“Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.” – Elon Musk
When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s always more to do and never enough time to do it. While some days it may feel like pursuing your vision gives you unlimited energy, wearing multiple hats, not creating a strong work/life balance, and dealing with high levels of stress can eventually take their toll. Before you realize it, you’re burnt out and not performing at your best.
It might start small with a lack of motivation, flagging inspiration, or frequent frustration over minor concerns. However, if you don’t nip it in the bud, it can wreak havoc on all aspects of your life. Burnout can change sleep patterns, affect personal and professional relationships, and even cause major depression. In fact, a 2015 survey of 242 entrepreneurs discovered that 30 percent have lifetime issues with depression, which is significantly higher than comparison groups.
To keep your entrepreneurial life the rich, rewarding and satisfying experience that it should be, here are some strategies for avoiding — or at least mitigating — burnout before it takes a hold of your life.
Identify what’s causing burnout (and then eliminate it)
When you think about it, being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a professional one. Chances are, over time you’ve fallen into daily habits both at work and at home that have cumulatively created your burnout. To take back control, don’t underestimate the power of strategizing a solution. Every day, make a list of what you do, how much time you’re spending on those tasks, and how you feel when you’re doing each one.
During this assessment period, pay attention to daily patterns in your life outside of the office, too. Do you have boundaries when it comes to answering work-related calls and responding to emails? Are you working evenings and weekends? After a few weeks, review your notes to identify patterns. You might learn you’re completing tasks that could easily be delegated to staff or even automated with software. Ultimately, your goal should be to set firm boundaries, commit to them, and make them known to everyone around you.
Reconnect with your vision
When you’re in the midst of burnout, it can be difficult to remember why you’re doing this all in the first place. However, being able to remember your original motivations and goals can help you overcome the inevitable difficult periods of entrepreneurship. Your vision is the fuel that keeps you moving forward on your journey.
Did you become an entrepreneur because you like making your own hours? Then start taking advantage of this perk by increasing the flexibility in your schedule or ditching the commute some days. Perhaps you wanted to start your own business so that you could give more back to the local community. Then determine what that looks like. Do you want to offer internships, mentor local kids, or sponsor events for local charities? The sky’s the limit, so start dreaming and making your vision a reality.
Practice good self-care
Everyone knows that chronic high levels of stress aren’t good for your body, mind, and soul. Fortunately, there are dozens of healthy lifestyle choices that can mitigate stress. Eating a healthier diet and getting a full night’s sleep can both ensure you have energy throughout the day. Enjoying regular physical exercise helps mitigate both short-term and long-term stress by releasing endorphins for a natural high and lowering your blood pressure.
For most entrepreneurs, their biggest problem is finding time to prepare nourishing meals and taking care of themselves. If you find that revamping your daily lifestyle is initially too much to manage, start small by integrating habits that don’t require much effort. Think about scheduling a regular massage, reflexology, or acupuncture appointment to focus your attention back on your body. Meal delivery services like Blue Apron can help by delivering all the ingredients to make healthy, home-cooked dinners, as well.
Take quality time off and keep consistent hours
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs get so focused on their goals that they end up living a life that’s all work and no play. It’s understandable — when you’re passionate about what you do, it’s difficult to stop. However, not taking breaks or maintaining a healthy work/life balance depletes your reserves in the long run. Pretty soon, you find burnout has set in and you don’t want to work at all.
Recharging your batteries with a vacation or a long weekend isn’t an indulgence, it’s a key to your survival. Ditto for keeping a regular schedule. Life is bigger than any business you can build. It’s important to enjoy it. When you do, you’ll return to work reenergized and with a clearer head that’s ready to tackle your biggest problems with creative solutions.