Why Entrepreneurial Burnout Is a Real Concern and How to Prevent It
Learn how to avoid entrepreneurial burnout before it's too late
As an entrepreneur, there are countless obstacles and challenges you'll face along the path to profitability.
You have to keep an eye on the competition to avoid any surprises, monitor your sales and growth to keep your business in solid operating condition, and manage your team actively to keep everyone on the same page, just to name a few.
But there’s one major problem that most entrepreneurs don’t see coming, because they’re so busy worrying about everybody and everything else, they forget to worry about themselves.
Burnout is a real, major concern for entrepreneurs, and it could compromise everything you’ve worked for.
4 Effects of Entrepreneurial Burnout
Most entrepreneurs have a natural tenacity that forces them to work through problems; on one hand, it’s beneficial, because it allows them to keep moving despite the (many) obstacles that come their way, but it also forces them to underestimate their own resilience.
Dealing with stressful problems for too long, or in unhealthy ways can sap you of your motivation and energy, culminating in the following measurable effects:
- Decreased energy. You’ll come to work with less energy, which means you won’t work as effectively, and you’ll decrease the morale of your team. This has a compounding and ever-worsening effect; as you’re less productive, you’ll spend more hours working, which in turn leads to deeper effects of burnout.
- Poor decision-making. Partially because you’ll become disassociated with your business and partially because you’ll be thinking less clearly, you’ll tend to make poorer decisions for your startup. That means less long-term potential and more immediate problems to solve when your solutions don’t pan out as you’ve envisioned.
- Loss of enjoyment. Don’t forget that part of the reason you became an entrepreneur was so that you could enjoy the benefits of controlling your own schedule. If you stress yourself out too much, you’ll stop enjoying the experience altogether, negating one of your biggest initial motivations.
- Physical symptoms. Don’t underestimate the physical effects that excess stress can have on your body. Your immune system will weaken, leaving you more susceptible to illnesses, you’ll feel achy and tire more easily, and you might even develop stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure or ulcers.
5 Early Signs of Entrepreneurial Burnout
There’s no easy way to prevent burnout entirely, but you can acknowledge it when it starts developing and attempt to nip it in the bud. These are some of the earliest warning signs of burnout you’ll notice, regardless of whether you consciously acknowledge the effects of your own stress:
- You dread coming to the office. You don’t have to be thrilled to jump out of bed every morning, but if you wake up dreading the idea of going to the office or beginning work, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. Every once in a while isn’t a big deal, but if you find this dread consistently, something needs to change and you're probably in a creative burnout too.
- You feel tired or stressed much more easily. Think about how irritable you are, or how much it takes to make you feel “stressed.” The faster your body (and mind) escalate these scenarios, the closer to burnout you probably are. Over time, you become much more sensitive to stressful events.
- You aren’t taking much personal time. Think about the last time you took a “real” day off from the office, or the last vacation you took. You may feel like you can live without these personal days, but vacation is important to your overall productivity and mental health.
- Your lifestyle habits are changing in a negative way. Take a look at some of your lifestyle habits. Are you eating more unhealthy foods? Have you stopped exercising? Have you taken up an abusive habit, such as drinking excessively or smoking? These are signs that you’re hoping for something significant in an unhealthy way.
- Your friends or family have expressed concern. Your friends and family are there to support you, and if they’re expressing honest concern, you need to listen to them. Since you’re likely engrossed in your own startup, they’ll likely spot the signs of burnout in you before you can.
4 Things You Can Do to Stop Entrepreneurial Burnout Now
If you notice yourself starting to burn out before it starts to compromise your work performance, there’s still time to take action:
- Take time off. Take a personal day, or a personal week, to get yourself back in prime mental condition, and don’t kid yourself by taking a personal day and still checking your email—fully separate from the office. Work will be there when you get back.
- Delegate more responsibilities. If your workload is too excessive, start delegating tasks to your team members. You hired them because you trust them, so let them help you when you need them most.
- Say no. You’re in charge here. Just say no to responsibilities and/or tasks that are too much to handle. Giving yourself the space to create your best work, is more about effectiveness than efficiency. Choose to pursue the opportunities that are going to move you closer to your bigger picture goals, rather than just busying yourself with work that takes up time without advancing your cause.
- De-stress. Make time for exercise, mindfulness meditation, and other opportunities to relieve stress.
It doesn’t take a lot to prevent entrepreneurial burnout—just a bit of acknowledgment and proactive treatment can keep this productivity killer at bay. No matter how important your startup seems, or how much you believe in it, your health has to come first.