Burnout: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, you probably don't need the dictionary definition of the word; it's a reality you're all too familiar with. Starting a business -- and keeping it operational -- is no small feat. Elon Musk describes it as "eating glass and staring into the abyss. If you go into expecting that it's going to be just fun, you're going to be disappointed. It's not. It's quite painful."
So, why do people do it? What makes entrepreneurs take the long, hard path with no shortcuts and no guaranteed success? Why the hell would someone choose to take "the road less traveled" when there are plenty of other safer, less tumultuous options out there? I know Robert Frost claimed it made all the difference, but to what end?
Because you want something more. Because you don't want to settle. Because you're crazy enough to believe that if you want something bad enough, you can get it.
And so you get it -- and do what so many other people cannot. (We raise a glass.) But there is a price to pay, and often the cost is your own health and wellbeing. That doesn't have to be your story.
Like most things in life, it's all about balance. You don't need to sacrifice your goals -- or yourself. You can have yourself a big 'ole slice of chocolate cake and eat it, too. (Maybe with a nice glass of red?) To help you achieve that balance, here are some of our favorite tips to avoid entrepreneur burnout.
Stop treating delegation as a dirty word. The old "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" attitude isn't going to win you any trophies for the mantle. If you're still in one-person operation mode, consider outsourcing some of your work and get your time back. Don't believe us? We wrote a whole post about it here. It can still be done right if you find the right person for the job. (John Jonas, the founder of OnlineJobs.ph, is the subject expert. Listen to him on The Liquid Lunch Project podcast, or check out the video on our YouTube channel.)
You don't need to start training for the New York City Marathon or anything, but doing just 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity every day can significantly improve your mood, give you more energy, help you sleep better, and combat anxiety and depression. (Yes, even that kind of physical activity.) Did you know that 7% of the general population suffers from depression, but 30% of entrepreneurs do? That right there is enough reason to lace up the tennis shoes and get moving.
IT Lesson 101: If something isn't working, try unplugging it for a few minutes. The same goes for people. Humans are tied to technology like never before, and if you're running a business, you're probably connected to it more than most. (Except for those professional gamers, but that's a whole other level.) We were not created to live hunched over glowing blue screens or consuming and processing an impossible amount of information coming from all corners of the globe. Put the phone down. Step away from the computer screen. Turn off your notifications for a while. Keep Saturday's social media free. Whatever you need to do to unplug yourself on a regular basis, do it.
Set Office Hours
It's easy to fall into an (unhealthy) rhythm of working around the clock. Businesses and enterprises just starting out certainly need more attention, but the 24/7 grind isn't a sustainable lifestyle. Maybe you don't actually need to be in problem-solving mode all the time or immediately respond to every email, message, or phone call. Perish the thought! (But it's true.) Boundaries are a good thing -- give it a try sometime. Create your own office hours (you're the boss, after all) and work when it's time to work. And when the proverbial whistle blows, slide down the dinosaur back ala Fred Flintstone style and call it a day. The routine and the break will be yabba-dabba-good.
Some days it feels like everything is on fire, no? But the truth is -- it probably isn't. It just feels that way because you're looking at all your projects and to-dos as one enormous task you have to tackle. Before you jump feet-first into problem-solving mode, take five or ten minutes and write down everything you need to do in the next eight or so hours. (Ditch the Notes App and go old school with paper and pen. It's proven to keep you more engaged and helps with memory.) Then give the list a good once over like your Tim Gunn on Project Runway. Underline what's important. Highlight what's urgent. If a task is BOTH, those are your number one priorities. The things that are either underlined OR highlighted are priority number two. And anything on your list that's not gotten any lovin' can wait at the bottom of the totem pole (or be *cough cough* outsourced or delegated). Suddenly your big flaming mess of a day doesn't seem so unmanageable, eh? Like Tim says, make it work.
Avoiding entrepreneur burnout is all about setting healthy boundaries, learning to prioritize self-care, and managing the expectations you put on yourself. For those who want it bad enough, the sky really is the limit -- but you'll never get there if you're working yourself into an early grave.
For some added inspiration on creating structure in your life, check out our conversation with Mike Claudio of WinRate Consulting. Listen or watch here.