So you’ve set your sights at creating the next million dollar startup. You know your product and market. You know the legal procedures to register yourself and you’re prepared to work until you make it. You’ll never burnout…
…Until you do.
You see, no one expects themselves to arrive at startup burnout. It’s partially the reason why its so incredibly crippling when it sets in. One day you’re feeling on top of the world and that everything you ever want is all yours, the next you can’t even get out of bed and wondering whether any of this even means anything in the long run.
Take it from arguably the most talked about serial entrepreneur right now, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Paypal:
“Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.”
Your Startup Is not your Life
Its a very common sentiment amongst entrepreneurs that their startup is their “baby”. This type of mentality has given birth (pardon me) to the startup culture that we see today: balls to the wall, high energy and always pushing on.
I’m not saying these are bad qualities to have – not by a long shot. In fact, this drive and ambition is what drove many companies to success and fame in the first place. They are, by the nature of business, absolutely necessary to startup growth.
However, there is no one who can sustain this level of passion and energy forever.
In the words of Time Ferriss, NYT best-selling author:
“The fact of the matter is this: if you’re driven, an entrepreneur, a type-A personality, or a hundred other things, mood swings are part of your genetic hardwiring. It’s a blessing and a curse.”
And he’s absolutely right. Especially when dealing with something as fickle as business, there is always lows following the highs. These are the moments where most entrepreneurs are most prone to startup burnout.
What does startup burnout look like?
We hope that none of you stellar entrepreneurs will ever relate to any of the “symptoms” below, but here are some questions you can ask yourself if you suspect you might be burning out:
Do you wake up and dread going to work?
Do you find it difficult to muster the energy to do basic things?
Do you feel your appetite shrinking?
Do you feel the need to run away from your responsibilities?
Are you seeing the world from an increasingly cynical and negative viewpoint?
If you answer YES to a couple of these questions, you may very well be suffering some form of burnout. Fret not, there are ways to get out of the funk that you’re in.
Steps to combat Startup Burnout
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy right?
It’s important to take scheduled breaks and stick with them. Too many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of working on and on without any time to relax, resulting in the build up of stress. Slowly but surely, each setback in their business weighs on them and grows.
Set a 15 minute break every 4 hours of work and do something other than work. Go for a walk or close your eyes and meditate. It is imperative when you’re on your break to unplug from work, mute your work communication channels and be by yourself. Be mindful of what you’re doing and enjoy the moments away from work. Reinvigorate.
Take longer breaks
Every couple of weeks, do make plans to take a longer break away from work for a while. By this we mean vacations and staycations that can pry you away from your darling business. Multibillionaire Jeff Bezos famously takes regular breaks away from work to compose himself and refresh his mind for new perspectives for the future.
There have been countless studies that have shown the link between taking vacations and physical health. The Framingham Heart Study found that over a period of 20 years, “men who don’t take vacations were 30% more likely to have heart attack and for women it went up to 50%”. Who knew?
Furthermore, the link between vacation and mental health has been clearly documented. While everyone knows that “getting a well deserved break” is important, studies have shown that going for vacation even improves productivity. Experts recommend taking at least 2 vacations a year to keep the level of productivity high – I’m not complaining.
Change the view
Okay, maybe you can’t afford to take a nice vacation every year. “I’m running a startup, I don’t have the time or money to do that!” you say. Alright, that’s a valid point. How about try changing your viewpoint? No, I mean literally.
Surprisingly, people report that physically moving your position at work somehow affects your mental perspective as well. Consider moving your work desk to somewhere closer to a window with a view, or even moving somewhere that catches more natural light. Getting sunlight has been lauded by many as a great way of beating thoughts of depression and anxiety as its been shown to increase levels of serotonin – also known as the chemical that induces feelings of happiness and comfort.
It’s a small change that could potentially have a large impact on your mental health, worth a try if you’re looking for a quick fix.
At the end of the day, we know ourselves the best. Any advice can only be useful if it applies to you as a person. Whenever the old mangled head of stress rises again, we must be mindful to take the necessary steps to combat it, lest it takes us over. Stay strong and forge your path to greatness in your business, but remember that it’s okay to take a breather or two while you get there!
Enjoy reading about startups and entrepreneurship? How about continuing on to 5 Small Changes for Bigger Profits for your Small Business or 6 Simple Employee Management tips for Small Businesses!