Episode #151 Business without Burnout

An adaptation of The Spoon Theory
February 11 , 2023

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 You are listening to My Freedom Grove podcast with Gretchen Hernandez, episode 151.

Welcome to My Freedom Grove Podcast, your calm space for practical help to get your dream business up and running while being authentically you and taking care of your mental health. I'm your host, Gretchen Hernandez. I'm so glad you're here!


Hi My Strong Friends. Happy February.  How was your January?  This week I spoke with several people that started off January full of excitement and vigor.  And then life came in sideways.  Unexpected things happened that were out of their control.  As a result, they didn’t have the same amount of energy available to do all of their planned activities.

Some chose to reschedule their activities.  Some chose to do the activities anyway, but found themselves needing recovery days afterward.

I experienced that too with the power outage from the storms, getting Covid and moving my disabled Mom in to temporarily live with me while I help her find a home and move out here. 

With any illness, we’ll have less energy. 

With some circumstances, easy tasks now become more involved and take more energy.  Why?  Carrying an emotional load takes energy.  You now require energy to the task + the emotional load.

And finally, we may end up with unexpected activities added to our plate.  Because we are driven people, we might feel a surge of “Can Do” energy. You know what I’m talking about.  You feel like you can take on the world.  But then when you are in the thick of it, you feel the reality of the energy drain.

All of these conversations inspired me to share the Spoon Theory.  The Spoon Theory provides an easy way to think and talk about personal energy. 

In this episode I’m going to:

  1. Explain the Spoon Theory
  2. Adapt the Spoon Theory to specific Business Activities
  3. How to prevent burnout
  4. Explore lower energy options
  5. Explore energy replenishment options




The spoon theory was originally created by Christine Miserandino as a way of describing personal energy for people with invisible and chronic illnesses.  Christine has lupus which causes chronic fatigue, chronic pain and other symptoms that limit her energy and ability to do regular, everyday things.  In the show n

  • A person has roughly the same amount of energy each day.
  • Each unit of energy is represented by a spoon.
  • Healthy people have more spoons (energy) than those with an illness that causes chronic fatigue.
  • Some activities cost more spoons than others.
  • A person with a fatiguing chronic illness needs to make decisions about which activities to spend their limited number of spoons (energy) on -- the illness stops them doing many things they want to do.
  • The chronic illness means that if the person does too much in the morning, they will not have enough spoons left for the afternoon or evening.
  • The chronic illness may mean that a person can do something in the morning OR in the afternoon - but NOT both. They may seem inconsistent because their energy levels and number of spoons fluctuate.
  • A healthy person does not need to plan how to spend their spoons, because they do not have an illness that limits them





Have you ever considered how much energy it takes to do a task?  Specifically, have you quantified it?  In Lean Business processes we measure the hands on time to do a task, the duration to complete it, including the wait time, and some resource measures such as material cost or number of people.  It doesn’t include the personal energy required to do the task.

What if you added the number of spoons required to do the task?

If you’re a solopreneur, you may be the only one doing the tasks.  Your interpretation of how many spoons per task will be consistent.  The part that fluctuates is how many spoons of energy you have available for the day.

If you work with other people, the interpretation of the spoons will be different.

Let me start with a home example first.

Taking a shower.  For a person that does not have any physical, immune system issues, or mental challenge, a shower may only be 1 spoon.  In fact, it could give a spoon instead of taking one.  It might be energizing.

Now, let’s look at an example on the far other side of the spoon spectrum.  Someone that is disabled may not be able to take a shower on their own.  It may require 6 spoons for them to handle the physical and emotional pain.  Plus they need to borrow somebody else’s spoons to help them.  The helper may have to expend 4 spoons.  A shower is now 10 spoons.

Now let’s look at a work task.

I’m going to pick something that has a tech component, because that can cause a wide variety of spoon use.

An email newsletter.  An email newsletter is one option for business marketing.

How many spoons does it take to create and send an email newsletter?

Would you believe that some people would assign that only 1 spoon?

How many spoons would it take you?

If you are at the beginning phase of doing this task, it’s possible an email newsletter can feel like 10 spoons. I know it felt that way in the beginning of my business journey.  Here are some of the reasons it felt like 10 spoons.

1. Emotional triggers - Who will want to read this anyway?  I don’t know what to say? Who am I to say anything? 

2. Tech Overwhelm - I don’t know which email service to use.  Should I use a business email address?  I need to set up a business email address, do I do it through Google or my website platform? How do I make it look pretty?  How do I send it to everyone?  All of my email contacts are in different places.  I have personal & business emails mixed together. Am I being GDPR compliant? Have they really opted in to my newsletter? How do I keep it from going to their SPAM folder? Should I have a link to my calendar or offer?  Oh wait, I need to make sure my calendar is working.  Oh wait, I need to make sure my offer pages are working and look good.

3. Writing worries = How do I write this to sound professional, but still like myself?  What topic? Is this a topic they care about? How do I format this?  Do I include links?  What would I link to? What headline should I use so they’ll open it? Should I include pictures? What about Gifs?  Should I have an email signature line?  Do I make an offer?  Am I being too salesy?  How do I provide value?

With all of those questions and concerns, the emotional load gets really heavy.  Thoughts of additional tasks, and the spoons required for them, add to the overall spoon requirement of completing the 1 task of creating and sending an email newsletter.

How on earth could an email newsletter only take 1 spoon?

1. Feel confident, capable, and excited

2. All tech pieces, calendars, offers, webpages, and pretty email templates are in place.

3. Topic calendar already created, based on real customer obstacles.  Decision already made on what a standard newsletter looks like, including picture spots and link spots.  Collection of pictures or graphics ready to go.  Links already known.  Feeling inspired on the topic and the content pours out of you. You already routinely write using the same structure every time.


The difference between the 10 spoons and the 1 spoon is time and experience.

When you are doing a spoon evaluation of your business tasks, allow yourself extra spoons if it is a relatively new task or has known obstacles.

It’s better to overestimate the number of spoons for a task than to underestimate.

It may also be illuminating to use spoons to compare your business task options.  There is always more than 1 way to meet the intent of a process step in your business.  Since we were already talking about marketing, let’s consider it.

What is the intent of marketing?


Help potential clients:


  1. Know your business exists
  2. Know, like and trust yo
  3. Know what products/services you offer

What are all the different ways you can meet this intent?

Social media, email, text, in person, networking, printed material, podcasts, blogs, the list can go on.

Each of those will require a different number of spoons.

Even within each of those, there are very specific types. For example, social media can include:

Memes + copy

Static image + copy
Live video (i.e. FB Live)
Uploaded pre-recorded video



FB groups
Interacting with other people’s posts

Each of those tasks require a different number of spoons.  Depending on your experience, mindset, and tech abilities, your number of spoons may be different from another person’s number of spoons for the same activity.

When you breakdown all of your options, and assign spoons, you can make an informed decision based on your number of spoons available.

Recently, my Social Media coach shared that Reels were getting the best engagement results for Social Media.  My number of spoons to create my first Reel feels like an 8 right now.  If I choose to do Reels, I’m either going to do it on a day when I have 8 spoons available for it.  Or, I’m going to break it down into smaller process steps that take less spoons so I can spread it across different days.

There’s an infographic for the original Spoon Theory.  I added that into the show notes.  It shows Personal tasks and # of spoons.   I’m so tempted to create an infographic for Business Tasks. But, creating that will take me 3 spoons.  I need to use my 3 spoons on my other tasks right now.


Burnout is real, my friends.  It doesn’t matter if you are an employee or an entrepreneur.  If you use more spoons than what’s healthy, you will burnout.

If you overspend your spoons for 1 day, you’ll be drained.  You may be able to handle 1 day of being drained.  The next day you just have less spoons available.  That day, you may reduce the number of tasks to match your available spoons.  Or, you may choose to “recover” by only using half of your available spoons for the day.  That way you can donate spoons to the next day.

If you overspend your spoons for multiple days in a row, you’re headed for burnout.

Burnout is defined as - a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, sense of reduced accomplishment, and loss of personal identity.

The loss of personal identity is where you feel more like a robot or work machine, not a human being.

If you continue to overspend your spoons for a long stretch of time you risk serious health consequences.  I speak from experience.  I had a mini-stroke at age 28 after I worked 46 days straight.  Each of my workdays was 16-23 hours long.  Not only did I overspend my daily allotment of spoons, I didn’t allow enough time to replenish my spoons for the next day.

Let’s take a look at Daily Spoon Allotment.

Let’s say you have 12 spoons every morning.  In order to have the 12 spoons, you needed to have a full night sleep of at least 6-8 hours.  Specifically, this needs to be good quality sleep.  Not the tossing and turning, getting up 5x a night to pee or staring at the ceiling with insomnia.

What will cause you to wake with less than 12 spoons?

-Bad sleep

-New or chronic pain
-Emotional turmoil


You can add to this list.  The first part is being aware of what makes you personally wake up with less than 12 spoons.

Now let’s talk about Reserve Spoons.  How many spoons do you need to have at all times just to be functional?  Functional means you can still walk, talk, feed yourself, answer a knock at the door, etc.

My Reserve # of Spoons is 3.  I can be functional, in a healthy way, as long as I have 3 spoons left at the end of the day.

Can I function on 2?  Yes, but, it’s impaired.

Can I function on 1?  Barely.  Here’s what it looks like - me sitting on the couch, it’s bedtime, and I’m just staring at the clock.  I’m thinking, “I need to go to bed, but I can’t move”.  I start thinking about everything I have to do before going to bed.  I have to let the dogs out for their final potty break for the night.  I have to check the locks on all the doors, I have to blow out our scented candles, turn off the lights, go to the bathroom one last time, set my alarm, and if I really wanted to take good care of myself, I’d remove my makeup and brush my teeth.

Those are a lot of tasks.  They all take more than 1 spoon.  In fact, they take about 2.5 spoons.

So how do you make sure you don’t burnout?

1. Set your number of Reserve Spoons.
2. Note your # of available Spoons for the day.
3. Budget your spoons to fit the day.


So, what if you realize that you have less spoons than what is needed to run your business?  As business owners, we need to make sure our business is sustainable.  Both from an energy standpoint and a financial standpoint.

If you set up your routine tasks to use more spoons than your supply, you may be financially sustainable, but not energetically sustainable.

Your number of spoons will fluctuate day by day for any given 30 day period.  It may be a good idea to plan based on your average low number of spoons.

As I mentioned before, there are always multiple ways to meet the intent of your tasks.

The best thing you can do is ask yourself

1. What is the intent of this process step?

2. How can I meet this intent in an easier/faster way that uses less spoons?

Google search is always a way to find options.  There may be innovative solutions you didn’t even realize existed.

For example -

1. Use Canva “Magic Write” to create 20+ social media posts in less than 10 minutes.  “Magic Write” is an Artificial Intelligence feature.  You can type in a phrase such as “20 ways to get more productive at work”.  It will come up with a numbered list of 20 things.  Each list is written as a sentence.  Then you select a pretty template to use over and over again.  Those 20 sentences can get auto populated into those templates by using the Canva App “Bulk Create”.  I learned this recently from someone on Instagram.  Her handle is the.creative.bodega.  I’ll include the link to her video for this specific tip in the show notes.

Now if you created each of those posts manually, it could take 10+ minutes each.  Part of that is fretting over what to write.  What if AI could do it for you AND it was in alignment with your voice?

2. ChatGPT is another hot A.I. trend.  I’ve heard many people are using it to write full blog posts and podcast episodes.  I haven’t tried it yet, but, I’m curious.  Jasper is another app that also does this.


  1. Lead Generation websites.  If marketing takes too many spoons, what if you allowed someone else to do it for you?  There are websites such as Bark.com that do all of the marketing.  You add yourself as a professional.  They present you with leads that have searched for your type of service.  You review the list and decide which ones to follow up with.  The catch is that you have to pay for being connected with your chosen leads.  It’s a trade off.  How many spoons would it take you to generate your own qualified lead vs. how much are you willing to pay for someone else to drop a lead in your lap.  Of course, a lead is just a lead, not an official customer.  You still have to do your sales process yourself.

    4. What is Sales took too many spoons?  Can you do this differently?  Yes.  There are services out there that will do your sales for you.  I don’t have any links for you on this one.  I prefer to do all of my sales myself.  However, I know there are services out there that will do this.  Typically, they get paid by a percentage of your sales price.  If they don’t make sales, they don’t get paid.  I know many of us cringe to give 3% of our sales price to our payment processors like Stripe and Paypal.  You’d have to give an additional percentage to the sales company. But, if it preserves your spoons, it may be worth it.  And, if you struggle to close sales with your leads, this may be a good option.  It’s better to have 70% of your sales price than to have no sales at all.

    5. Calendar automation.  When I talk to entrepreneurs about overwhelm, scheduling all of their consultations and client meetings ranks high on the list.  Scheduling and scheduling takes spoons.  Especially when you are dealing with different time zones.  That’s why I love apps like Calendly and Acquity.  They can be integrated with your Google Calendar to do all of the scheduling on your behalf.  There’s a small investment of time to set it up, and an annual fee, but it’s worth it.  Leads and clients can schedule and reschedule appointments on their own.

    6. Running webinars may also take too many spoons.  What if the webinars ran without you being there?  I recently experimented with Easy Webinar. Again, it took some up front work, but then everything ran on autopilot, including directly viewers to the Sales pages.  All of the emails can be pre-written and scheduled in your email platform.  I love my Kajabi website because it has all of the emails and scheduling in one place.  I’m also looking into Deadline Funnel software.  It has the potential to automate everything.  After the initial setup, the business owner can sit back, and just show up once a client has paid and is ready for services.


  1. What if you just want to hire people to do it for you?  Of course that is always an option.  I recently met Stephen Larmer.  He and his wife run a copy that offer Done for You services include branding websites, funnels and copy.  Even better, they have very quick turn around times by offering services in full day intensives. Proxy VA is another company that does done for you services.  You have to know exactly what you want. That’s where having a project plan or social media plan ahead of time will help you.  Sneakers + Kale is a full service Social Marketing agency that does strategy all the way through execution.  I’ll include all of these links in the shownotes.

The key take away here is that there are always options.  You can conserve your spoons by doing things easier.  Or leveraging other services to help you.

One last tip here before I move on -  Evaluate how many processes you are using to meet 1 intent.  It’s possible you are doing 5+ separate tasks to meet 1 intent.  That may be 5x the number of spoons necessary.  You only need 1 really good process to meet the intent.


Did you know you can replenish your spoon supply during the day?  Yep.  Your replenishment is not limited to overnight time.

Each person will have their own way of replenishing spoons.  What works for one person may not work for you.  And vice versa.

Some things that help me replenish spoons:

1.  Putting on Norah Jones music and lighting a scented candle while I get ready in the morning.  Instead of a rushed, spoon depleting experience, I create a nourishing, calm spoon replenishing experience.

2.  Healthy drinks such as Naked Juice.  I love the Blue Machine version.  It has B6 & B12 which help my mood and energy.  Yes, there is a caloric factor.  However, I weigh the importance of that to giving me a spoon or two back.

3. Taking a nap.  I know this isn’t always feasible.  And you have to let go of self judgment about taking a nap.  Honestly, it is self love.  You know you need more spoons to do everything you want that day.  It’s better to gain some spoons, so you can get up and do your tasks efficiently, then to drain the spoons you have and take longer to get stuff done.

4. Mindset flip.  I experimented with this recently.  I was viewing a personal activity as spoon draining.  I asked myself “how can I view this as spoon replenishing?”.  Honestly, I didn’t know if it was possible.  I had to ask myself the question several times.  Then I found a thought that worked.  Who knew a mindset flip could do that?  Same activity.  Yet now it was giving me spoons.

What are things you can do to replenish your spoons during the day?



In today’s episode we went over:

      1.  What the Spoon Theory is

  1. How to Adapt the Spoon Theory to specific Business Activities
  2. How to prevent burnout by setting your Reserve Spoon number
  1. Explored spoon options for business
  2. Explored spoon replenishment options

Remember, my friends, your mental health is more important than anything.  If you don’t take care of your mental health, your business won’t matter.

Have a great week.  I’ll talk with you soon.  Bye bye.


Thank you for listening to My Freedom Grove Podcast. When you are ready to make your dream business a reality and take care of your mental health, I invite you to join the Unshakable Business Co-Lab. This is the mastermind membership you've been waiting for. There's no limits on your imagination, nor your timeline. We're with you every step of the way. To learn more, please visit www.myfreedomgrove.com/join. I'll see you there!

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