk of making mistakes. Exercise has its obvious benefits and should not be overlooked. If you pay more attention to health and personal hygiene, you have a far less chance of burning out and can be more productive for longer. Taking short breaks from work from time to time enables you be more focused when you eventually face your work. Working for longer periods at a stretch tires you out faster and reduces productivity.