Small Business: Managing burnout

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Zoe Dryden. Photo / Supplied
Zoe Dryden. Photo / Supplied

Zoe Dryden, leadership coach and founder of Second Base which takes groups and individuals to Nepal and Abel Tasman for workshops.

Where do small business owners go wrong when it comes to managing their work life balance?

I don't believe there is one specific topic that causes people to compromise their life for work but some of the reasons include:

• Discouragement in some personal area of life and work is used as an avoidance strategy

• Loss of perspective in regards to the big picture behind why they created a business in the first place

• Lack of perspective and understanding around what is really important to them and their own values and purpose in life

• Fear i.e. fear of failing and the various forms this takes.

Sometimes it is necessary to work long hours, prioritise work commitments but when it becomes a habit, something in life has been lost (if not life itself!).

What do you do with business people who are in danger of burning out?

I work on identifying what area of their life is causing the problem. Often they will tell me its work problems and appear fixated on work dramas which in their normal state of mind would not be huge issues at all. Then if you dig a little deeper you often find something is going on that they are resisting experiencing.
This is where you need to direct them and facilitate them to experience it and take responsibility for creating an outcome they would prefer. It often has nothing to do with the work problem and getting to the real issue instantly regains perspective for them.

What does it take to switch them out of work mode?

I try to get people to remove 'work mode' all together. If they find they are assuming an identity or a pre-tense all day long of a personality they feel they should be, then they will come home exhausted every night. If you can teach them to be themselves fully, know and live their values fully at home and at work, the fatigue, exhaustion and overwhelm reduces.

Intention and time management are also useful techniques to remind people of. Have an intention behind why you have a business and make sure it's clear to you.

Remember this daily so that you can align your actions with the intention and not be distracted by the challenges and obstacles that arise. These things need to be addressed but you need to have more attention going towards what you want to create rather than being distracted by everything that tries to discourage and prevent it.

Another useful tool is the NLP Wheel of Life. This tool facilitates people to explore all the aspects of their life that are important to them and look at how happy they are with each quadrant. You then take this experience a little further and look at how important these quadrants are to you and how much attention you currently give them. This can create an instant reordering of importance.

Finally some people find themselves unable to shift their attention. They may physically come home to their families but their mind is either all over the place or fixed on a certain problem or unresolved event. There are simple and effective techniques you can give people to regain control of their attention so they can shift their attention away from work and engage at home.

These are incredible tools because despite what we may believe about multitasking, our mind is really ineffective when it's trying to do multiple things at once. You end up doing neither well, for example try deliberately reading a page of text whilst thinking about dinner.

What difference does having some "playtime" have with these A type people?

Everyone is different and it depends on what people value. Exercise is essential because a healthy body helps bring back clarity and increase performance. I believe that it's more important to understand your own values. If 'fun' is a value to you, then finding a way to bring fun into your work and your home life is crucial. If love is a value to you, then finding quality time to empower and engage with the people you love is crucial. Playtime is not necessary for everyone.

Doing things outside of your business that helps you live your own values is very important. It helps keep perspective in your life. The old saying "you can't see the wood for the trees" is so true for business owners when they lose perspective. Taking time to clear the mind, do other things, shift your attention away from the problem and then bring it back, helps bring back your ability to see things clearly, intuit things and respond from a more effective mental state.

What difference did it make to you?

When I first started my business, I was obsessed. Ironic considering I was coaching in these processes! I sat at my desk and obsessively cold-called new business in the UK for weeks on end with very little results.
Then I remembered to practice what I preached. I took a break, mind mapped my business, did some attention exercises, explored some of my work patterns that had crept back in and started to see some paths of opportunity that I hadn't seen before. I then recalled why I set up this business in the first place and instantly saw a huge strategic misalignment. Once I changed these things, which was a quick process, things really gathered momentum.

I now hold great value for the time I give myself. Reflection time, exercise time, private time and completely appreciate that this is the foundation of the success as a small business. I work with other small-medium sized business owners and as they learn to time-manage effectively, create time to mind map, relax, see problems from different viewpoints, and prioritise other aspects of their life, their performance in every facet of life improves.

What kinds of things do the people you coach get into, which help them make the changes they need?

I run private workshops for people in the Abel Tasman to get them away from their intensive work activities and take the time to learn to change their head space. I'll find out what they are/were passionate about and reintroduce this into their lives. For some people it's time with their kids, yoga, meditation, sports, animals or charity work.
For many, it's all of the above. When these things stop being a priority, it's a pretty predictable measure that they have become fixated again and they will call me to help shift their head space or use a technique they have learned.

I worked with one man once who felt he had found enlightenment, his terms were "he finally pulled his head out...", and realised he was being self-absorbed in his obsessive approach to work and his family, health and life was suffering. Since then, he has kept up his life balance and reduced his work, and he has turned around his business situation.

I don't believe it is as simple as 'make more time' because many of these people are using all the time they have. They don't sleep enough and they don't take holidays and they are always busy.

The key is to help them prioritise their time and attention to include everything in their life that is important and support them to break any patterns of behaviours that is wasting time such as inabilities to empower others, lack of delegation, getting distracted by small stuff, not problem solving clearly etc.

People need to have reverence for their own needs. Are they healthy? Are they maintaining clarity? Many wise old sayings reinforce this. If you work on yourself first, then you'll have the quality of attention to give to others such as employees, family and friends. Unfortunately for busy people this becomes labelled a 'luxury' rather than a 'necessity' but hopefully their label can change because when someone is overwhelmed, obsessed with work, imbalanced, they are operating far beneath their full potential.

There are many thriving small businesses set up by immigrants to New Zealand and the country is all the richer for these.

How easy is it to set up a business here as an immigrant, to create the network of contacts needed to make it thrive?

Tell us your stories and the people who have helped you along the way. Why did you choose New Zealand to start your business?

Email me, Gill South here, or at the 'email Gill' link below:

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