Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is common among entrepreneurs, because, hey, starting a business is hard! So how do you keep your mojo when it feels like you tapped the last of your resilience weeks ago? Your peers share their best advice.

“Want to avoid burnout? Learn to say no. Turn away work that doesn’t fit your core services. If you’re a plumber, don’t go fixing drywall. If you’re a roofer, stop offering to build people’s decks. This will make it easier to avoid mistakes, train your employees and systemize your business. Branching out may seem to benefit you in the short term, but over time it will likely hurt your reputation and sap your mental energy.”
—Jeffrey Baxter, president, MidStreet Mergers & Acquisitions

“I built my career as a product leader in startups working long hours and burning myself out. I now work less but am substantially more productive. Silicon Valley has built an unhealthy culture of ‘hustling’ that looks good on the surface to investors and the market, but ultimately the quality and pace of output isn’t where it should be. Working smarter, shorter hours has led me to the most productive years of my career. I now operate two businesses and am at peak productivity.”
—Adrian Del Balso, CEO, Strive Digital and Little Universe

“Most entrepreneurs have this habit of getting their hands dirty (doing operational tasks) even if they don’t need to. The best way that entrepreneurs can make their business grow is to take a step back and assess the business for what it is and work on it. This means that an entrepreneur has to work on the business, not in the business.”
—Sean Si, founder and CEO, SEO Hacker

“Plan a vacation. Buy tickets to lock in a date so you can start preparing. The mental escape of knowing vacation is coming up will help you get through the tough times.”
—Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls

“Aren’t we all a little burned out and messed up in the head at times? In the last three years I’ve coached over 160 online business owners, helping them overcome the fears, doubts and frustrations that come with the territory. The patterns that I’ve uncovered are that those who burn out ‘push’ themselves to go through necessary tasks. Business owners who avoid burnout are those who are internally ‘pulled’ by a bigger mission, purpose and goal.”
—Tyson Sharpe, emotional fitness coach, Tyson Coaching

“Most entrepreneurs work from home (or at the very least bring their laptops home). Without a dedicated office space, the line that separates productive work time and recharging leisure time can easily become blurred. Entrepreneurs often find themselves answering emails at odd hours, optimizing their websites past midnight, and packing more and more need-to-do tasks into their schedules. While this fast-paced lifestyle can be incredibly exciting, if over-working becomes the norm, emotional and physical burnout is likely to follow. I usually ask clients to either physically leave their house to work—coworking spaces and coffee shops are great productive spaces—or, at the very least, to set up a home office space and commit to a ‘no-work zone’ on the schedule. For me, this is from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.”
—Dr. Kara Fasone, co-founder and chief wellness officer, Wise & Well Academy

“There is so much minutiae that can suck time from the tasks the require your dedicated time and attention. Limiting how often I check email, and checking it only at specific times, helps to keep me focused on the critical tasks at hand. Outsourcing work to contractors, consultants and folks that are experts in certain job functions is a must and frees my time to do what I do best.”
—Melynda Mannix, principal, Emme Design

“Celebrate small wins, always and often. It’s super important to recognize the ups, because you are for sure worrying about the downs.”
—Adam Tishman, co-founder and CEO, Helix Sleep

“Burnout is all too common in the entrepreneurial world. Most of us take on this burden willingly, since you get what you give and your success is riding on your own shoulders. I’ve found that traveling, even for a short amount of time, is the cure for burnout. New places, new food and new people are all extremely refreshing for me, and I’ve found my most creative ideas for campaigns come about when I’m exploring a new place. Attending networking events or even working out of remote offices/coworking spaces is a perfect, low-risk way to explore a new area.”
—Marissa Ryan, co-founder and chief marketing officer, VisualFizz

“I make sure to take breaks when I’m feeling exhausted, whether that’s an impromptu boat day or a planned vacation. Clearing my head for a few hours or a few days helps me to come back into the office fresher and more motivated, and some of my best ideas come to me when I’m relaxed on the ski slopes or on the water.”
—Eric Brown, founder and CEO, Aliant Payments

“If you work from home, it’s easy to get sucked into a workaholic vacuum where you barely speak to another person for days. It’s essential to make personal connections with people who understand your unique lifestyle and career. Talking to someone who can relate will work wonders for your motivation and mindset. Connect with other business owners (via social media, email or another platform).”
—Taylor Mack, owner, SilverFire Books; social media marketing strategist, Small Biz Refined

“I experienced a significant burnout period after about two years of being in business. Simply put, it was because I was trying to do everything myself. After working 70–80 hours a week, I discovered that one of the best things I could do for my own sanity was to outsource the majority of my busy work. By outsourcing, I’ve found that I’m able to eliminate the work I dislike and instead focus on decisions that steer my company in the right direction. Outsourcing, aside from reducing my chances of another bout with burnout, has also increased my profitably significantly.”
—Ron Stefanski, internet marketing consultant, college professor, media company owner, Cat Kingpin

“Monotony is exhausting, and it’s one of the biggest contributors to burnout. Try switching up your routine every now and then with some rejuvenating work-related tasks such as reading, meditating, taking a field trip or meeting up with a colleague.”
—Sarah Hancock, chief editor, Best Company blog 

“As someone who has lived in and survived the Silicon Valley life, I can attest that burnout is real. I’ve worked in a ton of different startups, eventually going out on my own. My work has always consumed me, and not for the better. My biggest tip, especially for people who are ambitious, is to remember that no one is going to remind them when they need to step away from their work to do the things they should be doing. I’m talking about things like exercising, writing, reading and spending time with family and friends.”
—Jared Wolff, entrepreneur, JaredWolff.com

“Building a startup can be overwhelming. To avoid burnout, I take a break during the day to walk or work out. While I’m walking, I’ll listen to a podcast about entrepreneurship. The physical activity helps my body relax, and when I’m listening to an inspirational story from an entrepreneur, I get back to work energized and ready to face any challenges that come my way.”
—Raya Khashab, co-founder, ezClocker

“In 2014 I burnt out doing all the operations, finance and marketing for my company. I did absolutely no marketing for my business for a period of six months while I cleared my head on our longer-term strategy. The passage of time heals the soul, and after about six months I was ready to reengage. Nowadays I do not try to push myself to work ridiculously long hours. I am much more conscientious about pacing myself. Also, I find it extremely helpful to take long walks with my dog in the middle of a work day to clear my head. Immersing oneself in work when in burnout mode is counterproductive.”
—David Reischer, Esq., CEO, LegalAdvice.com

“Delegate the tasks you hate to someone else. You’re not going to get an award for sticking to it.”
—John Jonas, founder, OnlineJobs|ph

“In the early years, I would burn out quite often, about once a month. I’d get sick, lose all focus, be extremely tired and then just completely crash. I’d like to think I’ve been able to, whilst not entirely prevent, reduce the frequency and impact of my burnouts. And it was quite simple: I don’t get more sleep, but my quality of sleep is better (quiet, no phone before bed, pitch black in the room). I bought several whiteboards to help me visually map out my work for the day, week and month. (I use apps like Trello to do this, but a whiteboard feels great when rubbing out completed actions.) I take more time/days to myself, to be with my partner and explore places, countries or events together. Just to switch off from work sometimes makes a world of difference.”
—Nabil Beirouty, founder, Affios

“Take that darn vacation. No, the company will not fall apart without you there. Yes, you deserve it. Yes, it will help drastically.”
—Michael Sunderland, managing director, Full Stack Talent