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Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout And The Best Ways To Fight It

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Juggling back and forth between finances, marketing, tech and innovation along with many other departments within a business can get overwhelming at certain times for entrepreneurs. A survey carried out on entrepreneurs by The Harvard Business Review in 2018 found out that all entrepreneurs experience some level of burnout at one point or another. Some feel it more than others, with 25% of respondents reporting to be moderately burned out. 

The cause of this? Trying to overcome the stress and uncertainty of running a business. Most often, trading passion for long working hours and a do-it-yourself kind of attitude (some entrepreneurs just can’t delegate) makes entrepreneurs the most at risk group for burnout. 

So what is entrepreneurial burnout? Entrepreneurial burnout is defined as a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that is born due to the excessive use of personal resources and energy in the pursuit of excellence in a business. In other -and much simpler- words, it’s an entrepreneur getting tired of what they love. 

(Credit: ARPG Tech) 

As an entrepreneur, you face difficult challenges on a daily basis that require your constant attention. More often than not, you have to make decisions that determine the fate of your enterprise. The associated high pressure levels will eventually take a toll on you if they go unchecked. Most entrepreneurs, even after achieving success, still work tirelessly to improve their business and rarely take time to relax or enjoy their success.  

While normal stress is healthy and necessary to boost performance, continuously mounting pressure without relief is usually detrimental to your physical as well as mental health. Research shows that 30% of entrepreneurs claim to suffer from depression compared to only 15% of the general population.

Signs of burnout:

There are some tell-tale signs that can help you identify burnout on its onset:

1. Exhaustion

One of the top reflections of burnout, exhaustion can be manifested physically or emotionally. 

When you are exhausted, your body is constantly tired even after a full night’s sleep. You find it difficult to relax fully as your mind is constantly focused on your business- the employees, your next presentation, profit margins, etc. You may also experience emotional fatigue, feeling an unexplained emptiness which causes you to lose passion for your work. 

Most entrepreneurs try working through the exhaustion, thinking that it will get better with time or that it’s nothing serious. However, entrepreneurial burnout may put you at risk for developing digestive issues or even worse, heart failure. 

Ignoring the situation will only end up worsening it. Chronic exhaustion is a sign that managing your business has become too stressful and you need to take a break.

2. Feeling overwhelmed

As an entrepreneur, you always feel like the entire business rests on your shoulders. You may also have a hard time delegating duties and therefore want to do the bulk of the work yourself. It’s understandable of course. 

Usually, you can do this without breaking a sweat but as you begin to burnout, you will probably have trouble completing the simplest of tasks. Everything becomes stressful- even the things that are not- and you may experience episodes of anxiety. You may also experience self-doubt and a need to quit and leave everything behind. 

If you’ve reached this point, you have probably lost all motivation and it’s getting harder to begin a new work day.  

3. Loss of productivity

Every once in a while, every person needs a break from work or a day off. This is when things don’t seem to be going your way or as smooth as you thought they would be. 

However, if these occurrences stretch into multiple days or weeks, there is a problem.

Because burnout is normally associated with decreased motivation and high exhaustion levels, your productivity is most likely to suffer.

When you are experiencing burnout, you have problems focusing on a task and finishing it through. Instead, you try to handle multiple tasks at once and you eventually end up giving up midway.  No matter how long you work, you don’t seem to be making any significant progress.

4. Constant frustration

When you experience burnout, you find yourself having a hard time drawing the line between passion and obsession. You become so consumed with your business and its success that you find it hard to think about anything else. As an entrepreneur, you may even be equating your self worth with your business. This is where it gets dangerous. 

This obsession towards perfectionism that most entrepreneurs deal with eventually leads to frustration. If things fail to go as desired or planned, feelings of anger and frustration emerge, driving many entrepreneurs to fall into depressive episodes.

At this point, anything that your employees or coworkers do never seems to be good enough. You are constantly looking for errors where there are none. This will make you lose sight of why you got into creating this business in the first place.

Overcoming burnout and gaining back your energy:

Success in any business is often associated with the wrong things, like longer working hours and making sacrifices at the expense of your mental health. This is why many entrepreneurs surrender to burnouts, even when the signs are easily identifiable.

Luckily, with the right measures, there is a way to stop it as soon as burnout signs start to appear: 

1. Take a break

Although it is in your nature, resist the urge to work through your burnout. Take a few days off work to unwind, take up a hobby or spend time with your friends and family. To prevent getting into a burnout in the first place, put some time aside often to relieve stress. 

Organize your day so that you work within a certain time frame, for example, between 7 am and 5 pm, beyond which you don’t do anything business-related.

Your business will not go under because you took some time for yourself. It is more likely to suffer if you are not in your best shape. 

2. Learn to delegate

Trying to undertake all your business tasks and activities by yourself is clearly not sustainable. You will constantly be exhausted. 

Make sure that when you hire employees, you hire individuals you can easily trust and who are familiar with your expectations and know how to deliver those up to your standards -if not go beyond-. 

Aside from easing the pressure on you, delegating also increases the overall productivity of your business. With the extra time on your hands, you can expand your business portfolio, think about new markets and grow your business. 

3. Embrace mindfulness

Always take note of your mental health and your physical wellbeing. 

Acknowledging that you may be experiencing burnout will help you mitigate its effect in time. If simple measures like taking a break are not working for you, consider getting professional help.

4. Create a schedule

As an entrepreneur, you probably have endless tasks on your schedule and issues battling for your attention. Attempting to deal with them all at once will cause you to burnout faster. 

Create a schedule to help you identify your priorities and address your issues systematically. This will also be useful in helping you meet deadlines without too much stress. If you’re not for keeping paper calendars in your work bag, go for online calendars instead such as AsanaCalendly, Google Calendar or Outlook.   

Final thoughts…

Over the course of your business, it is likely that you’ll experience burnout. Your response is what will make or break the success of your business, but also and more importantly give you peace of mind and fulfill your sense of being as you handle your company. 

Remember, don’t take entrepreneurial burnout so lightly, since research shows that about $300 billion is lost every year by entrepreneurs due to the effects of burnout. So, not only does it have a negative effect on your well being, but it will also drive your business towards failure. 

Take a break, relax, recharge and gain back your productivity! 

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