An older man in a striped apron stands in front of a coffee shop counter with his arms crossed and a proud smile on his face. The counter behind him is lined with stainless steel coffee machines, stacked cups and containers filled with straws.
Being a solopreneur often means carrying the weight of your business by yourself. Luckily, there are ways to cope with the stress so you can get back to finding joy in what you do. — Getty Images/Six_Characters

Being a solopreneur is some people’s dream. You get to be your own boss, make your own hours and pursue a business idea that you truly believe in.

However, there are some moments when being a solopreneur that can feel like more of a nightmare. Solopreneurs need to wear many hats, work long hours and problem-solve with virtually no support. In these moments, it can be hard to stay motivated. Here’s what to do when you start feeling burned out or struggle to start your day on a positive note.

Take time off

Our society often glorifies “the hustle” — working long hours and taking no vacation. Americans take far fewer vacation days than workers in other countries, to the detriment of happiness, motivation and productivity.

“A common misperception is that people who love their work wouldn’t need to take time off. However, increasing evidence points towards the benefits of taking time off for all of us, regardless of our work motivation,” Laura Giurge, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow of organizational behavior at the London Business School, told CO—.

Research shows that taking vacation is actually good for business. Unused vacation days have actually cost U.S. businesses $224 billion per year in lost productivity and motivation. Allowing yourself to take a week or a long weekend can help you re-energize, refresh and return to what you love with a new outlook.

Some solopreneurs aren’t able to take a full week (or even a full day) off in good conscience, knowing there’s no one to backfill while they’re out of office. If this is the case, plan breaks throughout the day. “Along with vacations, it is important to make space for small breaks and moments to disconnect from work. It is equally important to make space for important work during work hours (one strategy is outlined here),” said Giurge.

[Read more: Want to Be a Better Business Owner? Take Some Time Off]

Celebrate small wins

Many solopreneurs have big goals: disrupt an industry, launch a life-changing product or turn their brand into a household name. But it helps to start small. Gain momentum and keep your motivation high by celebrating small wins along the way.

One way to do this? Change your approach to task management.

“Most people are familiar with to-do lists, but few are familiar with done lists. A done list is a diary of your accomplishments that gives you a sense of progress, heightens positive emotions and helps you to stay motivated,” wrote Forbes.

Instead of listing all the tasks still on your plate, create a list of everything you’ve accomplished so far. Every time you add something to that list, celebrate and reflect on how far you’ve already come. Practicing gratitude and visualizing your progress will help you stay motivated for the next milestones to come.

[Read more: EQ Tops IQ in Determining Entrepreneurial Success]

Increasing evidence points towards the benefits of taking time off for all of us, regardless of our work motivation.

Laura Giurge, Ph.D., London Business School

Reach out to other solopreneurs

Everyone needs support, especially if you’re building a business by yourself. A mentor, coach or group of other solopreneurs can help you stay accountable and motivated. A group like SCORE can help you connect with mentors and other solopreneurs. Or look on LinkedIn for a mastermind group of other solopreneurs who can help you troubleshoot pressing business issues that often lead to burnout.

Pace yourself

One cause of burnout among solopreneurs is trying to do too much all the time. Instead, try to pace yourself. One small business group recommends using the “Goldilocks Rule” — e.g., work shouldn’t be too hard or too easy, but just right.

“You can apply the Goldilocks rule quantitatively, i.e. by doing more or less work to match your appetite. You can also apply it qualitatively, i.e. by adjusting the difficulty of the work you do,” wrote Hanson Cheng in Small Business Bonfire.

Try to find a balance: On one hand, you don’t want to be working 12-hour days every single week. On the other hand, you want to continuously challenge yourself, because that’s when growth happens. Pace yourself and balance your workload so you can keep your motivation up in the long run.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published February 15, 2022