Description: An overcommitted green background with a bunch of matches on it.

Find out some of the things that sit behind being and overcommitted or burnt out business owner (and do something about it)

You’ve done it again, promised to do something you didn’t particularly want to do. You’re shuffling time in your calendar like it’s deckchairs on the Titanic. Your eyebags are considered excess baggage. You’re worn out, looking for a break, and on the edge of burn out because you’re overcommitted – again.

It seems no matter who I talk to people are worn out and many because they’re doing too many things, some they don’t want to do. Perhaps it’s because in this post-COVID life we’ve become self-reliant or perhaps we’re scared that we won’t have enough money, clients, etc to pay the bills.

What can we do to prevent overcommitment and potential burn out?

Fear of letting people down

As a recovering people pleaser, this is one that I’ve been working on for many years. It can be sticky and complicated. Mine comes with a lot of childhood baggage.

If the request is from a long-standing client, I will bend over backwards to accommodate their needs. I will also feel bad if there just isn’t a possible way to do it.

If the request is for a new client and I’m not going to hit sales targets, I will often take on a client who doesn’t quite fit my business. The flags might even go up beforehand, signalling we’re not a good match, and I’ll generally ignore them – because money.

I have had to learn not to let other people dictate the terms of my business. When I say yes to someone, especially when I’m feeling overcommitted, I’m saying no to someone else. That someone else is often me or my family. When you run your own business so that you can prioritise your family or choose the life you lead, saying no to yourself or your family is a cardinal failure.

It’s in these times that we need to value ourselves more. Value our time more. The reality is that the people we say yes to are often not our best or ideal clients.

Boundaries and burn out

Emails at 10 pm. Phone calls at 7 am. The whole hustle culture makes us believe that if we’re not doing something every waking minuteSam Keen overcommited burn out quote then we’re wasting our time and slipping behind. Throw in social media posts from our competitors making us believe that they are “winning at life, doing the grind” and we can feel utterly inadequate.

Thing is that the more we give, the more people take – and keep taking. In the end, especially when you add it to any other reason why you’re burning the candle at both ends, you end up burnt out with nothing to give.

I used to be that person who worked school hours and then after the kids went to bed until 2 or 3 am. Then one day I went to pick my kids up from school, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t remember if the lights at a pedestrian crossing I went through was red or green. It was then I knew I needed to stop.

Putting in boundaries shouldn’t come from hitting rock bottom. Boundaries aren’t there to penalise or punish you or your clients. Boundaries are there to show others that you value your time and yourself and you are prepared to stand up for both. If you’re not prepared to stand up for yourself, why should anyone else?

The key to boundaries is knowing when to have them set in stone and when you can make them stretch, like a rubber band. When I say “when”, I probably mean for whom. You know those pushy clients, the ones who want stuff for peanuts and yesterday? Yeah, they’re not the ones who get the rubber band boundaries, especially not when you think you need their money.

Personally, I find boundaries are best when they come from a solid place. Mine comes from my reason for starting my own business, flexibility and to be there for my family, and from my values, courage, integrity, honesty, family. Boundaries should support not only why you’re running your own business but also what keeps you running your own business, your values.

How values can stop overcommitment

I know I harp on about values, a lot, but to be fair they work. Working within our values keep us true to ourselves and our business. Values guide and ground us.

Our core value is the one we use when our back’s to the wall and we really need to take action. We then have other values we use to guide our actions. Most of us have three to five values we rely on.

As I mentioned earlier, values support the boundaries we need to be able to continue to do the work we want to do. Values can also work as their own boundaries. For example, if like me, you have family as a value then family time and flexibility for your family will form boundaries.

Values, such as integrity, especially when you decide enough is enough protect you from overcommitment. If you decide that you no longer wish to feel stressed because you’re doing too much, it’s hard to have integrity and break promises to yourself.

Not sure what your values are, grab this list and choose your top one and top three.

How who you’re attracting leads to burn out

Let’s be honest, the quickest thing to have you overcommitted is clients who are wrong for you and your business. Let’s call them time-Burnout quote Najwa Zebianwasters, cheapskates, and “well I can help them” clients; in the end, they’re the ones that really aren’t for you.

I’ve had them. The social media management client I took on because I felt like I needed the money, even though I’d promised myself not to take any more social media management clients. The person who wanted to be done with their fears once and for all, who bumped bookings, asked for multiple freebies at the last minute and when presented with a contract never signed because “I’ve spoken with a girlfriend and it’s all good now” (let’s see how long that lasts).

It was actually this last one that had me looking at the person I was attracting. Was I targeting people too early in their journey through fear? You betcha. My marketing was targeting a person who was too early in their journey. I was attracting the person who couldn’t pay and didn’t value the results I gave. Sound familiar?

While I know that your marketing needs to address the issues each person has at the stage they are in in the buyer lifecycle, it should still be attracting the right client.

It’s not fool-proof, the wrong ones still get through, but you need to know the flags and warning signs for your industry and yourself and respect yourself and your boundaries and not work with them.

If you’re still feeling burnt out, then the other thing I can suggest is my toolkit. It’s full of resources to help you top up your cup.

UPDATE: The burnout that followed

Three weeks after I wrote this, I went to my GP and they suggested I might be anaemic. One week after I saw the GP, they confirmed that I was. Days later, I actually burnt out. I was bedridden for 3 days. I went from crying to sleeping and back again. While the anaemia contributed, so did many other things including my home environment and the things I mentioned above.

A year after this experience, I wrote about my recovery from burn out.


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