Signs you're approaching burnout (and how to avoid it)

Tony Chilvers
Industry Expert

Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

Tony Chilvers
Industry Expert

Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

When the only constant is pressure, as a small business owner you need to know the signs that indicate the need for time out. Whether you opt for a day at the spa or spend the morning playing nine holes – knowing your limits can be the difference between make or break.

Pushing yourself to achieve more than what’s possible in a 24-hour day may feel like the norm, but there are a few obvious signs that you’re going too hard.

In order to get a balanced view on just how stretched you really are, it’s important you keep a check on the physical, mental, and the emotional signs as they happen.

A silhouette leaps on a rocky outcrop with the sunrise in the background

First in, last out

If you’re first in and last out of the office, it’s likely that you’re going too hard. If you’re lunching at your desk and relying on the convenience of bad takeaway to sustain you, you’re probably on the fast-track to burnout.


Getting in early is fine on occasion, but discipline yourself to take a few short breaks. Make time to enjoy a home cooked lunch or at least go for a walk to pick it up from the shops.

Better still, enjoy your lunch on a park bench; the fresh air and getting your mind out of the work will do you good.

And spending plenty of time at work doesn’t mean you’re necessarily productive – simple time management skills can help you get home at a reasonable time.

Everything is not awesome

Working hard is likely to affect what and when you eat and ultimately, your sleep. Out of balance, bad diet and poor sleep will affect your overall health including your temper and your capacity to remain focused.

Just as importantly, stress can whittle down your self-confidence. Having endless deliverables without any downtime slowly erodes at your passion. Increased negativity and inability to see light at the end of the tunnel are signs that you’re running on empty.


You’re the owner of your business and the pressure is on you. But, you’ve hopefully built up a team around you and you need to have the confidence in your team to help and support you. Sharing workload and responsibility empowers everyone in the team. It not only gets work done more quickly, but ensures the rewards are also sweeter.

Going ‘unplugged’

You find yourself always on. You say you have balance but the family dinner sees you ducking out to take calls or stalling over the gravy boat to reply to an email. While modern technology is able to make us more productive and collaborative than ever before, without discipline it can quickly rob you of your sense of normality.


All your work meetings are in your calendar, so it’s important you lock in personal time. Let your team know that you won’t reply at certain hours or even make it office policy. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing and ensure you do at least one of them, for about an hour, every other day. It’s important you find rejuvenating ways you can maintain balance, productivity and creativity.

4 ways to help avoid burnout

  1. Mobility. Smartphones and laptops allow you to break away from the day. When the frustration flares, grab your laptop and the car keys and head to a spot where you can work without interruption
  2. Cloud. Working in the cloud can help to ensure the team is all on the same page and having working arrangements that offer you and your team flexibility to work from wherever they have the internet can encourage balance while maintaining productivity
  3. Apps. Games might be a great way to unwind, but other productivity and work apps are available to streamline your workflow and help you get home faster. It’s about working smarter, not harder
  4. Talk to each other. At the end of the day, nothing beats good old fashioned communication. If you’re feeling stressed or burnt out, speak to your colleagues, and ask for help
Getting out of the office and working from home can help beat the burnout.

Find out how to create the perfect home office.

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