The recent shock announcement and exit of David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra, has many pundits talking about just how much pressure company leaders face. Upon his announcement, Zahra said “Whilst much has been achieved and the company is well placed for the future, I believe it’s time for a change for me personally”.

But what it really came down to? The workload and the hours were just too much for him.

If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably thinking those words don’t just relate to corporate bosses – they resonate with you too.

Sure, most business owners don’t mind putting in that extra hour or two (or 10) especially when they’re starting out – we tell ourselves all business owners do it. But often those extra hours become the norm after which you need to find another 1, 2 or 10 hours when the business gets really busy. Do that for too long and the goal of working less, earning more – you know, the one you had in mind when you first started your business, gets further and further away.

At some point, you’re likely to start feeling exhausted, more emotional than usual, less able to cope, very stuck, resentful and possibly even question your decision to start a business (that job you were so desperate to escape really wasn’t that bad, was it?! At least there were holidays and weekends). If that’s you, you’re on the burnout path.

Keep going on that path and you might even start making mistakes (tiredness does that) that cost you business, money, sanity or all three, or worse, getting physically ill.

Now I’m guessing, you probably can’t take 6-12-24 months off with the kind of golden handshake Mr Zahra will receive to find your inner Zen. But there are ways to get off that path. Starting. Right. Now.

1. If you’ve been at the desk for more than eight hours without a break – push back from the desk, stand up and go home or if you’re at home – go for a walk/do something fun.

Think the project on your desk constitutes an emergency? Ask yourself – will people die? Yes? Really?? If not, leave for the day. If you feel like you need permission – you have mine.

Think of it this way, what would happen if you collapsed and were in hospital? And this really could happen if you don’t take a break and veer off the burn out path soon. Clients, staffers, suppliers, etc will wait until the emergency passes (and probably send flowers and cards wishing you a speedy recovery). Really they will. And those who won’t – ask yourself if you really want to work with those people.

You don’t need to capture every single opportunity that comes your way just the best ones. A wise man once said “opportunities are like buses. There’ll be another along shortly.”

But if you want to be more available to make the more of the great opportunities that do come your way – that leads us to the second point…

2. Get Help! Of The Assistant Kind

Yes, you know more about your business than anyone else. BUT… that doesn’t mean someone else can’t learn the ropes or answer phones, emails or customer questions on your behalf or help you create and set up automated systems, do your taxes or create mailouts.

These days your assistant doesn’t need to be full-time, permanent or even an employee. You can hire quality local virtual assistants or VAs on an hourly, daily or as needs basis to help you with a range of tasks ranging from basic admin and phone answering through to calling customers or prospects and setting appointments on your behalf.

Imagine this…

You’re on a couple of days away on leave, catching up on reading that book you’ve wanted to read on a sun-drenched deck-chair by the pool, cocktail at the ready. When you’ve had your fill of sun and cocktails, you arrive back to your room and there’s a message waiting for you. Your VA just wanted to check in to let you know that she’s scheduled 10 more appointments for you the week after you get back and that big order you were waiting for, just signed off.

How good is that a holiday AND new business development at the same time. And yes, that happens.

Which brings me to a final suggestion.

3. Take a Real Break

All work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (girl) – yes, really. You deserve to be more than just a working machine – a human doing, rather than a human being.

Once you have some real help in train, then you can take a real, well earned break. It doesn’t have to be months on end, you can feel truly refreshed just taking a mini break of a couple of days (especially to start with). The trick is to not do any work and no, in case you’re wondering, the world will not end because you take a day or two off.

Once you’ve been on a mini vacation, plan to take a couple of weeks at Christmas time (this year, not 2014). The rest of the world will be on holidays, so unless you’re in retail, it’s highly likely that you can too.

Yes, it takes a bit of trust and some willingness to let go (just a little), but over time you’ll relax a little more, get out of your own way and find time to do the things that matter to you. Those extra hours you previously spent at the desk are hours that you can spend with your family or at the gym or playing at the hobby you’ve always dreamed of taking up.

Never forget that in so doing, you’re also sharpening your business saw – which will help get more done in less time.

So, if we can help you push back from your desk to do what’s really important to you or take a break by answering your phone or introducing you to the VA of your holiday dreams, we’d be delighted to show you how it can be done. You can reach us on 9994 8000 or drop us a note here.