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Recovering from burnout?

Burnt Reynolds Member

Has anybody successfully recovered from burnout?

I've put 11 years into this business, and I just don't care anymore. I do what I must to keep going, but I'm beat up and tired and it shows in my work.

I'd like nothing more than to find new energy and do all of the things I know I need to make the business great. Used to be, I'd build a new website, or find a way to improve efficiency, or buy a new machine...but none of that seems to work anymore.

How do you get the spark back?

10/8/15       #2: Recovering from burnout? ...
Fire is fading

I look forward to the responses - I, too, am getting burned out after 10 years of this stuff.

Maybe it was just a bad month or an average year, but the thrill is definitely gone.

10/8/15       #3: Recovering from burnout? ...
rich c.

I lasted 8 years and was getting to a horrible point. Found myself working 7 days a week. Luckily I was offered a job as the designer and project builder at Woodworker's Journal. Unfortunately, that job only lasted 3 years. A few changes after that, but I never started the business back up. Glad I ran that route now, retired with a pension.

10/8/15       #4: Recovering from burnout? ...
In the same boat

Ive been in and around it for nearly 20 years. Been a shell of what I was for perhaps the last 8 or so. The business cost me a 20+ year relationship/marriage (she was full time in the business too).

I too am at the place where Im just doing the work to keep the wheels turning but at perhaps 30% production.

I often remember a comment I use to read here in posts like this from a regular (I think I know who it was but not positive) who said he was at a point where he would get out of his car and say "please god, let me fall back in love with this work by the time I get across the parking lot".

I can completely relate. Dont know the answer. Treading water.

10/8/15       #5: Recovering from burnout? ...
Pat Gilbert

No guarantee but try getting out of the shop more. Just a change in location is cathartic.

The thinking follows the location more than you are aware. The thinking may not change but IMO too much of the same location predisposes one to burnout.

10/9/15       #7: Recovering from burnout? ...
Puzzleman Member

Have you taken a vacation? One where you do not do anything with the shop and let your mind not think about work. Maybe one where you are doing volunteer work for an organization.

I take a 1 week vacation every year where I work with an animal shelter helping take care of the many animals that they have. This shelter is out of town so I am not in my local surroundings. I found that the new perspective and not worrying about my problems gives me new focus.

I also take about 4 - 5 weekend trips a year where I am gone Friday through Sunday. Short trips with the family that are fun.

Getting out of the shop and seeing different things in new lights helps me see things anew in the shop.

10/9/15       #8: Recovering from burnout? ...
David R Sochar Member

First: Get a copy of Paul Downs "Boss Life - Surviving My Own Small Business". This book will probably describe many of the things that we all have in common, how they can get at you, and how you might be able to cope. Paul has been a long time contributor here, and will be the last to say he has all the answers, but his story rings right to the heart of of what we all face everyday.

Secondly, get out of the shop. Go to the national equipment shows, take vacations based on what got you interested in this line of work in the first place.

Third, consider a change of product line. Many of us make what our customers ask for, but maybe we would be better off deciding what we want to make, and then finding customers for that. That is the small manufacturing part of the world usually works.

10/9/15       #9: Recovering from burnout? ...

I can relate. I think it is time for a change. either in your business or just make it a hobby and get a real job. Trouble is many "real" jobs will do the same thing to you. You need change, something challenging. Some of us have taken the risks of building a larger business, man does that have challenges!

10/9/15       #10: Recovering from burnout? ...

Amen Pat, Puzzleman and David! Trips and time away from the business are absolutely critical in keeping the fire burning. Another thing is setting some personal and business goals.

Sounds to me like you have either achieved whatever goals you had for yourself, and now are floating aimlessly or that you never set goals. Owning a business is a means to an end. So what's your "end"? Like to old saw goes, "If you don't have a target, you are guaranteed to hit it 100% of the time."

What is it you really, really want to do or to have? What are your dreams? Doing something for others who cannot do it for themselves with no expectation of being paid or compensated is rewarding for many people. Maybe volunteering for some community project, like Habitat would be an easy task for you and very rewarding. Maybe going to a remote lake and enjoying days of fishing or touring cities in Europe or taking some other trip or doing an item or two on your bucket list would be a spark to get you back to full enthusiasm for you business. What about finding and training your replacement for the business? Would that be a new means to an end? In other words, where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in a few months/years?

You might want to join and get active in a trade group, local business owners group. civic or religious group or service club. Your skills as a business owner can be a tremendous asset to those kinds of groups. But don't just join them and become a "checkbook" member. Get on committees and get actively involved. You'll reap many times what you invest in time and resources.

Set those goals, do the things on your bucket list and you can't help but come away refreshed with a new sense of purpose.


10/9/15       #11: Recovering from burnout? ...
james mcgrew Member

In the middle of this at 10-14 years I used to walk out in the parking lot and ask

"God, Help me fall back in love with this, Before I get back in the door"

took quite a few of those walks and am glad I did !

10/9/15       #12: Recovering from burnout? ...
Andrew J. Coholic  Member

Website: http://www.joecoholiccustomfurniture.com

Although mine is a "small" woodworking business (three to four employees) and I am relatively young (mid 40's) I have been in control of the business for 21 years, and the last 5 moved locations and built a brand new shop. I have everything I have worked for, invested in my business - and each day has its ups & downs. Just to keep things running smoothly is an effort at times. OK all the time, lol.

The one thing, I have always had a passion for this work and its all consuming. I don't remember a day in my adult life that I could "escape" from the woodworking business. Yet I guess I'd rather not be doing anything else.

That being said, a bit of vacation time (usually a week in the winter and several long weekends throughout the rest of the year) really does work to give yourself a break from the business. I have to be far enough away - and forget the phone, emails, etc. The only downside is it takes several days after you return to get caught up.

I do find attending shows like the IWF and AWFS, and other events where like minded individuals can get together on a more social basis, also serves as a great motivator.

I also read Paul's book recently. It was a real roller coaster ride and mimics what I know (albeit on a smaller scale). I recommend it to any business owner for sure.

10/9/15       #13: Recovering from burnout? ...
Phil Grant

I jumped into this business right as the recession hit about 8 years ago and ran myself into the ground over my first 5 years in business. It was pretty apparent my adrenals were shot a few years ago and I've worked diligently to coax them back to health. I've been living in a brain fog for 3 years and it's no fun.

Reduce stress (easier said than done), avoid caffeine, keep sugar to a minimum, and sleep. Those are the keys I've found to recovering from my burnout. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Good luck. It's a huge challenge to run a woodworking business and live a healthy lifestyle.

10/9/15       #14: Recovering from burnout? ...


Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is actually a freight train.

10/9/15       #15: Recovering from burnout? ...
Pat Gilbert

One other thing worth mentioning is the obvious thing that you are doing too much work yourself.

IOW pass some hats. Whatever takes most of your time get someone else to do.

The key to this as per the E-myth, write up what is entailed with doing that job so that someone else can do it.

That is usually the foreman position or bookkeeping.

10/10/15       #16: Recovering from burnout? ...
Burnt Reynolds Member

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? I guess it's really no mystery why I'm fried.

Unfortunately I bit off more than I could chew this year, and I'm trying to finish off two large contracts and the usual small jobs all by myself. Oh, and I am remodeling the fixer-upper that we bought so that's what I do in every other spare hour.

Odd thing is, I'm actually happy, I love being busy. But I'm sick of the stress. I had employees, they only added to the headache. I decided to downsize and outsource as much as possible.

I think a trip to a IWF/AWFS would be really great, and a good opportunity to absorb some energy. I will work on getting to Atlanta next summer.

I've looked seriously into finding a 9-5 but in the end I can't imagine walking away from all this hard work. My wife will never let me start another business so once I quit, there's no going back.

10/10/15       #17: Recovering from burnout? ...
Pat Gilbert

The question is the answer....

IOW more of the same.

10/11/15       #18: Recovering from burnout? ...
Jim Herron

I have been at this for 25+ years.
When I started I had incredible energy and worked myself into the ground.
I can recommend first- getting rid of what bugs you- I put up with complacent employees for far, far too long.
I came in one Monday and cleared house with the exception of one young man that was punctual and showed great promise and interest. He has proven himself over and over. Worked the shop last week while I was on vacation.
I came back last Friday to find everything in process completed, a detailed list of visitors to the shop complete with inquiry and contact numbers ( seems simple but I'm used to 40yr old employees overlooking that simple process).
Make work FUN again.
Second-take a break every now and then-
I take a "real" vacation once a year but for the past couple of years we take 3 day weekends every couple of months with our small granddaughter, mostly trailer camping. It allows you to reevaluate your business and focus your planning moving forward.
The "work" will be there when you return.

10/12/15       #19: Recovering from burnout? ...

Try spending 30 years as a marketing executive then buying a custom furniture business 13 years ago. I paid the owners $850000 in the first 7 years and that ended in December of 2008. Biz fell 50% the next year. I have great people and I go to work because I have to. They need a job and so do I. I hunt, fish and prospect for my hobbies now and I never feel the business is a burden.

Set your goal to get the shop on a 5 day work week, cull out the obnoxious clients and find yourself a hobby that will get you out in the sticks on the weekends. It is inside your head that needs a wakeup call. I drowned in Alaska in 1983 and that changed my life. If I don't fear death I don't fear failure. Good luck and be happy. None of us get out of this alive.

10/12/15       #20: Recovering from burnout? ...
Brady lewis

Website: http://www.allmoxy.com

3350 fridge. 66" wide
2000 range
800 dishwasher
180 microwave
440 vent hood

I think burnout presents a great opportunity. The times in my life that I've had the biggest wins were the times when I had nothing to loose.

I'm not saying your business isn't worth losing, but I am saying your current routine is. When you have nothing to lose, you have a powerful change agent. Change can be scary, which is why it's also exhilarating. Think about that. That's what we're talking about here, you've lost the exhilaration, you might say, the risk, the possibility of dreamy rewards. You're at the point where everything is "safe" and predictable. Add two scoops of monotony, and you're ripe for burnout.

I think the ticket out is to create excitement again by putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, whatever that means for you. Put yourself in a position of risk and rewards. That's how this all started, right? Remember that?

It might be that new machine, process, management style, hours of operation, coat of paint, customer type, product, or whatever! Think about falling in love for more parallels on this if you really want to go deep!

It sounds a little counter intuitive, but I think it comes down to this: "Stop being afraid of being afraid!", or as my dad alway told me: "If you ain't scared, you ain't skiing." And "when you quit dreaming, you're dead."


10/12/15       #21: Recovering from burnout? ...
Burnt Reynolds Member

Brady, I get that. I love change, unfortunately I love it so much that any long term goals for the business are impossible. My hard drive is full of abandoned business plans, if I stuck with any of them I'd probably be running a $1M business right now.

That's really the root of my frustration.

I signed up for your service a long time ago, I think it's brilliant, but couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with it. I have a pretty good idea now but again I'm afraid it will end up in a dusty corner of my website with all my other hare-brained schemes.

10/12/15       #22: Recovering from burnout? ...

Website: http://www.allmoxy.com

Whoops, don't mind those notes at the top of my post. My bad...

10/12/15       #23: Recovering from burnout? ...
Pat Gilbert

@ Glenn post #19, so you are recommending drowning to change your perspective?

In my best Bob Newhart voice yes I imagine that would change your perspective.

10/13/15       #24: Recovering from burnout? ...


Drowning would certainly change one's perspective, from one of flesh and blood, to, uh, spirit? I'm assuming he meant near-drowning. Never-the-less, I get his point.

To the OP and some others: After 2008-2009, I thought I was burned out. I probably was. I was dog-tired and wondered if I was depressed, although deep down, I didn't think I was. I found out after a long time that I had diabetes. So, if you're like me and don't often visit a doctor, consider a thorough exam to see if there is an underlying health matter as part of, or all of, the problem. FWIW.

10/16/15       #25: Recovering from burnout? ...

Go for a walk every day! I thought it was a bit goofy at first but now I carve out an hour each day to take a walk in the woods. I come back energized.

Find one or two good employees who can work unsupervised. I have 3 good employees who I can leave in charge whenever I need it. I even go skiing when there's a big snow day. Pay your employees well and treat them well. Even allow yourself to let the overall bottom line of the business take a bit of a hit. If you can pay the bills and have time off it's worth it.

10/21/15       #26: Recovering from burnout? ...
Christoffer. Member

In this business for 25 years and loving it.

I too was disillusioned and burnt out 7 years ago. Minimum wage for my employees were 30$/hr (I live in Sweden..) and i had to pay their sick leave for two weeks when they were ill.. I worked 100 hr weeks but made no money. Becoming a father of twins I took a long hard look at my business and realised a couple of things. 1st, I fired all the employees, 2nd, I looked at where I made money and realised that in my case residential work needs to go, and maybe most importantly I needed to say no to jobs. I used to say yes to everything, servicing my customers to an absurd degree. Most importantly I realised I was reacting, not acting. Running around and putting out fires and not developing the business. Today I have a turnover of around 300K per year with no employees and a profit of 100K. I don't lease machinery, I own everything including a new SCM CNC and egdebander. My shop is on my own property, keeping the overhead close to zero, if I want to. I work 40hr weeks. My family and I go for long vacations minimum two months per year. The first time we went away I was worried the customers weren't going to be there when I came back, but they were..

Best regards,

Christoffer S.

10/24/15       #27: Recovering from burnout? ...
Rich Tadrzynski

OK, I read all the posts.
I suppose a lot of these don't affect my situation as I'm not doing it as a business.
I have small dusty shop in my basement.
When I finally retired, (3 jobs, police officer, senior mech designer,and school bus driver) I finally started using the tools that I had to make tables, cabinets, etc.
custom pieces for friends, only charging them for materials. My last job that I'm now finishing has been in progress for approx. a month. I feel burnt out already, and at times, don't feel like going back down.It's the damndest thing though, if I'm not down there working, I'm thinking about it and new designs. Make any sense??
I suppose if I made money out of it, it might give me some incentive. Then again after reading what you guys are going thru, maybe not.
Thanks for hearing my out,
Rich T

10/24/15       #28: Recovering from burnout? ...


View higher quality, full size image (654 X 1312)

10/24/15       #29: Recovering from burnout? ...
Pat Gilbert

Good One, Cabmaker.

I suppose the trick is to look at it "when wisdom's counsels is not drowned out by the roar of the outside world."

The question is the answer...

10/25/15       #30: Recovering from burnout? ...
Jim Lewis

All of the above about changing routine and getting out of the shopó that's the first step.

Second step, when you are away, far from it all, ask yourself what you would rather be doing. There are a couple ways to frame thisó it could be a different job, but it could also be a different process.

What's another skill set you need to use? If you are in the shop all the time, and lose track of your need to be with people, think about how you could bring that back to your work. If it's not out-and-out changing jobs, could it be through taking one of the hundreds of skills of running a business and changing things around so that's your primary responsibility?

It's important to ask these questions when you are out of the shop. New thinking takes new surroundings.

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