We’ve all been there. Sometimes our work creeps into every corner and crevice of our lives. Then, before we know it, we’ve reached our breaking point.
Now more than ever, we’re hearing from you that you’re running on empty. We hear you 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.
The anecdotal data tells us that most business owners are experiencing complete energy depletion. And that’s the thing: burnout isn’t actually a time issue. It’s an energy issue.
While Mackey was recently spotted hiking in Denali National Park, she hasn’t always been a master of taking (and making) time for R&R. She’s experienced her own fair share of burnout over the years. We sat down with our very own Mackey McNeill to gain insight into how she’s battled burnout and built a life rich with intention.
Back in her early thirties, Mackey made the bold move to purchase a second accounting firm. What she thought would be the addition of 200 new clients quickly evolved into signing over 500 new accounts. She simply wasn’t prepared for the massive influx of work.
As Mackey navigated new clients, new employees, and new office space, she felt like she was drowning. “I worked almost every waking moment of the day. I wasn’t spending enough time with my daughter, and I had absolutely no semblance of a social life.” Mackey knew that something had to change, but she didn’t know how to do it. “I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t even have the time to train my new team members.”
We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re there right now.
The good news about burnout is that it’s fixable. The challenging 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. And Mackey is our living proof.
We’ve deconstructed Mackey’s process into four implementable steps to transform yourself from burnout to breezy.
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.
Mackey credits a life coach for sparking those initial steps to a more fulfilled and less frazzled life.
“He told me that I needed to do one thing for myself every day. And I remember thinking, ‘Are you crazy?!'” It was a big ask, but Mackey had made the commitment to working him and so she hunkered down and did her homework. She committed to taking one short walk every single day. Sometimes it was easier said than done, and sometimes she failed, but she stuck with it. In fact, it’s a strategy that Mackey still uses today.
“I love my daily walks. It’s a time to clear my mind, reconnect with nature, and regain perspective.”
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.
Mackey says that setting your intentions is an essential step.
“Part of my problem was that I’d gotten derailed from my initial goals. Back when I started my firm, I wanted to help business owners prosper, but somehow, I’d ended up drowning in paperwork instead of making a real difference. I was so overwhelmed by the stacks upon stacks of paper in my office. I’d lost sight of my ‘why'”.
Mackey wrote down her intentions on a card and pinned it to the wall above her desk. “I put it right at eye level so that every time I looked up, there it was.”
That physical presence of your intention is critical. It serves as a constant reminder so that your decision-making remains rooted in your end goals.
Not every task is going to directly align with your intended goal. Identify how you should best use your time and 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 am constantly asking myself, ‘What do I need?'” says Mackey. Sometimes it’s to talk with a friend, get fresh air, or move her body – whatever it is, Mackey’s devoted to staying in tune. “I am deeply committed to listening to my body. I notice a physical difference if I skip my morning yoga routine.”
This commitment to protecting your energy doesn’t have to be massive. “I know, I know, I live on this beautiful farm, and it’s a great privilege to be able to just walk into my backyard and pick some produce to nourish my body, but even if I didn’t live here, I’d remain committed to healthy eating.”
You don’t need access to dream resources (like a working farm) to manage your energy. Start with small, accessible steps. It can be as simple as adding more vegetables to your grocery cart or visiting a farmer’s market on the weekends. If you can’t attend a yoga studio, check out some short, guided sessions on YouTube (we love Yoga with Adriene).
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.
Solving burnout isn’t immediate. It’s a process. It’s a journey. It’s going to take some time. Sometimes it might even be painful.
That’s the dirty little secret about eradicating burnout: it’s hard. But we believe it’s worth it!
Mackey uses experimentation as a way of identifying what works best for her. “I’m approaching retirement, but sometimes I worry about letting go of my business. So I decided that I needed to take a retirement test-run.”
A few years ago, Mackey took a six-week sabbatical away from her business – many things worked, but a few things didn’t. “When I got back, I noticed that while most things ran as if I’d never left, sales were stagnant. When I thought about it, I realized that I hadn’t developed systems to address that aspect of the business in my absence.”
Instead of claiming defeat, Mackey took the results of her test and made some modifications. First, she spent more time training her team on the sales aspect of the job. Then, she built in brief recap meetings with her team members to assess their takeaways after meeting with clients. That on-the-spot coaching made a big difference. “The next time I went on vacation, my team was properly positioned to find success in sales.”
Mackey believes 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 giving them a test run, you can determine what will and will not work with less risk. It also makes change a whole lot less intimidating
Are you picking up what we’re putting down?
Are you ready to make some changes and say goodbye to burnout? We think so. We delve deeper into the topic with our free Take Back Your Time Webinar.
In this thirty-minute webinar, Sarah Grace walks you through a self-planning tool that MACKEY uses to help you clearly define what you want out of your working life, what needs to shift to get there, and how you might celebrate once the work is done.
Let’s take back control of our energy, our time, and our businesses and say “deuces” to burnout.