by Mackey McNeill, CEO and founder of MACKEY, and author of “The Prosperity Playbook: Planning for a Successful Family Business Succession“
As the CEO of a financial coaching firm, I’ve observed a common theme from my clients these past 18 months. I hear clients say:
- I just need to grind it out and get back on top of things.
- We’re so busy. I just don’t have the time for everything.
- I can’t wait until things calm down so I can have a little breathing room.
Now more than ever, we’re all running on empty.
Figuring out how to take (and make) time for myself has been a lifelong pursuit.
Back in my 30s, I founded my accounting firm. I quickly scaled my business and acquired a second firm. I thought the acquisition meant taking on 200 new clients, but I ended up with 500. I wasn’t prepared for the massive influx of work.
I frantically juggled new clients, new employees, and new office space. I worked almost every waking moment of the day. I wasn’t spending enough time with my daughter and I had no semblance of a social life. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t even feel like I had time to train my new team members.
I wish I knew then, what I know now: burnout isn’t actually a time issue. It’s an energy issue.
The good news about burnout is that it’s fixable. The bad news about burnout is that there isn’t a magic elixir. It may feel counterintuitive to take time in order to make time, but it works.
Here’s how I did it.
1. Allow Yourself to Press Pause.
The last thing to do when you’re feeling burned out is to put your head down and push through. Block out time on your calendar to pause and do nothing. It’s essential.
The best advice I ever received was from a life coach I’d hired back when I struggled to keep my head above water. He told me that I needed to do one thing for myself every day.
“Are you crazy?!” I thought to myself.
It was a big ask, but I did it. I decided to start taking daily walks. It was a game-changer for me. In fact, it’s still part of my routine.
2. Begin with the End in Mind.
Take the time to identify the most impactful things you should be doing with your time and energy and build structures to support everything else.
If you aren’t returning to your intentions regularly, you’re probably getting lost in the weeds.
Write down your intentions for your career on a card and display it somewhere in your office at eye level. Not on your phone or your computer screen. A physical card.
The constant presence of your intention is critical. It serves as an ongoing reminder, ensuring that your decision-making remains rooted in your end goals.
Not every task is going to align with your goals directly. Identify how you can best use your time to meet your goals and then create structures and strategies to take care of the rest.
3. Manage Your Energy First.
Burnout is less about time and more about energy depletion. Fiercely protecting your energy is the path to solving your time issues.
Owning and running a business is exhausting. Listening to your body is essential — it helps you identify when you need to take a step back and focus on yourself.
I constantly ask myself, “What do I need?” And I act on the answers. Sometimes I end up calling a friend, getting some fresh air, or squeezing in a quick yoga session.
When I take care of my body and ensure that my energy reserves are intact, I function better at work. As a result, not only am I more productive, but my perceived time issues dissipate.
4. Iterate to Enhance.
Maintaining emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing is an ever-evolving process. Don’t be afraid to change your mind or try something new.
That’s the dirty little secret about eradicating burnout: it’s hard. But it’s worth the investment.
Don’t be afraid to take a new idea for a test run — experiment with what works best for you.
It’s a lot less intimidating to make changes when you approach them as mini-tests. By identifying potential strategies that will improve your practices and trying them for a short time, you can determine what will and will not work with less risk. It also makes change a whole lot less intimidating.
Are you crazy?!
You may be thinking these words to yourself as you read this. My thirty-year-old self would probably think it, too. After all, they’re the exact words I told my life coach when he insisted that I do one thing for myself every day.
I believe that burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable. I believe that burnout shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honor. I believe that I can grow my business and feel energized.
And I believe that you can do the same.
Mackey McNeill is CEO and founder of MACKEY, a Cincinnati-based firm offering coaching and CFO-level financial expertise to family-owned businesses. Mackey is the author of several books, including “The Prosperity Playbook: Planning for a Successful Family Business Succession“.