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Managing Burnout

Last Year Almost Broke Me

Today I want to be very open and vulnerable by sharing some of my challenges from last year. There were some tough lessons (which I'm now incredibly grateful for) and some key takeaways for my businesses (which I'll share in an upcoming newsletter) but the biggest takeaway for me personally was a reminder of the need to look after myself.


I know that 2023 was a really tough year for a lot of small business owners, and I know some of you are still managing the fallout this year.


If I'm being completely honest with you (and I really want to be), last year almost broke me.


I was definitely burnt out. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.


In 2022, I was feeling at the top of my game. After investing years building both my businesses to a point where I had a steady stream of repeat and referral clients, I felt that all my hard work and commitment was paying off. I had year-on-year growth and healthy profitability. I certainly wasn't complacent, but I was comfortable and confident.


Suddenly, in 2023 everything changed.


In the first 3 months of the year, I lost 3 major projects in my design practice MR. MITCHELL. Through circumstances outside my control, these projects were all cancelled within a relatively short period of time. Suffice to say, I went from having an enviable pipeline of ideal projects (and excitedly making plans for managing the workload) to having no design work at all.


Luckily, I thought, I have my coaching business, which was forecast to provide a really successful year of events and programs. In reality though, as the building industry continued to be hit by interest rate hikes, soaring material and labour costs and conservative customer spending, my coaching clients were feeling the pinch too, and program registrations were down by over 50%.


The affects of this downturn were greater than just financial. They really affected me deep to the core of my being. My sense of self was shaken, and my confidence was broken. I'd attached my self-worth to the success of both of my businesses.


At the peak of my distress, my anxiety was high and I was suffering an extreme case of imposter syndrome. On a weekly basis I was also coaching many designers and architects through their own versions of my challenges.


At times, I really didn't know how I was going to continue.


The great news is that 2023 didn't break me.


The turning point was actually at our 2023 Queenstown Retreat. Not only was I the organiser and facilitator of this week of learning and inspiration, I was also a lucky participant. With the love and support of a beautiful group of delegates, we all went on a magical journey of self-discovery, supported by a wellspring of knowledge and guidance from our guest speakers and contributors.


The retreat came just at the right time and has changed me in ways I can't explain.


On my return, I decided to dig deep and implement the principles I teach at TDC. To "practice what I preach", so to say. Through a combination of working on myself (see Tip #5 below) and working on both of my businesses, I've managed to turn things around significantly.


As a result, 2024 is looking amazing! So far, the year is off to a cracking start, and I'm feeling strong, refreshed and confident of a prosperous year ahead. To get to this point has taken a combination of work, rest and a big shift in perspective.


There are exciting design projects underway at MR. MITCHELL, and more prospects on the horizon. At TDC, January has been the most successful month in our 6 year history, with a year mapped out that is packed full of programs and events that we are incredibly proud of.


It's really uncomfortable being so open about my experience last year, as it makes me feel exposed to judgement, but I'm keen to share my story for a couple of reasons:


  • Firstly, so that other business owners who have ever been through a hard time know that they're not alone. Know that "this too shall pass" and things will get better.

  • Secondly, to provide some tips for managing burnout, or for preventing it all together.


For any of you who have previously struggled with burnout, or are currently going through your own version, I wanted to share what's helped me get back on track.


These are my tips for preventing or managing burnout.


1) Detach your sense of self from the success of the business.


Wowee!! This is a big one. That's why it's #1. For many small business owners, we are our business. It's so hard to separate our self from our business. But it's critical to do the work (see Tip #5) to establish a healthy separation between the two.


That means if your business goes through a rough patch, you don't lose faith in the beautiful human that you are.


2) Focus on your why.


When the shit hits the fan (and if you're in business long enough, it will) you have to keep remembering why you do what you do.


How are you changing the world for the better through your work? Who are you supporting? What values are you putting front and centre? If there's something "bigger than you" behind your business, it will always shine through.


These factors all help redefine what "success" in the business looks like too, which helps influence Tip #1.


It was incredible to be reminded how significantly the work we do at TDC impacts people's lives. The Queenstown Retreat delegates definitely reminded me WHY I do what I do.


3) Maintain balance.


I often get criticised for constantly promoting this concept, but I believe BALANCE is critical for preventing burnout. You can't have the perfect balance in your life at all times, but to stay happy and healthy, it certainly helps to strive for it.


Maintain a healthy exercise regime. Don't work crazy hours. Spend time with loved ones. Get out into nature. Establish nourishing rituals (morning meditation, evening yoga). Have fun, be creative and keep learning.


This year I'm committed to getting cardio fit, not just gym fit. I know that when I'm physically fit, I'm also more mentally and emotionally fit. I've signed up to a new gym where the morning classes are pushing me waaaay outside my physical comfort zone!


4) Celebrate the wins (no matter how small).


Last year was also FULL of amazing wins for me personally and professionally. It has helped me immeasurably to shift my focus from "what hasn't worked well" to being grateful and appreciative of "what has worked well". This level of gratitude makes way for all sorts of goodness in your life.


I love this quote from thought leader, Yung Pueblo:


"When we set our goals, we set the stage for growth. From then on, in the moments that pass, we take opportunities to align our actions in a way that steers us in the direction of our aspirations. But if we do not honour and appreciate every small victory, if we do not feel gratitude for acting in the way that supports our transformation, then we will lack the practice to fully appreciate the accomplishment of our bigger goals."


5) Work on yourself.


Get curious about your limiting beliefs and existing patterns of behaviour that don't serve you well. Seek professional help to work on this stuff!


For me, that's involved a bit of therapy to help detach my sense of self from my business (that's a work in progress!) and some Developmental Coaching with TDC's Louise Walker to really understand how some of my existing patterns of behaviour are influencing my personal and professional life.


If you're ready to get serious about doing the work, consider one of our Strategic Coaching Packages that offer a combination of business coaching (with me) AND developmental coaching (with Louise). POW! BAM! WOW! That's powerful stuff!


6) Don't give up.


I truly believe that the key factor in the success of ANY business is how you deal with adversity. What are you prepared to do in the difficult times? Are you prepared to double down, learn from your mistakes and seek new, better ways of working?


Our Premium Group Coaching Program provides 6 months of powerful coaching in business, marketing, business development and finance to help set you up for a successful year ahead. Add in some incredibly valuable business templates and a transformational Accountability Program, and you know we've got your back!


7) Schedule time for rest and play.


If you love your work, as I do, you probably have a tendency to allow work to blur into your personal life. How beautiful is that? When work just feels like "life", it's very special indeed.


However, we need rest to reset our system. Play feeds creativity and renewal. For many of our members, our retreats and trips provide the perfect combination of work, rest and play. Our 2025 Palm Springs Trip is the perfect reward to offer yourself for a year of hard work. (Only 2 tickets left!)


How about you?


If you've been through a period of burnout, I'd love to hear about your experience and how you got back on track. If you're currently going through a difficult period, know that we're here to help however we can.


NOTE: If the content from this newsletter brings up feelings that cause you distress or severe overwhelm, we recommend seeking the advice of a mental health professional.


If you're reading this online, and want to hear more, make sure you subscribe as a member (it's free!).


Until next week, stay well and always be kind (especially to yourself).



Andrew and the TDC Team

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