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Avoiding and Recovering from Burnout

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Joe MarconiIt’s 2 a.m. and for the third straight night, you find yourself wide awake staring at the ceiling. You lie still, trying to relax, desperately hoping to fall asleep. Your mind is racing through all that happened the day before and all that awaits you in a few hours. After a while, you begin to toss and turn as the anxiety builds and the more you try to shift your thoughts, the feeling of being overwhelmed consumes you.  

The morning comes and you drag yourself out of bed. After a few cups of coffee, you begin to wake up, but you’re in no shape for the workday ahead. The thought of going through another tortuous day of running a business makes you question why you went into business in the first place. You push yourself through the day, but you feel that nothing gets accomplished.  In fact, you feel detached from your work and the people around you. The anxiety never leaves you. At the end of the day, all you have to look forward to is for the cycle to begin all over again. 

If any of this sounds familiar, then you know what it is to experience what we call shop owner burnout. If you are going through the above scenario now, I urge to take this article seriously. The effects of burnout are real. Burnout is more than a state of mind, or a point of sheer exhaustion. It’s the body reacting to the continuous barrage of handling complex problems and the unrelenting amount of work needed to run a business. The body goes into “fight or flight” mode, which is supposed to be for the short term to help you survive a life-threatening situation. Your body was never meant to live in this state for prolonged periods of time. Burnout can lead to weight gain, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, sleep disorders and severe depression. 

Burnout also affects your mood and brain function, resulting in poor overall performance and bad decision making. If left unchecked, burnout will affect your ability to make critical business decisions. It may also alienate you from family and friends. 

While there are many reasons for burnout, typically it’s the result of taking on too much work, wearing too many hats and living with stress for long periods of time. You push yourself day after day, week after week, but you feel yourself getting behind. You put in more hours, desperately trying to catch up until your body tells you enough is enough. Your body literally shuts down. 

In order to avoid or recover from burnout, we need to explore the reason why burnout occurs in the first place. Shop owners are survivors. You will do whatever is needed to get the work done, and at any cost. Time does not matter. The day of the week doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting the work done. But this mindset, at any cost, takes its toll on you, and eventually on your business. The process is slow, but it builds up to a point where both the business and you are spiraling downward out of control.  

Taking on all the responsibilities for the survival of your business is an admirable trait. But it’s not the healthiest for the long term. In fact, greater success is achieved when you as the owner clearly know your true responsibilities. Attempting to do everything is not the formula for success. Time management and delegation of duties will bring you greater success with a lot less stress.  

Clearly define your role as the leader of your company. Then clearly define the role of each employee. Establish your goals, both for the long term and the short term. Organize and balance your work week and your life. Follow the 80/20 rule, which states that you need to focus on the top 20 percent of the things that will bring you 80 percent of the greatest return. And that means saying no to things that should be done by someone else, or not done at all. Learn to delegate more. Rely on others to help you. Don’t feel you need to do everything. The body can only run that marathon for so long. Take time for yourself, and for family and friends. 

Burnout can severely impact your business and your personal life. To some degree, every shop owner will become a victim of burnout. I hope this article helps you to recognize the warning signs and ways to avoid or recover from it. As I have said many times before, your business should serve to enrich your life, never consume it.

Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of Reach him at

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