I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are working to grow their business, usually because they are aren’t getting the results that they want.  When I ask them what they think they need to do to make move the needle, I get one very common answer:

Work harder!

This doesn’t add up.  The vast and overwhelming majority of these women are already working their asses off.  The already HAVE hustle and commitment and drive.

So why aren’t things changing for them?

Two reasons:

  1. They’re always living on the edge of burnout.  They need a break.
  2. They aren’t clear on what they are trying to accomplish. They need to uncover their vision.

Take a Break

There are a few things in this world that I am more passionate about than helping people grow their businesses.  Boy do I love it!  I get excited talking to them about why they launched their business, what they want to do with that passion and how they might get there. I love to see people grow to believe in themselves.

But sometimes…

I’m just done.  I get run down. I’m overwhelmed.  I wonder if pursuing my passion is really worth feeling this tired.

When this happens I know that the best thing I can do is take a break.  

  • Stop thinking about it.
  • Put it away.
  • Let it sit, just as it is.
  • Read a book, page through a magazine, watch The Big Bang Theory.
  • Breathe, sleep, eat.

And then the enthusiasm starts to comes back in and I can get back to it.

We aren’t meant (or able) to go full tilt all the time.  While it feels like weakness to stop and take a break, it’s actually quite the opposite.  Would you like to be more creative?  More efficient?  More innovative?  In all three cases you would be well served by going to sleep, taking a vacation and unplugging from your devices.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of ridiculously successful musical Hamilton says:

“It’s no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life — perhaps maybe the best one I’ll ever have in my life — came to me on vacation…” He continued, “The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, ‘Hamilton’ walked into it.””

Taking a break gives your brain the space to uncover and create new associations leading to greater creativity and innovation.  Without rest and space we wrestle with the same problems using the same understanding.

When we take a break from active effort our brain will use that space and time to scan, flip, and revise understanding so that you can see things differently and be more creative.

Your brain will also use that space to wrap up loose ends (making you less distracted and leading to better memory), remove toxins (giving you more energy) and recharge your ability to strategically manage your mental resources (making you more efficient).

The fact that happy, healthy, effective living is dependent upon mental and physical rest is very well supported by research and yet only 25% of American’t take their paid vacations and burnout is at all time high.

Resolving burnout is about taking control of your life and not being held captive by “the way things are.”

While the rest of the world is caught in the “Busy Trap,” I challenge you to handle yourself more strategically.  Be alert for signs that you need a break and TAKE IT.

Get some Vision

Sometimes I’m ready to go! I’m well rested, I’ve got energy and enthusiasm and drive, but I’m not at all sure where I’m headed.  There are so many choices!  Do I spend time writing this blog post? Do I go to a networking event?

When this happens, I know that I need to ground back into my vision. 

  • What am I trying to create?
  • What do I want this business to accomplish?
  • How do I want to spend my time?
  • What specifically am I working towards in the next 3 months?

That’s when the clarity returns.  What was fuzzy now feels sharply focused.

Peter Senge, the godfather of Vision declares that you CAN’T succeed without clear vision and I agree (It’s easy to agree with the foremost expert)!  Vision is like a magnet: when you have a strong vision you are drawn to it. It creates motivation to make change and then directs that motivation so that every action you take contributes to narrowing the space between where you are and where you want to be.

In the presence of vision, your actions accumulate and take form, however without vision, even great ideas dissipate and scatter.

It’s amazing how energizing a clear vision is, but every vision has a shelf life! As you work to make your vision a reality, pieces of it will shift or grow and you’ll regularly need to take the time to regain clarity.

When you’re not sure how to prioritize, make the time to clarify your vision.

Get to Work

You’re well rested and you know where you are headed!  What now?

Get to work.  

But you already knew that.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.