Burnout is a real danger for everyone, but more-so for entrepreneurs of any sort.
A lot of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs experience a burnout in their careers at one point or another and some may experience it more than once. It’s not the end of the world when you burnout, but it’s not healthy for your mental state and it can put a real dent in progress or even the longevity of your business.
SO it makes sense to learn how to avoid a burnout early to give your business or career the best chance of survival.
What is a burnout?
A burnout is pretty much prolonged stress experienced directly through your work. Stress comes in many forms and the reason for it is just as many.
But when the stress is left unresolved and left to fester over a long period of time, you get burnout.
Your mental, physical and social health begins to deteriorate, which makes your work a lot less productive, efficient and effective.
The funny thing about burnout is, it’s most likely self-given and completely avoidable. Many people who find themselves burnt-out are also the ones who were the workaholic, go-getters in the office.
They’re the ones that start work early, end work late and put in the extra time on weekends. They’re always busy and it’s always because of work.
Long story short, they give themselves the stress. But the reason why they give it to themselves can be very different.
My own experience with burnout
I can tell you first hand how guilty I use to feel when I first started my online businesses if I took time off. I had this immense pressure on my shoulders to prove to people I made the right decision, and until I had anything to show for it, I just felt too guilty to take a break.
I didn’t want people to think I was being lazy, going nowhere, wasting my life away. So I worked.
I worked my ass off. 12+ hour days, 7 days a week.
In some ways, you could say it was a great motivation to achieve some progress in a short period of time, which I did within 6 months of my former Etsy business. But it was also the exact same reason for me to severely slack off once my Etsy store became passive income.
I worked so hard for that little bit of progress that I just jumped at the opportunity to finally rest, because I sure did need it. By that point, I had no social life, my physical health was far from great and my mental state was very vulnerable.
So what was the result of my “rest”?
I didn’t just rest, I completely stopped and neglected my business until Etsy closed my shop overnight.
That’s right, I lost my business. All because I didn’t know how to pace myself and I didn’t value long-term stability. I was just so desperate to gain fast progress, which I paid a very heavy price for.
Needless to say that was a big lesson I learnt and if you’re still reading, then I implore you to learn it as well.
How do you know if you’re about to burnout?
If you want to avoid a burnout, then you got to first understand what the early symptoms are. Below are the most common symptoms most people experience.
You’re starting to lack focus
The amount of stress you experience causes you to lack focus, because stress also effects your sleep quality and thus energy levels. All of this means you can be putting in the hours but your focus takes a deep dive.
Your productivity just snow-dives because of the lack of focus.
An easy way to know your focus at work is low, is if you’re taking longer than usual to do the same task.
Your work is consuming your thoughts, but the thoughts are not productive
Are you thinking about work even when you get back home or when you’re trying to sleep? Someone is talking to you but you cut them off because you’re thinking about work?
Do you just simply worry about work? Noting in particular, but just a general blanket of worry about work.
Than you’re one step away from a burnout.
(^this is exactly how you’re going to work yourself into a burnout)
I still find myself consumed in thought about work sometimes and I always make an effort to do something about it.
Because it’s okay to have a lot to think about work, but it’s not okay to think and think, and think some more with your thoughts not coming into fruition. When you find yourself consumed in thought and these thoughts only cause you stress to the point where you feel like you don’t know where to begin.
You need to take a step back or you risk yourself burning out very fast.
You feel guilt if you don’t work
Burnout is more common among millennials than any other generation. I don’t have any confirmed qualitative reasons for this trend, but millennials found themselves smack-bam in the middle of a recession when they graduated.
Many of us found it difficult to find work right out of school and had to go through the most competitive job market compared to many other generations that came before.
My hunch is that all of this encourages millennials to work extra hard when they do land a job to secure their position.
We grew up in an environment telling us that we have to take on multiply internships to land our dream job and that our dream job will pay us little at first but will be worth it in the long run.
It’s not hard to see how a motivated eager young adult in the workforce, will bend their back at work trying to get ahead. You feel guilty if you don’t because your options are slim or expectations are high. The opportunity you have in front of you didn’t come easy so doing anything but working seems wrong.
Or that was how I felt at least, and I still find myself feeling that way now and again. But I always make sure I pause and tell myself otherwise.
You put everything else in life second to work
That guilt you feel for not working also causes you to put many things in life second. Your friends, family, health. It’s all put on a back burner.
You find yourself neglecting other areas of your life and they are not progressing or even digressing over time as you focus more and more on work.
If you don’t do activities you use to do, or spend as much time with people as you use to, these are all signs of a burnout waiting to happen.
You’re not feeling the same level of satisfaction as before
A big indicator is if your work no longer makes you feel satisfied or fulfilled. You’re still working hard and you still think it’s important to your life, but you’re no longer feeling the emotional reward from it.
That’s a big red flag. It may well be you need a change or you may also be overworking yourself. Stress sucks out any enjoyment in life, even when you would in any other situation.
How to avoid burnout
Now it’s time to learn how to better minimise and, or avoid a burnout completely.
Make sure you’re sleeping properly
Your sleep is a direct window to you mental health. How much you sleep, how well you sleep and how you feel after you sleep are big tell-tale signs to your mental health.
Any sudden negative changes to your sleep can be a sign that you have increased stress.
Make sure you’re maintaining your relationships
Just as one of the main symptoms of a burnout is if you spend less time with friends a family. A simple way to ensure you’re maintaining some balance in your life by spending time with your friends and family regularly.
Make sure you’re not cancelling on plans too often or forgetting to reply or call back.
Learn to understand that your relationships in life are just as important than your work or, if not, more.
Take the time to arrange a catch-up over the weekend, or a quick get together in the evening.
Schedule your off time
If taking time off just isn’t coming naturally, which I can say it doesn’t for me. Than the next best step is to schedule your time off.
If I’m in Hong Kong then I work anywhere from 6 – 10 hours a day, 5 – 6 days a week. So far that’s been working very well for me. Compared to 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a big improvement on my sustainability.
I take evenings off to relax and I make sure I take a full day off every week, minimum. Scheduling your time off and making it a part of your schedule makes your time off just as important as everything else.
I pretty much schedule my work and make myself stop once I reach my hours and days. Give yourself guidelines to follow and make sure you follow them. It can be hard at first, but it ties in with the next piece of advice.
Don’t make work your life
What do you do in your time off? Something other than work of course. Having hobbies, activities and interest makes this a lot easier.
A really important element to avoiding burnout is having something called work-life balance. The idea is to have a varied life that doesn’t see yourself channeling your whole being to only one thing.
Now, I don’t entirely agree with the concept of work-life balance, but I do agree everyone should have a rich, varied life. You can pour yourself into your passions and work but it can’t be the only thing you have in life.
It’s important that you have other things that interest you in life. I personally really like watching documentaries, reading up on current affairs, building lego figurines or building anything in general, and doing very immature activities that sing to my inner-child at heart.
Find what you enjoy doing and do it!
Stress comes in many shapes and forms, but stress always has an element of uncertainty and unknowing. Minimise it much as possible by getting organized with your work.
Create schedules, calendars, systems and lists etc. This all helps you feel more in control and in-tune with what’s going on, which makes you feel calmer and less stressed.
Other resources you should check out
- Finding your way in life and how to do it
- Learning how to handle Bipolar depression
- You’ve been setting goals that are making you fail! Learn to set goals that’ll work.
- How to be more productive by using to-do lists more effectively
- It’s time to make that tough decision in your life. Read this to make this easier and reduce your anxiety
- Stop being a perfectionist because you’re making yourself fail without realising it