How To Avoid Burnout

As a small business owner, you know the long hours and passion it takes to run a successful company. It’s that level of dedication and hard work that can make some entrepreneurs more susceptible to burnout.

“Some evidence suggests that entrepreneurs are more at risk of burnout because they tend to be extremely passionate about work and more socially isolated, have limited safety nets, and operate in high uncertainty,” says a Harvard Business Review article about a study on entrepreneurial burnout.

The study looked at which factors lead to greater burnout among entrepreneurs, specifically at whether job passion, job fit, and destiny beliefs (the belief that a successful entrepreneurial career is “meant to be”) make entrepreneurs more likely or less likely to experience burnout. 

“In sum, our findings show that job fit, passion, mindset, and burnout are inextricably linked,” writes the study’s researchers – Eva de Mol, Jeff Pollack and Violet T. Ho – in the HBR article.

“Understanding that passion is a double-edged sword can help entrepreneurs monitor their motivations and work behavior and can prevent burnout from hurting their careers.”

Recognize the Signs

Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness and The Mask of Masculinity, says one of the first steps in avoiding and overcoming burnout is being able to identify when it’s happening.

“This can be tricky because it doesn’t always look like you might think,” he writes in an Entrepreneur blog.

The typical burnout exhibits in the form of utter and complete exhaustion, Howes says. When you’re running on empty and no amount of rest seems to be enough. “You lose your drive, your joy, your life force,” he writes.

Another sign that you’re suffering from burnout is just that feeling of being overwhelmed, Howes says, when “everything seems to be just too much to handle.”

“Because burnout is a common thing for entrepreneurs, if you find yourself experiencing it, be sure to go easy on yourself,” he says. “Remember you are human, your body has limits and you can only push it so far.”

Set Boundaries

Working 80-hour work weeks may get the job done but it’s a pace that can catch up with you in unhealthy ways. Having the ability to “turn off” can help small business owners and entrepreneurs avoid burnout.

One way to turn off is by setting boundaries, says Aytekin Tank, founder and CEO of JotForm, a San Francisco-based online form building company. He’s not only learned how to set boundaries for himself, but he encourages his employees to do the same.

Recognize when it’s time to stop the work day – when it’s time to turn off.

“We need to teach people that setting boundaries is OK,” he writes in an Entrepreneur blog. “It’s not selfish. It’s actually selfless. It allows you to be more effective at what you do, and to better [help] those you wish to serve.”

Another way to set boundaries is by learning to say no more often, says Nadine Greiner, CEO of On Target Solutions.

“Overcommitment can be crippling and lead to a kind of paralysis,” writes Greiner in her book, Stress-Less Leadership.

“The most effective antidote against overcommitment is to be firm and set boundaries. You must be vigilant about protecting your time and learn how to say no.”

Focus on Self Care

Taking care of yourself – getting enough sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise – will help you avoid burnout. It’s a matter of taking time for yourself, away from work.

Self-care is also what you’ll need if you start seeing signs of burnout.

“The most important thing to do when you have hit the burnout wall is to focus on self-care,” Howes says in his blog posted on Entrepreneur.

“If you have been working on chasing and building your dreams, you have probably had tunnel vision for quite some time and left your self-care far behind you.”

Learn to Delegate

Entrepreneurs often feel a pressure to live up to a certain standard. They have high expectations of how things are done.

“Business owners who are burned out usually feel like they’re on their own, and have to do everything themselves because they don’t trust their people to be accountable for their work,” 
writes Mike Kotsis in a blog post for EOS, a company with a series of products and tools for entrepreneurs called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

That kind of pressure can lead to stress, which can lead to burnout. So, learn to delegate.

If you have employees or vendors who have expertise and abilities you can trust to get the job done, find ways to move items off your plate to theirs. 

Learning to delegate can also give you more time for self-care as well as opportunities to focus on other parts of running your business, such as brainstorming ideas and reviewing longer-term plans.