By Gina Blitstein

In the dead of a long cold winter or the middle of a lazy, sweltering summer – after a year full of challenges or several years of vigorous growth – professional burnout can strike. Oftentimes burnout, which includes feelings of lack of focus, fatigue and low motivation, is less the result of actual circumstances than about the mindset of the person experiencing it. Burnout can be a common and disheartening ailment of a professional career, but it doesn’t have to last long or have detrimental effects on your business. Burnout can be managed – and sometimes prevented – so that rather than an impactful lull in productivity, it can be reduced to a small hiccup in overall business-as-usual.

When burnout strikes

From your personal experience running a business, you know all too well that some days bring passion and purpose, while others simply don’t. That in itself doesn’t spell burnout; it’s simply a natural ebb and flow of energy and drive. When those characteristics seem to define the lion’s share of your days, however, you may be experiencing some degree of burnout. There’s no guilt in feeling professional burnout, and the way you deal with it can make a huge difference in its duration and its severity.

These factors will impact burnout:

Attitude - It’s easy to become frustrated and impatient when you have a “ho-hum” attitude about your life’s work. It’s absolutely imperative to be patient with yourself when experiencing symptoms of burnout. Avoid self-accusatory thoughts; it is not a personal flaw that you aren’t constantly (and consistently) motivated. Give yourself the necessary time you need to re-ignite your professional spark.

Working conditions - It’s difficult to stay focused and motivated if you feel like you’re staring at the same four walls. Likewise, if your schedule is overly predictable, it’s more likely that you’ll feel unmotivated and as if your days are blending into one another. Could it be time to think about a vacation to get your mind and priorities re-aligned? Even if a getaway isn’t possible, try working from different surroundings or rearranging your existing workspace and/or your schedule to infuse your efforts with a fresh perspective.

Challenge factor - It’s a positive to see that you can succeed at doing what you set out to do. Once you’ve accomplished your original business goals and the challenge is mastered, however, burnout can seep in. Avoid feelings of monotony in your professional life by tackling new challenges: work with new people, take on an exciting project, dip your toe into a new market. To do so will keep you feeling sharper and more highly motivated.

Goals - When plotting the course of your business endeavors, you may have your major, long-term goals identified. They may, however, be a long way off and pertain to such things as attaining a certain income level or planning for retirement from your business. Remember that short-term goals are equally – probably more – important to maintaining day-to-day excitement for your work. Set smaller goals (like having more time to spend at leisure, on personal passions or with loved ones) that are very attainable and satisfying so that through them you can experience your business’ success more regularly.

Avoiding burnout

Obviously, the most effective way to avoid feeling professionally burned-out is to avoid the things that are likely to cause burnout in the first place. Set yourself up for success by creating an overall plan to keep your professional self motivated and challenged so burnout will remain at bay.

Include behaviors like these in your professional plans throughout the years to avoid burnout:

Step back and breathe - A little detachment can go a long way toward helping you view your business through fresh eyes. Letting someone else hold the reins for a short time periodically may help you to see things you can’t when you’re the one in charge.

Constantly evaluate - Avoid complacency, even when things seem to be going well. There’s a straight line between being complacent and feeling uninspired. Keep abreast of new, fresh mindsets and procedures within your industry to avoid becoming stale. Are your personnel appropriately distributed? Perhaps promotions or enhanced trainings in new techniques are in order among your workforce.

Reimagine your business from time to time - What if you were starting out in business today? How would you set things up differently, knowing what you know now? Would you go into the same industry? Would you choose a different location? Would you hire different employees? This exercise will help you see that where you are is a result of all those individual decisions made along the way – decisions that are just as easily changed individually now. It’s not too late to change direction to make your enterprise what you want it to be.

Go for it! - Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the “big leagues?” No matter where your business falls along the spectrum, you most likely have a concept of how and with whom the “big guys” do business. The ones who get the big contracts, do the big business. What would it take for your business to be in a position to compete with them? Instead of it being a pipe dream, go for it! Do the research, contact the financiers, and draw up a plan! The worst case scenario is that you won’t get the work – but you’ll have gained motivation, made new contacts and seen what’s out there for yourself. That can be highly exciting – and exciting is the opposite of burnout!

A lot can be learned from burnout. It can let you know when something needs to change. Allow the symptoms of burnout to inform you rather than drag you down, and your business will be better for your realization.


Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.