3 Ways to Avoid Small Business Owner Burnout

Imagine you own a small bakery. Sales have been steadily declining thanks to new competition down the street. 

Your alarm goes off at 2:30am, so you can get to work by 3:15am to get started on the doughnuts, cakes, and cookies. At 5am, one of your ovens stops working. You now have one less oven to get all the day’s items baked. “Repairing that will be expensive,” you quietly worry.  

You brood over the lesser-of-two evils the rest of the morning – be stressed about one less oven or be stressed about the costly bill you can’t afford. At 8am, your normally dependable delivery driver texts he’s sick and will be out all week. You’re already short-staffed, so you’ll be stuck making all the deliveries this week.  

Oh, and you must somehow figure out how you’ll pick up your two kids from school this week and get them to soccer and baseball. 

Stressed yet? 

A recent survey shows 75 percent of American entrepreneurs are concerned about their mental health. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses make up more than 99 percent of business in Wisconsin and employ nearly half of all workers. This means there’s a good chance you’re feeling burned out at work or know someone who’s struggling.  



Job burnout can be broken down into three categories

  1. Feeling regularly fatigued 
  1. Feeling negative about work or feeling detached from work 
  1. Feeling ineffective 

Within these categories, common burnout symptoms are: 

  • Sense of defeat 
  • Avoidance of work 
  • Depersonalization 
  • Detachment 
  • Loss of motivation 
  • Loss of satisfaction in your work 
  • Feeling flat or numb 
  • Feeling trapped or you don’t have control 


As a small business owner, you have several competing priorities which can feel overwhelming. Using a time management tool will add structure to your days and weeks and help you prioritize tasks and projects. It could be as simple as writing a “to-do” list on a notepad every morning. Having a tangible list of tasks you can check off as you complete them is empowering and gives you a greater sense of control. 

For small businesses with dozens of employees and multiple teams, project management software is a great solution. Platforms like Teamwork, ClickUp, and Monday.com are not only user-friendly but also cost-effective.  

Lastly, if you still find yourself struggling with prioritizing, the Urgent/Important Matrix (aka Eisenhower Matrix) is a simple, yet powerful tool developed by President Dwight Eisenhower while serving as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II. As you sort out tasks and projects, you may be pleasantly surprised that some can wait, be delegated, or not done at all.  

The Urgent/Important Matrix is an effective tool to help prioritize tasks and projects.
The Urgent/Important Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, is an effective tool to help to you sort out what’s important, and what’s not.


As an entrepreneur, you might feel like you must do everything yourself. This approach is not sustainable. If you have an allergy to delegating, start by offloading tasks that don’t make you happy. Someone on your staff might love the opportunity to take on a task or project that you find tedious or exhausting.  

Let’s go back to your bakery. You know you should embrace social media marketing, but the very idea gives you anxiety. Chances are there’s someone on your staff who is social media savvy and would thrive at setting up your social media platforms and managing them. Before long, your ‘Doughnut of the Day’ Instagram posts draw a huge following, increasing foot traffic and sales without you doing a thing.  

Remember, everyone needs a sense of purpose. By letting your staff help you, you’re helping them, too. 


“I’d love to exercise, but there’s no time.” How often have you heard someone say that?  

Just as a balanced diet and proper sleep is crucial to your physical and mental well-being, so is exercise. And just as you make time to eat and sleep, making time for exercise is equally important.  

According to the Harvard Medical School, exercise is as effective as antidepressants for some who are fighting depression. Exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals, meaning it does for the brain what a lot of antidepressants do.  

This doesn’t mean you need to start doing cross-fit or long-distance running. Regular, low-intensity exercise is what people with busy lifestyles can benefit most from. Pick an activity you can easily turn into a routine, like walking, bicycling, or yoga.  

There’s no way to completely avoid stress as a small business owner. But by managing your time, delegating duties, and making time for exercise you can avoid getting burned out (while not burning the brownies). 

In addition to being smart about self-care, your small business needs smart protection. Learn more about business coverage by reaching out to your local Rural Mutual agent.  

The information provided in external website links is for general informational purposes only and does not form any recommendation or warranty by Rural Mutual Insurance Company or its affiliates.