Operating a small business is similar to running. Both experiences can inspire you to push your entire being forward as hard and fast as you can. As a small business owner and a runner, I yearn for the independence, freedom, and exhilaration of the wind blowing through my hair. Call it a “runner’s high” or call it ambition!

But ultimately, the underlying principle behind both running and operating a business is endurance. If you don’t pace yourself or take time to rest every now and then, you can really burn yourself out. And after a busy summer of farmers’ markets and production runs, by the time fall rolls around I often find myself feeling a little crispy around the edges.

Seasonal exhaustion isn’t a unique experience. I’ve heard similar sentiments from my fellow farmers’ market vendors and small business friends. So, in preparation for the start of the next season, here are a few ways to rejuvenate yourself and avoid ultimate burn-out. Remember, operating a business is a marathon, not a sprint!

Take care of yourself physically

Your physical state can wildly impact your entire mindset. Just like a grumpy little kid who missed their nap, adults can also be greatly affected when their physical needs have been ignored. Hangry much?

Before you make any rash decisions about your business, attend to your physical needs. It’s amazing the clarity that a good night’s sleep can bring!

When was the last time you enjoyed a nourishing home-cooked meal? Do you chain yourself to your desk all day, or do you factor in any time for physical movement? Do you need to take the whole day off for some alone time or a family activity? It may seem selfish or frivolous, but if you don’t take care of yourself, your business will begin to suffer.

Make a plan

When I’m feeling stressed, nothing soothes me as much as writing out my worries in the form of a list. Putting it all on paper allows me to visualize what I actually have to accomplish. It also forces me to face my fears!

Sit down and organize your tasks by priority. By categorizing to-do’s based on importance, you’ll have a clearer picture of what needs to be done now and what can be done at a later date. Lists can also illuminate areas in which you need help or where you can delegate tasks to others.

Connect with your loyal customers

Another symptom of business owner exhaustion is questioning yourself and your product. In moments of weakness I find myself asking “what was I thinking!?” Rather than cursing yourself for starting your own business, take a deep breath and think back to the original goal of your enterprise.

One of the most effective reminders of why I do what I do is connecting with the people who have supported me from the beginning. Usually after a check-in with a loyal customer, I have a renewed excitement towards my business that helps me push forward. 

Grab a coffee with one of your farmers’ market regulars. Give your favorite customer a call or connect via social media. If you sell to restaurants or retail locations, drop by for a visit and a quick chat. Let your biggest fans cheer you on! 

Find motivation in your community

Last but not least, when I’m worn out, grumpy, or just plain over it, commiserating with my fellow farmers’ market vendors always helps. Chances are your vendor friends have had similar experiences and will be able to empathize with your current level of burn-out. After a little complaining to a friend who understands, you’ll feel better.

Just be sure to return the favor! When one of your small business owner friends comes to you in a moment of exhaustion, listen patiently. Give them a pat on the back and encourage them to keep going. Maybe running a business is like a marathon and a relay?

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