What is Entrepreneurial Burnout?
Owning and operating your own business is a highly rewarding experience. As an entrepreneur, the success of business lies solely on you and that means shouldering a lot of responsibility on a daily basis. Wearing so many hats as an entrepreneur can quickly lead to "entrepreneurial burnout." As the name suggests, it's a scenario where the business owner simply can't manage all the day to day tasks involved with running a small to medium sized business and they lose the passion and drive for making their business a success. Passion gives way to stress drive gives way to frustration. So how do small to medium-sized business owners avoid this fate?
The key is being aware of the symptoms. When you suspect burnout creeping in, you can take action and avoid fatigue, depression, insomnia, reduced productivity, and a wide range of health issues, all of which are the result of burnout, according to MayoClinic.org.
Consider whether you’re experiencing any of the signs below and use the accompanying tips to stop it before you start dealing with the consequences, or worse, throw in the towel altogether.
1. Where there once was interest or passion, now there’s frustration.
One of the most obvious signs that you need to step back is feeling detachment from work that used to bring you purpose and vitality. When the driving force of an initiative is passion, you’re able to grind tirelessly until you see it to fruition. If you continue at this full-throttle speed, without reserving time for yourself apart from the business, however, that initial excitement will soon turn into resentment.
**Beat the Burnout **
When you’re frustrated with the expectations and responsibilities, it’s common to lose sight of the original “why” behind owning a business. When you feel your passion waning, get back to the reason you started in the first place.
“If you became an entrepreneur for the flexible schedule, take a few days to experiment with your hours and experience the luxury of an open schedule. If you became an entrepreneur because you wanted to make your own decisions, make small yet significant decisions you wouldn’t be able to make elsewhere—such as redecorating your office or letting everyone go home early,” points out Jayson DeMers, founder of the SEO agency AudienceBloom.
Even a small change in perspective can help you find that passion again.
2. You keep putting off the same tasks off for days at a time.
Procrastination is another clear symptom that you’re losing the impetus and resolve to keep the pace of your current workload. The sense of apathy, and oftentimes anxiety, that you feel can result in overlooked and incomplete work. Left in a heaping pile on your desk — or your overflowing inbox — you no longer have the drive to finish them.
While the urge to procrastinate strikes everyone at one point or another, when it becomes a habit, it becomes the enemy of progress, and a clear sign you’re on the road to burnout.
Beat the Burnout
Whether you feel uninspired or find it a challenge to take pride in your work, this is a warning to adjust your priorities and focus on just one project for the time being. A simple method to help with this is the Pomodoro Technique:
“You set a timer for 25 minutes and work without interruption on just one task. After the 25 minutes are up, you take a break for five minutes to recharge your batteries. This break might simply be a walk over to the water cooler and back. Repeat the timer process if a task requires more than 25 minutes to complete,” according to the guide, Use Your Smartphone to Be More Productive.
Make this a habit and see if the feelings of burnout subside and more work gets done.
3. You’re abnormally forgetful.
Most people are familiar with the irritation of misplacing their keys, wallet or phone, but when this memory loss interferes with basic operations of the business, it’s cause for concern. Forgetfulness could end in late invoicing (which leads to angry customers) or missing a video conference you scheduled two weeks ago.
Forgetfulness can be a product of adrenal fatigue, which results from the excess stimulation of “hormones that fuel high-energy behavior,” suggests Dr. Jesse Lynn Hanley, co-author of the book Tired of Being Tired.
As these hormones accelerate, you often feel a mental high, which means you’re “compensating for exhaustion with adrenaline,” explains Dr. Hanley. However, those energy reserves plateau, your cognitive function suffers, and remembering important details will seem tougher than usual.
Beat the Burnout
When these lapses in memory happen, the issue is obvious — your agenda has been overloaded, and commitments are slipping through the cracks. You may not be outsourcing work to freelancers or consultants because of a small budget, but with the gig economy growing more and more popular, it’s easier than ever to find help for cheap.
Check out sites like UpWork or Fiverr — you can even use a service like TaskRabbit to handle small things like bringing packages to the post office or taking your suits to the dry cleaner. The less tasks the better, so consider your options and start off-loading.
4. You're constantly tired, even after a full night of rest.
Occasional exhaustion is part of being a human in this fast-paced world, but chronic exhaustion is an unhealthy pattern that will affect both your mental and physical capacities. If your mind is churning all the time with restless thoughts on upcoming presentations, client meetings, travel obligations, marketing campaigns, quarterly revenue targets and other pressing business matters, all this built-up tension will drain your momentum. Elena Carstoiu, Co-Founder and COO of Hubgets, can attest to this:
“My mind was always focused on the business. Even when I wasn’t working, I was constantly ruminating over milestones and decisions, employees and processes. Unsurprisingly, my inability to completely disconnect eventually got to me. There were times when I was constantly tired, even after a good night’s rest. As such, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that endurance is key. Building a company is like running a marathon, not a high-speed race.”
Beat the Burnout
The success of a business is contingent on the owner’s ability to function, so find opportunities to take a break—even just for an hour: “Whenever I feel my energy plummeting, I know it’s time to take a break, even if that just means watching a movie. The simple act of not thinking about work is re-energizing,” adds Solomon Thimothy, CEO of OneIMS and Clickx.
5. You can't shake the nagging feeling that you're never doing enough.
Doubting your level of competence will undermine your confidence as a business owner, making you a passive and indecisive leader. When you question or berate your own performance, it will, in fact, suffer which sets the entire business up for failure. The danger of thinking your success depends on a constant surge of motion is that you’ll never feel effective—no matter how many hours are spent in the office.
The concept of “enough can be a crippling thought process because, at a certain point, there’s no such thing as ‘enough.’ There’s just the chasm between ‘where I am’ and ‘where I want to be’ or ‘where I feel like I should be,’” enumerates Justin Kownacki, a marketing consultant and media producer for startups and nonprofit organizations.
Beat the Burnout
Instead of chasing the benchmark of “enough,” strive for a workflow balance. Kownacki suggests this formula—three projects each day for current clients, one business development task for increasing your bandwidth, one personal chore unrelated to your career growth, and one creative outlet to help the brain unwind and access its self-expression.
Don’t Let Burnout Wreak Havoc on Your Business
A sustainable and successful company depends on the well-being of its owner, so be mindful of the warning signs associated with burnout and take care of yourself to avoid experiencing them in the first place. Find ways to restore your energy and motivation when you feel burdened with the demands of entrepreneurship, and keep in mind there’s a reason you chose this career path—it might seem difficult at times, but it’s worthwhile if you can find ways to manage the madness.
Have any advice for beating burnout? Let us know in the comments.