*Originally published by Conscious Magazine - "Learning to say NO: An entrepreneur's guide to avoiding burnout"
One of the greatest misconceptions amongst entrepreneurs and small business owners first striking out on their own, always seems to be that you must say “yes” to everything and everyone. I used to wear my exhaustion around like a badge of honor, convinced that the bags under my eyes meant I must really be making progress. But once I went from hearing “Oh my god, I don’t know how you do it!” to “Oh my god, you look so tired!”, it was clearly time to re-evaluate.
Being ambitious and driven is great, but there is definitely more value in learning to work smarter, rather than harder. Recognizing and correcting these all-too-common misconceptions will help you to do just that. Take it from me, a former “yes (wo)man”, starting your own business can feel like an uphill battle, but it doesn’t have to end in an early burnout.
YES TO EVERYTHING
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessary to take on every additional project that comes across your desk, or attend every networking invite extended your way. In the beginning, I made myself overly available and obnoxiously accommodating. Never missing an email and taking meetings all over Los Angeles from early morning until the wee hours, I was eager to please. In reality, I was spreading myself way too thin and even worse, my punctuality, which had been a point of pride, began to suffer due to a constantly overlapping day planner.
Create boundaries by deciding early on what your core values are, then only accept those invitations which truly align with what you’re looking to achieve. Your talents are best showcased when you function in terms of quality, not quantity.
If you haven’t encountered your first toxic person, don’t worry, that time will come. Toxic people will drain you of your time, energy, and resources, only to leave you second guessing every aspect of your work. My first big retainer client was a horrible fit, and due to “irreconcilable differences” we parted ways after only a few months of working together. I felt burned by this situation, but learned a valuable lesson early on: sometimes it’s better to just cut your losses and move on!
As is the case with personal relationships, not everyone is meant to be together, and the same sentiment applies in business. You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Chances are, with the amount of time you’ve spent catering to one difficult client, you could have taken on two new ones.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
No one wants a “jack of all trades, but master of none”, so stop agreeing to do it all. Before you go overloading an already full agenda, take time to identify what it is that you do really well. I once agreed to build a website for a client, even though I had no clue where to begin. Fast forward to me crying in front of the computer at 3am with a deadline looming in the all too near future. The next morning I immediately outsourced the project to a graphic design friend and never looked back.
Define the specialties that you’d like to offer clients, and then stick to the plan. There is no shame in telling a prospect that you simply don’t have the time, expertise, or manpower to properly fulfill a request, but that you’d be happy to refer them to a colleague who will knock it out of the park. Not only does this show real couth, but more than likely, that colleague will think of you for a project in the future and return the favor.
We’ve all been there, and even though the road of entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely one, it doesn’t have to be. By creating boundaries, sticking with your strengths, and accepting your weaknesses, it just might be possible to avoid an early burnout!