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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Preventative Maintenance... for YOU!

Let's face it - owning a small business, especially if you're a solo entrepreneur, is NOT for the faint hearted. I speak from experience, having burnt out thoroughly on my first business many years ago. Here are some tips on preventing burnout in yourself - especially as we enter the vacation season and suddenly realize that 2 weeks paid time off is only a memory.

* First of all, you CAN still take a vacation. Schedule time off in advance - look ahead and set a time when you will take one. Commit to it, pay for it in advance, and then make sure that you've cleared the decks. Planning well in advance, as opposed to waiting til you have the time (which, frankly, is NEVER) will assure that you can notify clients, finish up projects, line up work to start when you return and so on. The time before you leave and return might be rough but you'll be refreshed and recharged when you return.

* Do the same for mini vacations on weekends. Maybe you aren't ready for a whole week off (or you are, but your business isn't) - at least get away for completely unplugged, leisurely escapes on the weekends. Believe me, the work will wait, and it might make for a hairier Monday than normal but it will feel really good.

* Commit to activities you really love, where you can't back out. For me, its singing every Tuesday. Schedule it like a business appointment.

* Exercise and get outdoors. I have to force myself to do it but I take walks frequently, even if just for a half hour, to clear my head.

Before I hurt my shoulder again, I also used to go swimming when I'm really feeling fog in my head - an early sign of burnout for me. This was my "think tank" - I swam laps for a half hour, and just relaxed my brain. The endorphins and the soothing effects of the cool water were enough to power me for the rest of the day. So, my advice: learn what your early warning signs of burn out are. Think about what makes you go "Ahhhh." And then use that as your escape valve.

* When you find yourself facing mental obstruction to these ideas, ask yourself why exactly you went into business for yourself. Freedom? Flexibility? So you wouldn't have to ask permission for time off? Uh, hello! Thats usually all it takes for me to get my act together :)

Have fun this summer!