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Show Highlights

Running a float center is hard work. Especially if you just opened up and dealt with months of agonizing, crazy construction, and then go straight into pulling long hours keeping your center open. Even with the reward of seeing floater’s post float glow can fall short of satisfying in some moments.

It’s important in these moments to take time for yourself so as not to get devoured by your work. Ashkahn and Graham share some of the things that helped them stay sane working long, thankless shifts at Float On in the early days and get through the hard days so that they could thrive.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: Our question-

Graham: Is, “Burnout, burnout, burnout, burnout, slams head against the keyboard. Burnout, burnout, burnout, burnout.” There’s a couple of asterisks in there too that I didn’t know how to pronounce.

Ashkahn: Alright, well sounds like this person’s asking about burnout.

Graham: I’ll infer a question from that.

Ashkahn: Let me assume here.

Graham: Yeah. So, burnout in the float center is very real. It’s not an easy job, especially if you’re the only one running it, or you and one other person are the only ones running the float center, and doing everything behind the scenes, and all the marketing, and-

Ashkahn: I’m tired just talking about this right now.

Graham: And especially if you’ve just come out of construction. I think burnout really hits hard in the first couple of years, especially, or depending on how your construction process went, immediately upon opening. Like getting to opening your doors is one of the craziest things that a lot of people have ever done in their lives, much less over the course of just the length of a float center. So yeah, it’s a crazy business.

Ashkahn: And it’s hard, you know? It’s long hours, like it’s better for float centers to be open for a good chunk of the day. So that can contribute, to being in your shop a lot, and just things break a lot more than you really want them to. I mean, I guess you don’t ever want them to break, but you kind of assume in most businesses there’s gonna be some general like maintenance, and thing breaking, and stuff like that.

Graham: Or you don’t assume that, and then boy, is it really a shocker when you run a float center!

Ashkahn: The things, it’s just shocking, the speed and frequency with which something is messed up or broken, or needs attention, with regards to your float tank, or your float room. And I think that is one of things that can real easily lead to burnout. You’re just like, “Oh my god, like that’s broken too, now?!”

So I get that. I get it.

Graham: I mean, so the number one thing that helps, I think, is floating, and preferably in someone else’s float tank. If you can go float at another center across town, and do that on a regular basis, often that’s a great way to get over burnout for your own center.

Ashkahn: And you know, I mean having other people there to be a part of this with you, like if you’re getting super burnt out, the right time to start getting someone else trained up on things is probably like months ago. But the second best time is right now, and that just helps a lot. When you actually can take a break, when you actually can be just like, “You know what, I’m just gonna take a week off,” having the ability to do that, I mean, like I think the best thing to stop burn out is just to actually just not work for a little bit.

Graham: Yeah, for sure. And definitely just in the clinical side of things. It’s one of the only thing that’s been shown to relieve burnout symptoms, as far as the actual psychological impact of burnout, is just taking days off, and often about a week and a half. Which, as a small business owner, feels like way too much time to be away from your business. So I think a lot people never actually recover from those burnout symptoms, unfortunately, when you’re kind of deep in your own business world.

Ashkahn: So that’s an important one, or, you know, just maybe being willing to give up little bit of trust in making sure everything is exactly the way you want it, and putting a little bit more trust into somebody else to run things, even if you don’t quite feel ready. It might be worth it to have a little bit less on your plate, and get a little bit of time to actually get away from the business.

Graham: Yeah, and I mean … yeah, I don’t know how to describe a certain kind of mentality, too, and it depends on how long you’ve been in business, too. I think there’s kind of different forms of burnout, almost, to come. And this is almost very un-clinical. I don’t know if there’s actually different categories of burnout, but in a float center, at least, there’s kind of burnout from decision fatigue, and all the new things you have to do when you’re just starting up, and this whole vast array of responsibilities that you’re faced with. And then there’s burnout that’s just five years down the road, where you’ve just been doing the same things over and over again for so long that that kind of starts to take its toll as well. Maybe they have-

Ashkahn: Yeah, like if you were to have to do a podcast like everyday.

Graham: Every single day!

Ashkahn: Really just starts to add up.

Graham: Yeah, if you don’t have something like a new intro to keep you occupied, it’d really be a burden.

Graham: Right, but so, if you’re burnt out from doing the same thing over and over again for years, that’s where bringing on someone else to help out can be really nice. And at the beginning, if it’s decision fatigue, and there’s just so much going on, maybe that’s where you need to actually take a couple days off to go on a hike, even if it means just scheduling your center to be shut down, or a couple weeks out of a few months, take a few extra days off so your center’s not open seven days a week, if that’s what you’re doing right now, is working seven days a week.

So, even though I guess it feels like your business always needs as much time as you can throw into it, because you need as much revenue as possible to keep going, to make those next steps, just recognize you’re a fallible human being. You’re a soft, fleshy creature, and you need to take care of yourself, as well.

Ashkahn: And things are generally not quite as critical as you may think they are. That’s what I’ve found. Like, something in my mind feels like make or break, and at the end of the day, it’s usually probably not. Fear to shut your float center down for a week, it really would probably not be the end of the world. Or if you had to be closed two days a week instead of one day a week for the next month. You know, these things probably are gonna actually have less of an impact than you suspect they will.

Graham: Yeah, and especially if you’re not at 100% capacity, you have a little emptiness in your schedule. Closing for one extra day probably means a lot of those people are going to shift around their appointments to be on the days that you’re open. It might fill in some gaps, especially if you’re not closed on the weekends, or Friday, which I totally advise not closing during those days.

Ashkahn: And you know, maybe it’s at the point where you’re willing to take less money home yourself in favor of paying that money to an employee, and take off some of those shop hours off your shoulders, and free time is worth more to you than taking more of a monthly income home.

Graham: Yeah, and it’s not … you know, always working harder and trying to just push through burnout is again, not the way you’re going to solve it. Like working, continuing to work harder, and if you’re feeling psychological stress, just trying to bear it, and bite down on the mouthpiece, and push forward is absolutely not what will ultimately solve the problem. Also just keep in mind that you will probably need to do something different than what you’re doing right now, even if it is a day off.

Ashkahn: Or sometimes a change of context helps a lot. Like, go to the coast or whatever. Get a, you know, drive somewhere out of town for a little bit. Little things like that can just put you in a much different mental state, just from the nature of the fact that everything around you is different than your kind of daily routine.

Graham: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And again, go float. Go hop in a float tank. I’ve said other people’s float tanks, because when you’re burnt out, being in your own float tank is like the last thing you want to do, and you hear a weird clicking noise, and you’re like, “Great, there went the next three hours of my life because I need to deal with that.”

So, yeah, I’ve said it before, but if you hear a clicking noise in someone else’s float tank you get to get out of your float, leave, and at the front desk say, “Hey, you’re float tank’s clicking, see you later!” And that’s the end of your interaction.

Ashkahn: You know what else is useful, is going and grabbing drinks with the other float centers in your town. There’s nothing like some good catharsis, I mean just like vent, like you’ll tell people about, them how crazy everything’s been for you, and they’ll tell you stories that will make you be like, “Oh man, I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with any of that.”

So I always come away from a night of drinks with other float centers feeling like, “Okay, I guess I didn’t hit every single stumbling block.”

Everyone has some list of random crazy scenarios that has happened to them they’ve had to deal with.

Graham: Yeah, and if you don’t have local float centers to go grab drinks with, give us a call. You know, we’ll-

Ashkahn: We’ll fly out there, yeah.

Graham: Okay, is that it? Stick with it. Things will be okay. Don’t-

Ashkahn: Chin up.

Graham: Yeah, you know, just keep bearing it, get along!

Ashkahn: Yeah, get your head down and just power through it!

Graham: Alright, thanks for the question, and honestly it’s not an uncommon thing that float center owners are dealing with. So, maybe not as technical as some of our answers, but a very real issue in the float tank world, and something that you should actually put some thought into how you’re going to deal with in your own life, when it comes up. It’s probably not just the float tank world.

I bet any small business owner at some point has to deal with some serious burnout. It’s just not an easy position to be in charge of the outcome-

Ashkahn: Oh yeah!

Graham: -and then the life of a company. It’s inherently stressful, so you’re certainly not alone.

Ashkahn: Alright, if you guys have other questions, or if you’re just frustrated and need someone to talk to, you can go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast. Those go straight to us.

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