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Throughout this month I’ve been talking a lot about business burnout. I opened up about how to find your passion when you feel lost and unmotivated.
But I’m not stopping there! Recognizing business burnout and going through the recovering process is important. But what’s the next step?
What do you do when you feel like burnout is under control? How do you move forward and bring back the spark to your business?
In 2014 I entered a period of not just burning out but straight up business depression. It left me unmotivated, in a career slump and with a boring business. I was so lost. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a writer, editor, social media specialist or community builder.
I got tired of taking on too much and trying too many things. Sometimes what we really need is simplicity — and focus. To that end, here are 12 ways to re-ignite your fire and put the spark back into your business!
1. Implement getaway days
Feelings of confusion need to be dealt with focus and clarity. The best way I’ve found to deal with that is to unplug and getaway from it all for a few days.
In the spring of last year, I scheduled a weekend getaway to sort through my business depression feelings and figure out the next steps. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy, or anything expensive. Just take a break from it all — whatever that means for you.
It’s all too easy to listen to the industry, compare yourself to others, and question your intuition. So schedule time to reset, shut off the computer, close the email, and spend a few days unplugged just with your thoughts.
Take a journal, a sketchpad, some good books, and anything else that releases your creative spirit. Jump on a plane or get in your car and travel to a new city.
Aim to accomplish 3 things during this time:
- Get some personal time to reset
- Attend a self-improvement event
- Build new relationships for future opportunities
2. Declutter your space
You have to start limiting the amount of noise from your mind and remove anything that’s clogging up your creativity. And your surroundings may be a big part of the problem.
As a highly sensitive person myself, I understand how the surroundings, atmosphere and energy of a location can affect my creations.
As entrepreneurs and business owners we are artists, and artists have to be very protective of what influences us.
Take a page from the Tiny House Movement (I’m personally obsessed with it!). The purpose of this movement is to focus on simple living, avoiding waste, while living in a small but functional space, where having less means being happier.
This minimalist approach to a creative but mobile type of lifestyle requires you to find the right tools and gadgets, that are also multi-purpose. I even went as far as to makeover my home office workspace to give myself a fresh start.
By choosing products and gadgets that serve multiple purposes, you can run a mobile office and have the freedom to create from anywhere — you never know where inspiration will strike. One day you can work from a coffee shop, or coworking space. The next you can work from your car, or even hotel room while traveling.
A life without wires is the first step towards regaining control of your mind, business, and your spirit again.
3. Create a daily “hit list”
Small actions are the stepping stones to creating a big difference — even if you’re only taking ONE small step at a time. This tactic is something I’ve used for years. I call this my daily “hit list”.
It’s a set of 1-3 tasks that HAVE to get done every day. No matter what my schedule looks like, it should contain these small tasks. It could be as simple as spending 15 minutes planning out your next project, or blocking out 30 minutes to create a business budget.
At the end of the day, I’m proud to say that I “at least crossed these things off the list”. This helps me focus on what I did accomplish instead of obsessing over what else still needs to be done!
Start by creating your own daily “hit list” of goals and pick just ONE to check off each day. These simple daily actions will drastically improve your outlook and make you feel more positive about work every day.
4. Don’t be a copycat
The internet has made it easy to have the same opinion recycled over and over. But this leads to negative comparisons and feelings of being inadequate.
No one has a story like yours, and no one can tell your story like you can. So don’t be a copycat! Stop looking to the internet and social media for your value and start creating your own worth.
There are a lot of bloggers and entrepreneurs who are quitting their jobs to freelance full-time but no one’s situation is like yours. So stand in your awesomeness and be proud of your ideas and business model.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. – Judy Garland
5. Work with a coach or mentor
There is no better way to hit the “reset” button than asking for help from a mentor or coach. A coach is someone who can take you from where you are to where you want to be — no matter your goal.
Over the years, I’ve worked with several different business coaches and they have always been worth the investment. They kept me accountable, revealed my own feelings to me and taught strategies and tips I never would have discovered on my own.
So, if you’re ready to make a real change in your life and business, consider working with a coach. Another option is to find a mentor who you can work under in exchange for advice and help.
6. Go to local meetups and events
Ever since moving to the Denver, CO area I’ve been attending more and more local events. These meetups not only save me money on having to travel to conferences far away, but they give me a chance to connect with other inspiring business owners in my area.
Start by locating a Freelancers Union Spark event in your area or scour Facebook for local business groups. You can also check out a site like Meetup.com where you can search for upcoming events going on in your area.
Have fun with this and attend events you normally wouldn’t go to! Remember: the point of going to local meetups is to get out of yourself and build new relationships for future opportunities.
7. Learn to follow-up
Another great way to bring back the spark into your business is to follow up with past clients. There’s a lot of power in reconnecting with a past client or project that you really enjoyed working on.
Obviously, not every opportunity that comes across your desk is worth your time, so make sure your pitches align with your mission statement and goals.
If you want to follow-up with somebody who you meet, do it immediately. Learn to go home, pull out any business cards from your latest meetups. Send emails while their faces are still fresh in your mind (and while yours is still fresh in theirs!)
8. Create your ideal client list
Why did you start your business in the first place? If you’re like me you want the freedom to make your own decisions, and have control over your own schedule. Then next thing you know, you’re answering to clients, deadlines, and putting out fires all day — not what you signed up for!
Not everything about your business is bad. Make it a point to remind yourself of that fact!
Pinpoint which projects still bring you joy and which ones are sucking the life out of you. As much as we might not want to admit, how much you get paid for your work can count a lot towards the enjoyment of the work.
If you’re getting paid peanuts for thought-provoking and time-consuming gigs, it can wear on your creativity until it’s ultimately suffocated.
Here’s how to weed out the bad clients or projects and focus on the ideal ones:
- Use my free Client Comparison Template, or
- Write out all of your clients on a sketchpad or whiteboard
- List out every detail, from how much you get paid, to how long it takes you
- Put a star next to the ones you love (or that pay really well)
- Reorganize the list from your favorites to your least favorites
- Eliminate the projects/clients/customers who no longer measure up
Hone in on the projects and people you want to work with, and eliminate the rest from your schedule. You might make less money in the beginning, but once I followed these steps, I saw the floodgates to new opportunities pouring in.
9. Instigate a mastermind coffee session
I just did this exact thing last week as I met up with my friend Steph, from Art To Self, at a local coffee shop. And I do this often, especially when I’m feeling stuck or alone.
Take time to meet up with other successful business owners. Buy them a cup of coffee or tea and listen to their stories. Pick their brain and ask them questions. Sometimes it’s nice to just to hear a confirming voice for your ideas.
Successful people often love sharing and giving advice to those who ask. So don’t be afraid to reach out and schedule a mastermind session — it can even be done virtually.
10. Review your accomplishments weekly
With all the negativity online, to-do lists and social media advice, it’s easy to forget your accomplishments. The stuff you get done gets drowned out by the things you don’t get done.
At the end of each week I sit down and write out five things that I achieved that past week. They can be small things, like buying and setting up a new printer (hey technology takes skill). Or they can be bigger accomplishments, like taking a nap on two different days.
This has become my favorite time of the week as it reminds me that no matter what I didn’t get to that week, I was still able to accomplish something. And that positive attitude keeps me motivated and moving forward!
11. Spend $20 a month on new books
Read more books. This is my new mantra! And there really is nothing better you can do then to read new books.
Reading is not only good for your brain but it’s also good for your soul. And this can help you bring back the spark to your creative business. I prefer to read paper books over digital ebooks but use the method that you will actually use to read.
If you’re a mom, check out this interesting idea from Alexis Grant about how to read more books even while your kids are young.
You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. – Charlie Jones
Don’t have time to read books? Try listening to them on Audible. This is what I’ve been doing all summer and it’s been amazing! You can also listen to free podcasts if you’re not ready to pay for audio books.
12. Listen to your gut
This may be the last tip but it’s by far the most important!
Earlier in June I retired all of my online courses and explained why I wouldn’t be selling digital products anymore. Even though it’s only been a few weeks it’s already been the best decision I ever made as it relates to my online business.
In order to bring the spark back into your business sometimes you have to stop following traditional advice and shut out the voices of other “experts”. You have to listen to your gut and pursue the business model that’s right for you and your customers.
This is by no means the easy route, and in fact, it’s not popular advice at all. Many business owners and bloggers do not agree with this and won’t give up $12,000 a year in order to save their soul.
For me though, no amount of money could sway me to sell out and continue doing something that I hated. So whether it’s doing what’s normal or going against the grain, listen to your gut and it will never lie to you.
How to bring back the spark
If you’re struggling with business burnout and don’t know what the next step is, try using one of the ideas mentioned above. These are all things I’ve done to breath a little life back into my biz and I know they will help you too.
The goal is to stop doing the same old stuff and getting the same old results. You have to do something different! And it could be the punch of energy you’re searching for.
What simple action are you taking to bring back the spark to your business?