As Lori Greiner correctly said, “entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” That’s just who we are. We strive, we endure, and we don’t accept failure. But it's not often we take the time to calm our nerves, get fully rested and relaxed, or take a vacation.
Although the unyielding drive to succeed is one of the greatest virtues of an entrepreneur, it can also lead to burnout. When we fall prey to it, burnout crushes our performance, drains our motivation, and exhausts us physically and mentally. Burnout has even been linked to early death.
Here are just a few of the signs of burnout discussed in a Psychology Today article. As you can see, each one of these burnout symptoms could easily kill a business:
· Feelings of apathy and hopelessness
· Lack of productivity and poor performance
· Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention
· Increased illness
· Chronic fatigue
Uncontrolled perfectionism and drive can eventually smother even the most inspired entrepreneur. If you’re headed for burnout, or if you’re already there, you have one priority right now: care for yourself.
Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of sick leave or taking a couple days off - though they might be able to work remotely. So you have to be intentional to add some self-care into your lifestyle, and do it now.
Add Nothing to Your Plate Until You’ve Healed
Yes, “heal” is the right word, because if you are burned out, you are not well. We’re often told to “just say no” to a boss who requests more from us when our plates are already full. Entrepreneurs can’t do that. What you can do is temporarily reject any new business activities, risks, or ventures. You are burned out and in danger of losing it all. So right now, access your calendar and delete any plans that will add more to your plate.
There are probably several things you could delay right now. For example, are you planning to finally start that blog you’ve been putting off for the past year? Push it back a couple more months. If you’re burned out, it will show in your writing.
What else is on your calendar that isn’t crucial? Do you have to start holding weekly employee meetings right now? Is it vital that you say “yes” to delivering a speech at the chamber of commerce? Will your world fly out of orbit if you postpone that dinner with a prospective partner? If something is not imperative, it can wait until you’re healed and refreshed, and can meet your expectations of yourself.
Find a Way to Delegate
Now that you’ve eliminated time-draining tasks from your calendar, it’s time to find ways to manage your current lifestyle and responsibilities. If you’re burned out, you need help. Hire someone or get an intern to help you with burdensome necessities that rob you of precious time.
For example, is it really smart for you to be spending an hour or two every day trying to market your business on Facebook and Twitter? Certainly you can hire a social media manager to relieve yourself of that responsibility. And are you bogged down with payroll and HR duties? There are firms that handle those tasks, too.
Yes, getting help might involve an investment. But the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and it is very important that you lessen the weight.
Force Some Peace
By delegating some of your life-draining responsibilities, you will gain some “free” moments. The word “free” is in quotes because you are going to be tempted to fill that time with more life-draining work. Don’t do that, no matter how tempting it is. Instead, force yourself to use any gained moments to find peace – even if just for an hour.
There are countless things entrepreneurs turn to for brief moments of peace. For some, it’s meditating. For others, it’s burning off steam with a half-hour jog. Whether it’s drawing, reading, knitting or journaling, do it. It may seem unnatural to enjoy yourself, but the more you do it, the more it will become an indispensable part of your routine.
Don’t Withdraw from People – Embrace Them
As highly independent entrepreneurs who are used to going it alone, we often withdraw from friends and family. We rarely have time to be distracted by moments of leisure that people invite us to. But when you’re in the throes of burnout, you need people.
There is something incredibly healing about laughter, a smile, and human touch. So take your friend’s offer to grab a Friday night drink. Make it a priority to spend a few quality hours with your kids every Saturday. Take your spouse out for a night of romance. If you’re going to heal from burnout, you need to know how valued and loved you are.
Reconnect with Your Passion
Remember the days where you were inspired by a passion deep within you? The passion that got you out of bed in the morning, and the passion that led you to take on the life of an entrepreneur?
If you are burned out, you have lost that passion. Find it again. Do you catch yourself wishing, every day, that you were doing a particular thing? Maybe your passion is fixing things or restoring classic cars. Maybe it’s astronomy, or health and fitness, or teaching a yoga class.
Look deep within yourself, and get back what you have lost. Fan the spark of passion into a raging fire again, and let it fuel you back into health.
According to Arianna Huffington, “Not only is there no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance, your performance will actually improve when your life includes time for renewal, wisdom, wonder and giving. Taking this advice will save you a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout, and exhaustion!”
If you’re burned out, you might feel like there’s no hope for recovery. But the good news is that burnout does not have to destroy you or your business. Although recovery takes time, it is possible. You just have to care for yourself, and make your healing process a priority. Your health and your business are worth it.