How to Avoid Burnout as a founder
Here’s a scary thought… what if it all works out and your big idea is a smashing success?
One of the biggest reasons start-ups fail is that they just can’t find product-market fit. But for those companies that do successfully tap into a market need and win over customers, there’s another threat to worry about:
In a study into the top reasons why start-ups fail, CB Insights found that personal factors including burnout, lack of passion and loss of focus accounted for 30% of start-up failures.
As a founder, you can avoid falling into that trap by taking conscious steps to take care of yourself and your business, starting right now with smart, healthy habits at work and beyond.
Today, I’ll be sharing my top strategies to help you bring your best self to work everyday.
Self-Care - Beyond the Face Mask!
We may be living in a world where “self-care” conjures images of face masks and scented baths, but let’s be real, taking care of yourself goes much deeper than that. If taking a long bath every night makes you feel your best, go for it, but if not, don’t give up on the idea of self-care.
To bring your most productive self to work, you need to take care of the basics: enough sleep, good nutrition and yes exercise! You know these things are “important” but it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and let them slip down your priority list.
Beyond the basics, make time for things that bring you joy outside of work, like spending quality time with the people you love, going outdoors or getting into a hobby. No matter what happens with your start-up, you’ll never regret having fulfilling relationships and passions beyond work!
Find the Right Rhythm for Your Work Life
The wonderful thing about running your own business is that you get to decide when, where and how you get your work done. So why do so many of us escape the corporate grind only to default to thinking we have to work in an office from 9 to 5 (or longer)?
Personally, I’m most productive in the mornings and from 5 to 7 PM, so I carve out time for work then, and I’ll usually have some time to get personal things and meetings done from midday to early afternoon. Some days I’ll work from my balcony, and other days I’ll head to my office. That’s just what works for me. Get to know what rhythm works for you and set up your life accordingly.
That includes getting some down time. Holidays, weekends, potentially even evenings may feel like a luxury, but they shouldn’t be over the long term. We all need a break some time to free our minds and keep perspective. To you that could still mean going on holiday with your laptop and catching up on an hour of work in between here and there, and that’s ok, but make sure to carve out some time just to unwind.
One thing to bear in mind is that, if you have employees, you’re setting the tone for them. That means that if you want to work from coffee shops, take off in the afternoon or work from abroad, you should probably offer your employees the same flexibility - all within reason of course.
Use Your Time Wisely
Do you have any idea how much time it takes you to get things done? Here’s a little exercise that you can do to figure out where your hours really go.
For one week, keep track of what tasks you’re working on at every hour of the day. You could use an online timer like Toggl, fill out your hours on a spreadsheet or simply write things down on a piece of paper or a planner.
At the end, put everything into categories and total up where your time went. You might find you’re spending an outsized amount of time on something like packaging up orders or responding to customer service messages while that marketing plan on your desktop gets neglected. Or you might find you’re bogged down with accounting leaving little room for creativity.
The first step is awareness, the next step is to adjust your habits so that you’re giving as much time as possible to the things that will bring the most value to your business - the things only you can do and the things you love to do!
Know When to Get Help
This brings us to our next point. If your business is going well and you can afford it, it might be time to outsource or hire someone to help you with certain aspects of your business. This will not only allow you to feel less overwhelmed, it will enable you to dedicate more time to actually developing your business.
Once you’ve gone through the time tracking exercise described above, look at how you’re spending your time and try to identify which of your tasks you enjoy and which tasks you’re ready to let go. You might not be able to hand off every task that you don’t like doing, but you should be able to reshuffle things so that you can get the most out of your time, energy and mental space.
Also, know that you can get help with things less tangible than your to-do list. Having someone to share challenges and brainstorm solutions with can be invaluable. Finding a mentor, business coach, life coach or work buddy could help you find the confidence to make decisions that will keep your business and your personal life on the right track.
Be Realistic About Your Finances
The fear or running out of money or not being able to pay your bills on time is present in most entrepreneurs’ lives at one point or another. Sometimes financial stresses are inescapable, but that doesn’t mean you should accept them as normal.
If you’re overwhelmed by your workload but you’re not able to afford to pay someone to help, you may need to rethink your business model. That doesn’t mean you have to start over. Rather, look for ways to get more profit out of every transaction by offering premium add-ons, creating new products and solutions or attracting a higher paying customer.
Your business needs to be financially viable for it to all be worthwhile. That also means you should be paying yourself a salary. After all, you’re employee #1! Otherwise you may end up in hating your own company!
Beware of the Comparison Game
It can be tempting to look around and think you’re falling behind someone else - or even everyone else. Just know that what’s going on behind the scenes is not always as pretty as what you see on the surface. Every entrepreneur struggles at some point - and some people are just very good at self promotion. :)
Instead of chasing someone else’s version of success, focus on what really counts for you and your business. You may not need a fancy office, a big round of funding or a huge number of Instagram followers to be successful. In fact, you might be able to build a much healthier business without pursuing any of those things. It really depends on you - and your business.
Do What You Believe In
The most important thing is that at the end of the day, you’re proud of what you’re building and that you feel you’re fulfilling your purpose. If you get to the point where you just feel done, it could be a sign that you need to shake things up and evolve your business, rather than quitting on it all together.
Running a company is much like being in a relationship. There will always be highs and lows, it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate them. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself and don’t get neglected in the process.