I don’t know about you, but the last couple of weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of work, not enough hours in the day, stress and loss. I’ve been on just a personal overload of having a to-do list that is miles long, but more importantly, I’ve experienced close friends having major, devastating losses in their lives. Moments like that really make you stop and put things into perspective and realize what truly matters. While those of us who are business owners absolutely live for and love our businesses (that’s a sign alone that we are meant to go on this entrepreneurial journey, as it’s not for everyone) more than a lot of things, sometimes, it’s OK to stop and realize when we need to take a break.
Rather than experience burnout, resulting in not doing our jobs well or taking care of clients the way that we should, it’s best to step away from the work. And, I don’t mean that you necessarily need to take off and go vacation somewhere (although, who wouldn’t love to just drop and go to the beach?) I just mean that it’s OK to give yourself a “mental health day” (or two) just to sleep, not think so much, recharge and then come back fresh and re-motivated later in the week. As long as you have met your prior deadlines, can be in a position to move work around and your clients know that you’re out of pocket for just a bit – you should feel no guilt. Just know when and how to prioritize, how to not leave people hanging and wondering where you (and their work) are and keep in mind that you are your own boss now. With this role comes the beauty and flexibility that you don’t always get working for someone else. You can give yourself a day and not have to run it through a corporate ladder of approvals. Just know when the necessary time to do so is. The following steps should help you see the signs…
1) You’re lacking motivation.
I always know when I’m super into working, cranking out good work and can’t wait for more to come in — when I’m truly happy, excited and motivated. Most of the time, I feel this way. But, of course I am human and there are times that work is the last thing that I want to do, I have a to-do list so long that I can’t even see straight and I secretly wish for no emails to hit my inbox — because I am mentally maxed out and my brain has no more capacity for new clients, ideas and projects. When you’re feeling like this, take it as a not-so-good sign that you’re working too much.
2) You’re only working and not doing other things part of your normal routine.
This is a huge red flag for me. I have always been organized and used to a certain routine. While I also like to be spontaneous and flexible, I like to know what work that I have to do each morning when I wake up, any meetings that I need to attend or calls that I need to hop on and be productive enough that I can end my day by 5 p.m. I have many other things going on in my life, even though any entrepreneur knows that running a business full-time takes up a crazy amount of your day. It’s all about balance. I have a husband now that I need and want to spend time with (that doesn’t involve my iPhone or Macbook Pro) and I have a horse that requires a lot of time and hard work to be maintained each day. I also have other hobbies and friends and I know firsthand that you absolutely have to have a life outside of work. When you find yourself literally ONLY working, it’s time to take a step back, prioritize and get back to a routine that involves time away from the computer and Internet. Unplug!
3) You’re not getting enough sleep.
This might be the biggest sign that I look for when I am overworking. Just this week, I went to bed at 2 a.m. one day and 1 a.m. the next. That is completely crazy and unnecessary — and I realize this. I’ve had a lot of client projects to knock out lately, but I know that it’s only temporary and I will get back to my normal routine next week. The older I get, I have to get at least 9 hours of sleep each night, or else I struggle to wake up in the morning. When I find myself crawling into bed and not even remembering it the next day, because I conked out immediately, I know that it’s also time to take a serious break.
4) You’re forgetting simple things and making silly mistakes.
Finally, this is a BIG one. I am often a perfectionist. Not only in the way that I manage my daily work and clients, but also in the way that I talk to people, answer emails, cross things off my to-do list, respond to friends’ texts and more. When I forget to get back to someone about something important, when I forget a client job altogether (it happens!) and have to be reminded — and I find myself spelling things wrong — I know that it’s definitely time for a break. Look for the little things that you often knock out of the park each day without any thought or try. When you’re slacking, struggling to cover your basic bases and making small mistakes — look for the big ol’ flashing sign that screams “YOU’RE TIRED! TAKE A BREAK!”
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