Being a business owner comes with a lot of perks. My favorite of which is a flexible work schedule. If you’re an early riser, you could get all your work done before the afternoon. Night owl? Work late and throw away your alarm clock. It’s your business, so as long as the work gets done, you aren’t confined to 9-5. 

But did you know a 2019 Gallup poll found that 39% of business owners say they work 60 hours per week? Whether or not your schedule is flexible, too many hours is setting yourself up for burnout. 

 

You may be overworked without knowing it.

It’s easy to overwork as a business owner. A lot of the time, our business is our passion. We’ve spent years getting to where we are now, and we get to do the work we love doing every day. When you love what you do, it’s easy to work too much without even realizing it. 

Plus, the survival of your business relies on you. It’s tough to take a day off when you’re worried about money. If you’re not working, your business is closed, and cash isn’t coming in. You take a day off only to find yourself worrying about losing income or clients all day. That’s not time off. That’s extra stress which equals, you guessed it, even more burnout. 

Overworking can take many forms. It really depends on your personality and your unique business setup. Maybe you obsessively check your work email at night. It seems like a casual action, you’re not actually working, but you are.

Your brain cannot differentiate between downtime and work time if you’re reading and thinking about work, even casually.

Maybe you forget to set a schedule, and you stop work at a different time each day. Possibly you have a habit of answering phone calls during dinner or working through the lunch hour. Or maybe you continue to think about work long after you log off for the day. 

Overworking can be small actions every day that we don’t even notice. But these small actions can actually lead to mental and physical health impacts, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, and stroke. 

Actually take time off (AKA unplug)

So, how do we fix this? We completely unplug physically and mentally. I know it’s daunting at first. Here are some ways to do it with confidence: 

Plan: Lineup, plan, and complete projects in advance. If you have clients and projects lined up months in advance, you can take time off without worrying about an income gap. 

Set a work schedule: Yes, a flexible work schedule is a business owner’s perk. But it’s essential to set a schedule for yourself, so you don’t accidentally work 10 hours a day. It can be 7 am-3 pm, noon-8 pm, or anything in between. Whatever your hours are, set them and stick to them. 

Schedule time off: Schedule regular vacations and stick to your schedule. Plan accordingly, close your laptop, and take your well-deserved time off. 

Fully unplug: I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to remove all work apps from your phone, including email, Slack, Google Drive—all of them. Set up auto-reply emails and avoid mindlessly checking in on work during downtime.

What if there’s an emergency?

Okay, so my answer to this varies depending on your unique business. Take a moment to answer this question, what is an emergency in your line of work? Depending on the magnitude of emergencies in your business, create a plan. This way, if an emergency arises during time off, you won’t panic and ruin the rest of your downtime. 

A few steps to try when creating your emergency plan:

  • Be selective of who you provide with emergency contact information. 
  • Clearly communicate what constitutes an emergency to those with your emergency number.
  • Have access to your laptop or device with your work apps. But be sure not to log on unless you get an emergency call.
  • Have a plan for winding down and resetting after an emergency call.
  • Accept that if you haven’t received an emergency call, everything is okay, and you don’t have to stress during downtime.

Whatever your business is, I encourage you to take steps today to create a healthy work-life balance. Do you have any tips for unplugging and unwinding? Let me know in the comments!