Entrepreneurship is a rich and rewarding experience that leads many business owners to real career satisfaction for the first time in their lives. You get to set your own schedule, make your own rules, and become a master of your own destiny — but those perks are not without an associated cost. Entrepreneurship demands sacrifice and commitment, and even if you go into it with a sparkling optimistic attitude and a great support system, the daily rigors and stresses of business ownership will begin to take their toll on you.
Burnout is unfortunately common among entrepreneurs. After months or years of constant effort, it’s only natural that you’d start feeling exhausted or frustrated in your business. But if you want to avoid or mitigate that burnout, and remain interested in your work, try these long-term strategies:
1. Set Realistic Expectations. Burnout is a product of fatigue and/or disappointment. Fatigue tends to happen when working for too long without satisfactory results, and disappointment tends to happen when reality falls short of your hopes. Both are products of setting lofty or unrealistic expectations for yourself. For example, if you tell yourself your product must launch by the end of the month (when three months is more reasonable), you could burn yourself out rushing to get things done. If you tell yourself you’ll be wildly successful within the first year (when three years is more reasonable), you’ll feel burned out when your goal isn’t met despite your hard work. The solution is to set more conservative expectations for yourself and your business, in terms of your goals, your hopes, your daily tasks, and everything in between.
2. Establish Boundaries. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a professional one. For most entrepreneurs, your professional responsibilities will regularly bleed into your personal life, and your personal emotions and situations will bleed into how you handle yourself at the office. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and some people actually work better in this setup, but if you want to avoid burnout over the long term, you’ll need to establish real boundaries for yourself. The specifics of those boundaries are up to you — it might be not taking any work-related calls after 7 on weekdays, or only doing work for a set number of hours during the weekend. Whatever boundaries you set, make them firm and make them known.
3. Change Up Your Routine. Like with any job, burnout can set in as a product of a predictable routine. Generally, entrepreneurs wear so many hats and handle portions of so many responsibilities that a repetitive, predictable routine is not a problem — still, facing the same runaround or dealing with the same people on a regular basis can take its toll on you. Fortunately, you have lots of freedom as an entrepreneur. If you find yourself hating a certain type of task, try delegating it to someone else. If you need a change of scenery, try working in a public place or working from home instead of the office. Include variety in your daily work however you can find it, and don’t be afraid to recruit your other partners and employees to help you split up the work.
4. Remind Yourself Why You Got Started. It’s easy to lose sight of your original motivations when burnout begins to set in, but remembering those reasons can be just what you need to push through the more difficult times you’ll face throughout your journey. For example, if you became an entrepreneur for the flexible schedule, take a few days to experiment with your hours and experience the luxury of an open schedule. If you became an entrepreneur because you wanted to make your own decisions, make small, yet significant decisions you wouldn’t be able to make elsewhere — like redecorating your office or letting everyone go home early for the day.
5. Take Real Time Off. This is the most powerful way to avoid burnout, and it’s the one that most entrepreneurs miss. Because you’re so passionate about your work, or so committed to your goals, you get sucked into a culture that forces you to work far too many hours a day and too many days a week. Take real weekends away from work. Take full vacations. You have no excuse — if you don’t take real breaks, your burnout is inevitable.
If you can employ these strategies consistently throughout your course as an entrepreneur, you should be able to stave off burnout — or at least the worst effects of burnout. All entrepreneurs will face near-constant trials and challenges, but successful entrepreneurs will weather the storm and emerge victorious. Stay strong in the face of adversity, be flexible enough to adapt to new circumstances, and there’s nothing that will stop you from becoming successful.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!