Avoiding Startup Burnout

It’s no news to anyone that startup businesses and entrepreneurship are hard work. From pitching investors to the stress of having enough people to get the work done without putting a strain on the finances, it’s no surprise that getting your own business off the ground is a stressful proposition. With the amount of hard work that is needed, the pressure to succeed, and the self-imposed ideas of perfection, burnout and exhaustion from overwork can happen before you know it.

The Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship completed a study about Entrepreneurial burnout, and a quick search of the blog-publishing platform Medium suggests that many, many people have struggled with this exact thing. The study found that burnout has a negative impact on organizational commitment, satisfaction, and perceived performance.  

Mashable has posted an article on preventing business burnout. Below are some of their tips, interspersed with  a bit more advice of my own, to help combat this situation:

  1. Self awareness is key. The nature of the startup experience and entrepreneurship is stressful and constant, and uncontrolled stress is not healthy for the boss or for the company. Be diligent in watching yourself for the telltale signs of exhaustion – both emotional and physical – feelings of depersonalization, or a feeling of reduced personal accomplishment. Start out with the knowledge that you cannot be the keystone without whom the bridge would collapse, because you are building yourself into a company that will not survive your taking time out for personal care. When you notice signs of burnout happening, make sure you take some time for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes. Monitor yourself closely to better monitor the health of your organization.
  2. Learn to prioritize. There will always be more work than there is time available. When you are just starting out and every resource is scarce, you have to make sure that what you focus on is the most important thing. You’re going to want to take every opportunity to build the business that comes your way, from networking to advertising, but at some point the opportunities aren’t as important as accomplishing the things that matter.
  3. Workaholics aren’t heroes. You can’t save the day if you end up burning through all your waking hours. The key is finding ways to work smarter. Don’t be afraid of letting an email wait until tomorrow’s fresh eyes. The phone calls can be scheduled for work hours and the phone put away at the end of a work day. Minimize meetings and stick to a schedule to keep them on track, because they can eat away at your time quickly. Keep a schedule and adhere to it. Block out time for putting out fires, because they do happen.
  4. Focus on what you do best. Multitasking is the name of the game when finances are tight and margins are nonexistent, but grinding out the work that you hate will encourage burnout and make you dread your morning alarm. As quickly as you can manage handing off tasks, start with the ones that bore you or aren’t your strong suit.
  5. Connect with others. Working from home, or in a small office shared with two co-founders leads to isolation. You can start to feel alone and  not understood. Also, there are things that no one can understand unless they’ve been in that same boat. Find a safety net of other entrepreneurs and small business owners who can offer advice and a supportive ear.
  6. Learn to say no. That can be the scariest thing for a type-A personality who charges ahead into the realm of startups, but your decisions need to be made from a place of productivity or love, not out of fear of saying no.
  7. Finally, take care of yourself. Eat away from your desk, sleep in your own bed, take a walk in the fresh air, get a massage or at least schedule a block of time where your phone is off and the lights are dim and there is no computer and the music is soothing. It may seem like a luxury now, but it is a luxury that could save your burgeoning business down the line.

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