Chief Balancing Act: Avoiding Burnout with Caroline Nuttall

WEofC Founding Member Kickoff Meeting, April 2017 | Summary provided by Joanna Harrison, Goodness Glows | Photography by Kelly Vann Calaway

Keynote Summary:

Sometimes you feel less like an entrepreneur and more like a magician. You’re wearing 25 different hats, and somehow you make it work.

But, should you strive to just “make it work”? Is it possible to truly feel in control, balanced, and fulfilled - financially and emotionally? Well as a small business owner, of course, it’s tricky. There is a layer of organized chaos that will always exist that you may not have had if you chose to be a clock-in-clock-out employee. But that’s not you.

The truth is it’s not impossible to reach a level of homeostasis. It’s just a balancing act.

Let’s figure out how.

  • We’re all guilty of letting our google calendar turn into this...


How did we get here?? It’s because most entrepreneurs (especially women), take on a dozen different roles. You’re not just owner/CEO, you are Owner, CEO, Assistant, Accountant, Director of Human Resources, Director of Marketing, Social Media Manager, Spokesperson, Data Analyst, Publisher, Designer… You get the idea.

“Entrepreneurial Bipolar Disorder”

  • Additionally, as entrepreneurs we tend to go from high to low, over and over and over. “I’m excited!”.... “Ugh this is hard!” …. “It’s working!” …. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” These peaks and valleys are triggered by business events - you may have a terrible meeting and a bad revue putting you on a downward slope. Then you make a few big sales and have a peak in revenue, and you’re back on the upward slope.

What does this ultimately lead to? Yep. Burnout.

The Radio Analogy

  • Think about your favorite radio station. The songs that they play, and the order that they play them in is entirely strategic. In fact, most stations use a very specific formula that is proven to increase listeners. The reason behind it, is burnout.


What do you like to listen to when you’re driving to work? You probably want to hear the songs that you like, that you’re familiar with. Maybe one new song with get thrown into the mix. You may listen to the new song, or you may change the station to find an old familiar standard.

This is because our level of comfort can only handle a small dose of “newness”.

Now think back to your hectic google calendar. You can apply this same “flow” of standards, and new songs to your workday. The way you do that is to think of your day like a playlist.

  • Most of your schedule should consist of “the familiar,”  meaning things that you are used to, that you’re good at, and that makes you feel confident

  • Sprinkle in some “oldies” which are tasks that might feel a little boring at the time, or redundant, but are good business practices

  • And maybe once a day, or once a week you throw in a “brand new hit,” which is something you are a little unsure about. Maybe you’re nervous to pitch to an investor, or you’re taking a risk with a new technology.

This is that “golden ratio,” that helps you avoid burnout. You have enough confidence-boosting, familiar and comfortable work throughout the week to stay sane and motivated. Then when you tackle those new opportunities, you are more likely to excel.

  • Too much variety = burnout

  • Too little variety = grind

The key is to manage your “dose of variety.”

First, be honest with yourself about what type of person you are. Do you thrive off of new adventures? Maybe you’re super adaptable and you enjoy the “go-go-go” lifestyle. Or maybe you are more of comfort junkie. You like a routine, you like your home-base, and spontaneity throws you out of whack. This is a spectrum, and wherever you land is ok! There is no right or wrong way to be.

But when you figure out what you can handle, that’s when you nail your “dose of variety.”

“A small, continuous drip of variety leads to sustained energetic awareness.”


Caroline’s latest venture is Charleston’s Meeting Facilitator. Make your meetings matter, by booking her for your next event.