In December 2007, Lynn Sutton, owner and managing principal of management consulting firm Kairos Consulting Worldwide L.L.C., was in the Philippines to make a presentation to Lufthansa Technik. Sutton was excited about the trip because scoring business from the leader in maintenance, repair, and overhaul of commercial aircraft would mean landing her company’s first international client. But the 40-year-old mother of three was also exhausted.
Then in business for just three years, Sutton had often been working 60- to 70-hour weeks to build the company’s client base in the U.S. The trip to Asia meant additional preparation. In fact, after touring the company’s facility, Sutton realized that she needed to rework her presentation and proposal to better fit it to the organizational needs of the client. So, despite enormous jet lag, Sutton pulled an all-nighter to get ready. But when the presentation was over, all of the long hours she had worked caught up to her.
“I got an adrenaline rush when I was giving the presentation, it went very well, and we ended up getting the contract,” Sutton says. “But when I got back home, I got hit really hard. I remember first feeling what felt like a brain freeze so much so that I couldn’t get a handle on what to do next. That was followed by what felt like flu-like symptoms, and then my body just shut down altogether,” she says.
Sutton says she was in bed for two weeks unable to do anything for her business.
“All those things that had to get done, and I would have wanted to get done immediately had to be on hold while my body caught up with my head,” she says.
Having learned her lesson, Sutton says she now makes a point to incorporate downtime into her busy schedule. In fact, she sets aside four hours every quarter–usually on a Friday–for non-work related activities that include a leisurely lunch, spa appointment, or shopping.
“Because I am a mother and wife, I used to say my off-time is when I’m with family, but that’s not really off-time, as any wife and mother knows. So, I have to make sure my downtime is something just for me,” she says. “I go some place that I cannot take my laptop, and even though that time isn’t usually a full day, it’s at least four hours during regular business hours so I can feel as though I have taken a little time for myself.”
It’s no secret that running a small business requires commitment. But over time, the long hours, tight deadlines, work-packed weekends, and missed vacations can take its toll on your mental and physical health, driving you to the point of business burnout. Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of The Time Management Memory Jogger, says the signs of business burnout are easy to identify.
“You’re irritable, you dread going into the business, you have a lot of fatigue, and you’re ready to just sacrifice your