How To Be Busy Without Burnout – Guest Post from Sarah Swanton

This week I am absolutely thrilled to have Sarah Swanton as our featured expert talking about “How to be busy without burnout”. Sarah is the founder of Happy Healthy Entrepreneur which is all about teaching Business Owners how to successfully navigate the ‘inner journey’ of being self-employed, so they can do their best work with clients and have a business that supports them, not exhausts them. You can get access to her free Mindset Toolkit For Entrepreneurs here, which includes a guided self-hypnosis audio Switch Off & Relax as well the Burnout Antidote Framework, which forms the basis of the work she does with clients.

The default setting of the 21st Century seems to be one of Busyness doesn’t it even in the way we speak with each other.

– Hi, how are you?
– Oh good but busy! You?
– Yeah, I’m good but busy too!

It’s how we are. Otherwise, how else does anything ever get done? Many of us are juggling daily; business owner, mum, wife, friend, daughter, housekeeper, and it feels like a struggle to fit everything in at times. When we don’t get everything done, we start to feel guilty or worry that we’re doing a bad job of it all.

Then, of course, we start thinking of ways to find more time, which might involve thoughts like must get up earlier which we don’t do because we need the sleep, so we end up going to bed later to cram it all in.

And why is it, the busier we feel, the more we seem to take on?

When life feels busy without a break, our minds soon feel cluttered too. We have a sense of too much to do and not enough time to do it, and that can make us feel out of control.

Having a sense of control is a fundamental human need in life, so it’s no wonder that overwhelm makes it hard to switch off in an attempt to ‘keep going’ to try and establish some control amongst the chaos!

If you feel like the way you’re working, isn’t working, and you’re worried that burnout is just around the corner, then relax, you’re not alone, but there are things you can do before it gets to that point. These following anti-burnout strategies will help you take control back in your life, and feel much more able to manage your daily workload.

Take Regular Breaks
It sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it, but a busy brain is a stressed brain and we need to calm it down in order to perform at its best. Working right through without regular breaks is a bit like carrying around a stress bucket that gets full as we go about our day. If we don’t take the time to empty that bucket, it gets heavier and heavier, and eventually, begins to spill over. There comes a point when we have no spare capacity for anything or anyone because – well the bucket is already full.

I have experimented with this one a lot, and have found that working in blocks of 45 minutes, followed by 15 minute breaks works really well, using a Pomodoro style App.

At the beginning of the day, I’ll map out what I can fit into each 45 minutes, and then what type of activity I’ll do during each break. So the first one is usually 10 min guided meditation and a cup of tea, the next one tends to be 15 minutes of reading, and the one before lunch is yoga because by then my shoulders need a stretch out from sitting down all morning. The one at the end of the day is always a walk around the block to clear my head before I put my other ‘hat’ on.

I allow only one of those 15-minute blocks to be household stuff such as put the washing in or set up the slow cooker, otherwise there isn’t the incentive to stop so much!

What you’ll find through doing this, is the 45 minutes work becomes very focused and productive, because you know you only have a finite amount of time, and there is the reward of a break at the end. Using this method has many benefits, in particular, there is more energy available towards the end of the day because it’s been given regular breaks. A rested brain can be more productive in 45 minutes than a very stressed brain can achieve in a whole morning, or even entire day sometimes!


Work Out How Long Things Actually Take
Do you get to the end of the day and feel frustrated that you haven’t got everything done that you needed to do? Whatever timeframe we think we can get something completed in, it’s very often different from the reality, particularly in the early days – everything takes so long!

So when our over-optimistic brains are squeezing more and more onto that daily ‘to do’ list, what we’re really doing is setting ourselves up for disappointment later on that day.

Here’s something you can do. Look at your ‘to do’ list, and work out the three most important tasks you must get done (I know it all looks urgent, but there will be three that just sneak ahead). Then set a timer on your phone to see how long each of these tasks actually take, including thinking time, research, and refining it at the end, as well as the putting it out there. To really know the answer to that, you have to switch off all other distractions, otherwise, it’s not a true reflection.

Do this with all the tasks you do every week, and compile a checklist of tasks + timings. Then as you’re carving out your day, you can slot in tasks according to the time you have available.

It may be frustrating at first because based on the facts, you can’t put as much on the ‘to do’ list, as you could previously, but did it ever all get done anyway? And actually, isn’t a fully ticked off ‘to do’ list each day, more satisfying than a fuller one only half-finished?

Be Clear On What You Will And Won’t Do
Overwhelm comes from saying ‘yes’ when later on, you just wish you’d said ‘no’. Sometimes we say yes to be nice, or because we think we should, but actually when we say yes, but really we mean no, we’re not being authentic with ourselves and with others, and so when they ask us to do more of what we’ve said yes to (but really, we meant no), they think they’re being nice, and giving us what we want!

Then it gets messy and we find ourselves getting irritable because before we know it, all of our time is taken up on work we don’t really want to be doing, and we have even less time for the stuff that really lights us up.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back for a moment and ask yourself whether the tasks you’re spending most of your day on: do they energise you or exhaust you? Once you know, that’s the first step, but the next step is to get brave and decide how to act on this. Sometimes it requires riding it out until the project is over and learning from that, other times it might call for a ‘diplomatic’ conversation with someone about how a project is working out.

I now have a list of “Things I Will Do” and “Things I Won’t Do’ and it becomes my barometer every time I’m presented with a new opportunity. If you’re worried about saying no because you need the money, consider this – the more you say yes to the right things, the more energy you have to do more of it. After a while, it becomes like a lovely, flowing river of the right opportunities opening up, and moving in the right direction for you.

Modern life is such that we can easily find ourselves in a state of perpetual busyness, which is not sustainable in the long term and is the quickest route to burnout, which of course none of us wants. As humans, we can keep pushing on at full steam for quite some time before we get the message to slow down. The question to ask ourselves is this: is the way I’m working right now, sustainable for one month, six months, one year? If the answer to all three isn’t a yes, then yes it’s maybe time to press the pause button and start putting some of the above strategies into practice.

If you would like to learn more about Sarah or connect with her on social media, you can do so by visiting: