5 Strategies for avoiding Burn Out

Michelle is in tears during our first mentoring session. “I’m just so tired” she says, her voice wavering. “I have tried everything, and I’m working so hard but nothing seems to be making a difference. I never thought running my own business would be so hard.”

Michelle is experiencing BOBO – Business Owner Burn Out. This is something I see all too regularly with new clients, who are frustrated that there is little correlation between their effort and results.

BOBO is a dangerous place to be for any business owner, especially those in the first few years of their business. It can be at this stage that they decide ‘it’s simply not worth it’, and decide to cease trading and look for a job.

I’ve been there myself – and I know what a dispiriting place it is. Over my 12 years of business ownership in the coaching space, I have had four major changes of direction.

In the early stages of these changes, typically the results come in slower than I would like, and my commitment wavers.

Then I know I need to do some adjustments, internally and externally and pull myself out of the burn out phase.

So how do you know you are experiencing BOBO?

Do any of these seem familiar?

  • When you open your email inbox, your heart sinks, as you see so many new messages which instead of representing possible opportunities, represent more toil
  • You have a list of prospects you need to call to follow-up, but they remain uncontacted, yet you are not quite sure why
  • Your long to-do list remains uncompleted and adds to your feeling of overwhelm
  • Thinking that doing more new things, marketing, and social media will grow your business, you try anything and end up working longer hours learning and implementing these new ideas
  • Your initial passion for the business has waned, and you have a take it or leave it attitude

No one likes to pour their heart and soul into something with little reward. Doing this depletes your precious reserves of energy and motivation.

If you feel you have BOBO, or maybe you’re veering dangerously close, try these strategies to reinvigorate your commitment to your business.


Stop and take stock. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself “what am I resenting about my business right now?” Is it the long hours, late payments, ungrateful customers, or???

Identify one or two elements that agitate you the most, and resolve them. For me, it was working too many late nights as I grappled with global time zones. So I set firm time boundaries for myself, and then I felt more balanced and in control.


I have said many times that ‘you are the most important asset in your business.’ If you don’t exist, nor does your business. Do you need to take a break from your business to rejuvenate and regain perspective?

Consider stopping for two weeks.

Put your out of office email message on, outsource where you can.

This may seem an extreme move, but from my own experience and that of my clients, absence can truly make the heart grow fonder!


Being able to do so much of our own marketing, web building, social media, book-keeping etc, is both a blessing and a curse. So many new tools to learn, social media networks to master and build a following.

This new activity and the many related tasks can easily make us feel scattered.

Take some time out, and review what you want to focus on. Instead of trying to do it all now, focus on those two things you know will have the most significant impact on your business now. Revisit the rest when you feel you have got the results to regain your business momentum.


The thing most people miss about their jobs was the ready-made support network provided by colleagues.

When you start your own business, very rarely do you have a support structure in place. Feelings of isolation, being in a feedback vacuum, and having no-one to bounce ideas off can diminish even the highest levels of enthusiasm.

Investing time and energy to find people to support you in your business will pay dividends.

Whether you join a networking group, find some other local business owners or employ a business mentor-coach; seek the support out.

Having that feedback, and positive reinforcement will fuel your motivation.


Our mindset is our biggest business tool. If we are thinking that the business is moving forward, and find proof for that, our optimism and energy rises. We then seem to see more opportunities and our commitment is rejuvenated.

What I’m recommending here, isn’t a fluffy, unproven new age technique but rather a quantitatively proven study from prominent psychology gurus.

To shift your mindset and start thinking more optimistically, give your self a daily success shower. It’s easy and quick!

Just take five minutes at the end of each day to reflect – write down three things that have gone well – big or small. Over time you will have a collection of successes that you can turn to and will realise just how much you have achieved, which is perfect for boosting your flagging spirit.

Business Owner Burn Out is far too common, and if you feel you are on the way, I urge you to implement at least one of the five steps above.

Take some positive action to rejuvenate your business passion again!

How do you cope with burnout – or stopping it from happening? Let me know in the comments below.

Wendy Kerr

Director for The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Auckland University.The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the hub for the development and promotion of innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurial activities within the University.We create experiential programmes, workshops and events to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, to transform the mindsets of our students and staff to support the growth of New Zealand as a prosperous and creative nation.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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