Navigating & Preventing Entrepreneur Burnout
The web is sagging from the abundance of advice on how to prevent burnout. Awesome. But what if you're already in flames?
Let's go over some suggestions on what to do when you feel all those hours of restless work and relentless stress have caught up with you — starting with some facts about burnout syndrome.
Burnout: The New Plague of Business People
Pursuing a new business idea is a story of joyful discoveries. On the downside, it inevitably brings about constant pressure and stress.
Taking on numerous responsibilities, working in a continuous state of uncertainty under tight deadlines — it's no wonder you'd end up with burnout syndrome.
Recent research found that a majority of Gen-Z (69%) and Millennial (73%) employees have experienced job burnout. Though there have been many studies about job burnout lately, too many business people keep ignoring the first symptoms. "I am just a bit more tired than usual," they think. "It's been a tough week. I'll get a proper rest over the weekend."
If you don't tackle the warning signs in time and work out some strategies for a healthy work-life balance, you'll cross the fine line between feeling stressed all the time and burning through your battery.
What Is the Difference Between Work-Related Stress and Burnout?
Even though constant stress and job burnout may both be associated with reduced productivity, emotional exhaustion, and a lack of professional motivation, there is a difference between the two conditions. While a stressed person feels they are "lit on fire" with too many responsibilities and tasks, a burned out one is all dried up inside and devoid of any motivation.
|Stress is often a result of too much work over a short period of time.
|Burnout is often caused by ruthless chronic stress.
|Stress is associated with muscle tension, headaches, a faster heartbeat, and digestion problems. Chronic stress can result in more physical problems, but it usually trickles into burnout.
|Burnout is associated with zero motivation and physical energy, poor performance, and avoidance of job responsibilities. It can also cause low self-esteem, a lack of positive emotions, and little desire to live a happy life.
|Meeting a project deadline or rolling out a new production release - you work under more pressure, long hours, and more intensely.
|Taking on one project after another and leading a hectic schedule - you don't let your body and mind recover from stressful situations.
When you're stressed out, some proper relaxation will help you recover. But if you're burned out, you've almost reached your energy limit and can hardly handle more work-related tasks. In this case, rest alone won't be enough.
Think of burnout as a car with an almost empty fuel tank - gasoline doesn't magically appear once the engine stops running. You'll need all your driving skills and some luck to reach a gas station.
You can check your fuel reserves with this test for measuring burnout.
Why Is It Necessary to Treat Job Burnout?
When not treated properly and in time, burnout may bring severe consequences for both your physical and mental well-being. Though burnout is not classified as a medical condition, according to the World Health Organization, its symptoms are alarming and may include the feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, negativism or cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy.
Burnout may not only affect one's productivity but also force an entrepreneur to ditch their business, even leave the industry, and put them in a deep emotional pit. However, simply quitting a job is usually not an option. If the burnout syndrome is not treated, chances are that the symptoms will come back once you get a new job or start a new project.
Recovering from burnout is a long and complicated process that could take more than a year. The sooner you start to heal, the sooner you'll start feeling positive changes in your work and personal lives.
Burnout Emergency Kit: What to Do When You Realize You Are Burned Out
Exhaustion - check. Lack of productivity and motivation - check. Negativism or cynicism in regard to what your colleagues do - check. Here's your first-aid kit with the next steps:
- Re-prioritize your daily tasks and minimize your workload. You can only stay productive for a limited period of time. It's harmful, if not useless, to demand more of yourself than absolutely necessary at this point.
- Surround yourself with a caring environment. Ask your family for help with personal matters if you do not have time to attend to them properly because of your workload. Don't shy away from delegating the tasks you cannot complete in time.
- Minimize idle scrolling through your media feed. If you postpone your key tasks because of excessive Facebook or Instagram consumption, use an app that will notify you about exceeding your self-determined browsing time limit. Social media is also a source of stress - opportunities to unnecessarily compare yourself to others.
- Take a day off for proper rest. You're probably at a point where one or two days of rest is not enough, but you really need them. Don't be ashamed to sleep as much as you want on this day. Take a walk once a day without checking work emails or answering the phone.
You might even feel refreshed and get some of your enthusiasm back after unloading. But the bigger chances are that you need more to recover and keep the positive result going.
How to Recover from Burnout: Tips & Suggestions for Entrepreneurs
The most helpful thing you can do is surround yourself with a caring environment, at work and at home. But there are a few steps that will also help you start the recovery process.
1. Think of the "Why" Behind Your Burnout
Before you choose a recovery strategy, make sure you understand what caused the syndrome to begin with. Try to pay attention to work-related situations and conditions that consistently add to your stress level. Be more mindful of who you communicate with at work.
If you find the underlying causes of the problem and the major stress factors, you can better understand how they could be avoided or at least minimized.
Every individual copes with stress in their own unique way, so listen to yourself because it's not always the healthiest route. Your strategy will eventually depend on what brought you to this state.
2. Optimize Your Work Routine
You will have a hard time curing your burnout syndrome unless you set clear work-life boundaries and enforce no-work hours during the day. In addition, you will need to establish and follow routine work-related processes.
For instance, always start your working day with rituals, like checking your emails or making a prioritized to-do list. Such rituals will help you gently dive into work and prepare your brain for the more intense intellectual activities that follow.
As part of your optimized work routine, make sure you leave enough time to rest and recover between meetings. Schedule certain time slots in your calendar when you can work non-stop on a single task without switching from one task to another and being interrupted. This will add to your concentration and productivity.
3. Find a Therapist or Coach
To manage your level of everyday stress and investigate how your mind and body react to it, you should also consult a specialist - a therapist or a coach. With a professional treatment, you will equip yourself with more powerful tools for putting yourself - your well-being and peace of mind - above all work-related stuff.
Specialists can also help you find activities you enjoy both in your work routine and outside work. If you have not yet introduced these pleasant pastimes into your daily routine, you certainly should. Some practices that can have a positive effect on your brain and body include meditation sessions and 10- to 15-minute yoga breaks during your day.
4. Schedule Breaks in Your Workday
Alternating periods of intense concentration with short 15-minute breaks can help you stay afloat, and it's a good habit to start learning.
Plan a few of them throughout your day — literally add breaks into your schedule and set alarms so you won't overlook them. Do not let anyone steal this time from you.
During a break, try to distance yourself from your work. Take a walk outside, drink a cup of coffee with a fresh muffin or eat your lunch, spend some time browsing the news feed (not Bloomberg!), or read a book. Just try to do more of what makes you happy during these pauses.
If you don't take real breaks and instead simply give your mailbox another look or talk to your colleagues about a project, you're only cheating yourself. Let your brain blow off the steam.
5. Develop Your Daily Routine
Chances are, you'd rather do some house work or lay in bed all day than tackle business tasks. But the harsh truth is that simply taking a vacation from work won't make burnout disappear, especially if you'll be thinking about work all the time.
So, after you do get a good rest, preferably with a digital detox period, work on establishing a daily routine that includes:
- Unexceptional breaks
- A morning routine to ease you into the day
- An evening routine to help you unwind before bed
For instance, instead of checking your email while you are still in bed, you should have a few morning rituals that help you adjust into a working mood, like doing yoga or light exercises for 15 to 20 minutes, taking a contrast shower, or drinking your first coffee in fresh outdoor air.
If you work remotely, you should set up a designated work space in a quiet part of your home. Ideally, it should be isolated from the rest of the spaces where you eat, sleep, and relax. This way, it will be easier to balance the time spent at work with your relaxation and recreation time.
With a solid routine in place, you will eventually develop a healthy work-life ratio where you concentrate on work when you have to and rest like you mean it.
Physical exercises can become a part of your daily routine. While you move your body, it produces endorphins, which are necessary for your happiness and productivity. This also helps clear your mind for some time.
If you have never been active, but especially if you are into sports, start small. It's no use running yourself into immediate physical exhaustion. A 10- to 15-minute workout or yoga session or a 30-minute walk outside is enough.
Do more of the things you enjoy, and you'll soon notice the positive effects they ripple through all spheres of your life, work included.
How to Prevent Another Burnout
You'll cope with this burnout syndrome, but you're not immune to catching it again. As a matter of professional hygiene, you have to establish a few rules that help you attend to a healthy well-being while maintaining all the responsibilities of your professional and personal lives.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Practice Positive Thinking
Positivity is the key to self-care. Start your day with a positive affirmation, do more of what makes you happy, and help others look at the bright side of recent events.
Remind yourself to focus on the good things that surround you, but not in a blind "nothing's wrong" sort of way. Treat negative events as experiences, but also look for something good in every situation.
2. Decline Extra Responsibilities and Work Chores Politely
Whenever you feel you are overloaded with work chores and/or overwhelmed with approaching deadlines, try not to undertake more tasks. Let your team and family understand you will do your best to concentrate on the ongoing tasks first, then move onto new ones. If you do it in a kind and well-reasoned manner, they will most likely understand your position.
3. Reassess Your Goals
Sometimes, burnout occurs when your job objectives are not clearly set or do not align with your long-term career aspirations. The work becomes a tedious process that brings neither satisfaction nor new skills. So, before committing to any task, especially if it requires too much of your time and intellectual effort, consider whether it will eventually help you achieve your personal strategic goals.
4. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries in regards to accepting more work, communicating with people, or committing to certain responsibilities is an important step that will help you avoid burnout. You are not selfish, lazy, or unfriendly. You just do not want to exhaust yourself and exceed your personal limit. Know when to stop, and do not abuse your endurance because this will definitely bring more stress.
How Can Technology Help You Cope with Burnout?
It's a good idea to employ some modern technology to free up your mind space. App stores have useful applications for literally every life occasion, so here are a few categories that can help while recovering from burnout.
Meditation certainly helps if you want to relax and refocus your attention from work-related stuff to your emotional state. Headspace and Ten Percent Happier Meditation are both highly rated and offer guided meditations for beginners.
A Versatile Email Client
Mailbird provides a convenient way of managing emails from different accounts in one place. You can have:
- a unified space for tidying up your work and personal inboxes
- a unified calendar to track all your events and make sure you don't double-book meetings and appointments.
In addition, you get multiple features and integrations to improve productivity and better organize your work.
You can be more creative with dedicated apps for more effective time- and task-tracking, such as Asana and Trello. Use them to manage your recurring daily rituals to create good habits, such as a walk outside or 30-minute reading session. These two also integrate with Mailbird, so you can have your agenda open while managing emails.
Every time you are in the mood to write down your thoughts or a sudden creative idea, don't keep them in your head. It is good to have a notebook and a pen at hand, but if you don't always carry these with you, just use a digital app for the purpose of journaling and taking notes, like Evernote or Notion.
Stress is an indispensable part of every entrepreneur's professional life. However, when not managed properly over a long period of time, it may bring about such unhealthy conditions as an extreme decrease in motivation and productivity. These are the first symptoms of job burnout syndrome.
Treating burnout usually takes quite a long time, so it is better to focus on your mental and physical state as soon as you notice the first signs.
These are some of the keys to finding balance between your work-related and personal lives, getting rid of the major stress factors, and avoiding burnout relapse:
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Prioritize your well-being
- Do more of what makes you happy.
- Try out light sports, reading, or traveling.
- Develop a daily routine.
- Schedule regular sessions with a therapist or meditation.
- Make technology work to your advantage.