How do you avoid entrepreneurial burnout?
Your energy, motivation, creativity, productivity, everything “burns out” and you are left empty and dry.
Burnout Urban Dictionary
According to the Urban dictionary, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”
It’s like a generator that runs out of fuel.
I’m sure you get the picture.
My first experience with Entrepreneur Burnout
When I first experienced burnout, I compromised on most self-care habits:
- Crappy diet, plus bingeing on energy drinks for refuel
- Poor Hydration habit
- Working to impress others
- Zero Ergonomics at work
- Excessive screen time
- Zero social life
- Resorted to toxic habits like porn to take a break.
I was 20, in my sophomore year in College also known as first professional year. I worked my ass off and “wanted” to Ace my results badly.
So I started developing unique strategies to make my studies a priority. My goal was simply to “make work play.” I was typing every single note of mine, making presentations and illustrations out of them.
I even had plans to resell the notes to my course mates (who were too busy to be interested) and Lecturers (I was too shy to even try).
Shit started to hit the fan
My neck was aching. What started as a dulling pain increased to intense pain? I also started experiencing all sorts of allergies. I had lost all joy from my studies I had seen as work. My energy was slipping faster than my grades.
The Burnout was real. This was my first experience with burnout; so I did some self-reflection and started asking myself:
- Why the fuck was I putting in all this effort?
- How could I become myself, regain energy and be happy again?
- Why did I choose to isolate myself from others who had the same goals with me?
- Who was I trying to look “big” for? (I had just started lifting weights for the first time in my life)
- What pain was I running from and using work and extreme hobbies to fill?
It could have been just another event that got unnoticed. But coincidentally it was the same year I started learning about “self-improvement” and developing my body.
Work as Escape mechanism
If you don’t have control over your working hours, chances are you use work as a distraction or as a way to handle your emotional needs. It’s your coping mechanism.
Other people may use binge eating, excessive exercising and you use work. It doesn’t have to be like this. If this does resonate with you, start by asking yourself some questions and journaling just like I did:
- What are you avoiding or need a distraction from?
- How can you introduce boundary with work?
- What steps can you take to schedule some downtime?
- What are your hobbies? What do you like to do aside from work?
- How can you be more productive without being “busy” all day?
What causes an Entrepreneur to burnout?
Burnout is a result of stress. It can either be from work, school, home, or anywhere.
The following factors can cause stress and lead to burnout.
1. Working long hours:
When you constantly work for long hours every day, without breaks, until you are exhausted, it could lead to burnout.
2. Huge workload:
This relates to number one. When you are overwhelmed with a lot of work, it leads to a lot of stress and then a potential burnout.
3. Loss of Control:
We love to be in control of our lives even when in reality, we’re not. Some things are beyond our control.
But there are times when we lose the illusion of control and it feels like our lives are on a spiral and nothing seems right.
We tend to be stressed and downcast, leading to burnout.
4. Lack of Social Interaction.
No man is an island.
And though some people need less social interaction than others, everyone needs a social network that can act as a stress relief.
Lack of social interaction can cause feelings of loneliness to develop.
When someone feels like they are alone in this world, it can lead to depression and anxiety, and ultimately, burnout.
5. Pressure to meet up to desired expectations.
We all have expectations to live up to. Both from ourselves and the people around us.
But when the pressure to meet those expectations becomes too high, it can lead to burnout.
6. Failure to meet up to desired expectations.
Failure of any kind is a stressful situation for most people.
It comes with a feeling of inadequacy and a drop in self-esteem.
Some people even become depressed and unable to do anything else. It can lead to burnout.
In summary, Burnout occurs when one is overstressed and overwhelmed.
It’s our body telling us that we need to rest.
Signs of Entrepreneur burnout
Seeing the effects of burnout, how do you spot one coming?
- Loss of motivation/Dreading to wake up each day
- Feeling empty and mentally exhausted
- Fatigue/feeling physically exhausted in the morning already
- Behavioural changes e.g giving your family the worst of you
- Loss of creativity
- Feeling overwhelmed and angry
Loss of Motivation:
When you realize you’ve lost the motivation to do something you have always loved to do. Know that you are heading towards burnout.
With burnout on the way, your behavior starts to change.
For example, you love interacting with your colleagues at work. You smile and are always polite.
But now, you find yourself not wanting to talk to anyone. You are always irritable and angry. You also criticize a lot.
These are signs that you are experiencing burnout.
When you are always tired, even when you haven’t done any or much work it points to you having a burnout.
Loss of Creativity.
This applies to people whose job requires creativity.
When you find out that you are suddenly lacking creativity for your job, it tells you that burnout is near.
There are many other signs, some may be peculiar to you. That is why you need to observe and take note of the things that happen to you when you are stressed out and tired.
- Start to procrastinate.
- Become lazy.
- Eat too much or nothing at all.
- Sleep too much.
- Sleep too little.
- Overindulge in a particular addiction. E.t.c
It doesn’t matter what the signs are. What matters is that when you see it, you take measures against it.
How to avoid burnout as an Entrepreneur? 9 steps to prevent burnout
Burnout is a message from your body that you should REST.
Rest for some time. Take your mind off that thing causing you stress and focus on regaining your strength mentally, physically, and spiritually.
But why wait until you are in the burnout phase before you do something?
You can prevent it from happening. After all, prevention is always better than cure.
Here are a few tips you can incorporate to prevent burnout as an Entrepreneur
1. Take care of your physical body.
Self-care is crucial to preventing and managing feelings of burnout. A lot of work we do in this generation is indeed mental. That doesn’t mean you should neglect your physical body.
To avoid burnout as an Entrepreneur, you must ensure that you;
- Eat good food.
- Drink enough water and
- Exercise regularly
- Make time to switch off
- Spend time with yourself
- Get enough sleep.
2. Take care of your mental health
- Prioritize taking time out for yourself
- Map out time for yourself to recharge and feel rejuvenated.
- Avoiding Comparison: Unnecessary comparison is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety among people today.
- Minimize things and people that make you unhappy. If it endangers your mental health, it’s too expensive.
3. Find a balance between your work and personal life
I believe this is different for everyone and can change at any point.
But key is to avoid extremes. Don’t overwork to the detriment of your personal and social life.
And not allowing your goals to suffer because you want to enjoy life is also important.
Strike a balance.
Work and play.
This means making sure you have time for both work and play. It’s important to find activities that help you relax and de-stress.
And do not allow your career to suffer because you want to enjoy life.
Strike a balance.
Balance also involves FOCUS and having boundaries.
It’s also important to set boundaries between work and home life. When you’re at work, try to focus on work tasks and leave personal matters at home. Likewise, when you’re at home, try to relax and enjoy your time off from work.
Trying to be everything to everyone will lead to burnout.
Focus on your specific why and way of helping others and say no to the rest.
4. Plan your work and schedule break intervals
Create a habit of organizing your tomorrow’s activities/goals in order to start the day already with a direction, focus, and a plan to follow. The more you have a plan, the less you step out of track and head to burnout.
On planning for high-performance, here’s a take from my Coach friend Michael Yeung:
Identify & solve the right problems and right understanding of your market
One of the best ways to waste time is to identify the wrong problems and solve it with the wrong solutions.
Most people feel they’re inconsistent because they lack motivation or discipline, while the real problem is them not having the right habits to maintain high performance, and not having a structured schedule to stay consistent with.
Resulting in them trying to solve their inconsistency by binge-watching motivational videos or grinding out long workdays using willpower…
… leading to them falling off the burnout cliff. ❌
Most people feel their business isn’t growing because they lack the right marketing tactic, while the real problem is them not having a deep understanding of their target market, and not having the ability to articulate how their offer provides a solution.
Resulting in them staying stuck in an endless loop trying to hunt down the next shiny object and end up with an overcomplicated business…
… leading to unnecessary long work hours, compromised profit margins, and low revenue numbers.
Take a break
If you’re already starting to feel burnt out, one of the best things you can do is take a break.
This could be a mental health day, a vacation, or even just a long weekend.
5. Surround yourself with inspiration
Do you have activities that get you inspired?
Include Something Interesting in Your Routine
Reach out to friends who can lift you up. Talk things through.👍
Listen to some soothing music.
No man is an island.
Find friends that support you.
Network with like-minds.
When you are down, they’ll be there for you.
And when you are at the peak of your success, they’ll be there, celebrating you.
It can take some time but be deliberate about this.
Iron sharpens iron.
7. Build a Great team
Countless times we see Entrepreneurs scale to multiple 7 figures then lose themselves to burnout.
With a great team, you learn to delegate task, empower others and have faith in them.
If you believe you can build a business by yourself, you will constantly be frustrated when you cannot elevate your business.
All great businesses are built with a great team of people and not by the greatness of one person.
8. Find a Coach or Mentor
With a coach, you learn to listen to the advice of others who have more experience than you.
The guidance of others can shorten your learning curve, decrease stress and bring you towards success.
A coach would also help you find a clear system that creates the opportunity for the right clients to raise their hands and make their problems known so you can solve them!
9. Identify your Warning signs
Knowing your personal warning signs for burnout can help you avoid it altogether.
It can include things like decreased productivity, missing deadlines, difficulty concentrating, and more.
Its in this moment, you can recognize when you start stress eating, overworking, under-exercising or over-exercising etc as a coping mechanism.
Why do you need to watch out for burnout as an Entrepreneur?
Burnout has far-reaching consequences. That is why you need to watch out for it and avoid it.
Burnout can lead to?
- Reduced productivity.
- Insomnia and irritability.
- Strained relationships.
- Hypertension and heart-related problems.
- Poor health and illness.
- Substance Abuse.
Entrepreneurial Burnout can be debilitating if you don’t handle it right.
It can mean the end of your goals and dreams. That is why you need to pay attention to the signs and avoid them.
Don’t neglect your health in pursuit of wealth. Because you might end up using that wealth to buy new health– which may not be possible.