Burnout is not typically a word people would associate with work-from-home entrepreneurs.  From the outside looking in, entrepreneurs have it all together; they have risen above all the stressors of working for a large, impersonal company that looks at them as a replaceable resource rather than a valued employee.  The truth is a little bleaker; entrepreneurial burnout is a real thing, and it can affect any business owner.

Why Are Entrepreneurs at Risk for Burnout?

An interesting study was released by The Harvard Business review in April of 2018.  Their research showed that roughly 25% of entrepreneurs taking part in the study described themselves as moderately burned out, while an additional 3% identified themselves as strongly burned out.  But why?

entrepreneurial burnout chart

Business owners are in the unique, and often unenviable, position of being ultimately responsible for their own successes and failures.  When things go wrong, and they most certainly will on occasion, there is no one else to fix the problems, no supportive team of co-workers, and, most aggravating of all, no one else to blame.  Every day is an emotional roller coaster of wins and advancements, and of mistakes and miscalculations.

The life of an entrepreneur

If you’re an entrepreneur, you can relate to this.

The Harvard Business Review identified two types of entrepreneurs; those who have harmonious passion, meaning they enjoy the job because it is an extension of their identities, and obsessive passion, which means the person is motivated by money and status more than the work they do.

Unsurprisingly, those who exhibit obsessive passion had higher burnout rates than their harmonious cousins.  The obsessive passion entrepreneur group reported that they felt more stress and that the work they were doing was unsatisfying.  This group also reported that their work affected other aspects of their lives negatively, including an unbalanced work/life situation.

obsessive passion leads to higher burnout

Those in the harmonious passion group felt satisfaction in their work and felt that they were better able to enjoy a healthy work/life balance.

As the stakes get higher and we bury ourselves in our work, we not only forget to enjoy the lives we have chosen for ourselves but we come dangerously close to burnout if we aren’t careful.

The Rolling Snowball of Entrepreneurial Burnout

We understand that our life choices put us at risk of occasional failure.  The difference between being an employee and working for ourselves is that a company does not directly rely on most employees to pay their bills while we shoulder that responsibility squarely on ourselves and our performance. Your electricity provider doesn’t care that you didn’t sell ten widgets last week; you’ll be “not selling” those ten widgets in the dark next week unless you pay your bill.

It's a snowball effect

It’s a snowball effect

When we look at the big picture, we can see the snowball effect.
When something happens and our productivity is affected, we lose money.  When we lose money, we can’t pay our bills.  When we can’t pay our bills, we start to work harder.  When we work harder, we lose our love for our work.  When we lose our love for our work, it becomes work.  When we work, we are at a very high risk of developing entrepreneurial burnout.

We need to keep ourselves at the level of harmonious passion; once we cross into an obsessive passion, we can start spiraling down and defeat the main purpose of starting our ventures; to enjoy life on our own terms.

Are You Experiencing Entrepreneurial Burnout?

Burnout can be as sneaky as a dieter raiding the refrigerator for left-over birthday cake.  It creeps up on us if we ignore the warning signs and drains all joy from our work lives.

You may be developing Entrepreneurial Burnout if you have any of these signs:

  • You find yourself working nearly nonstop, around the clock
  • You are constantly tired while working
  • You have lost sight of your goals and the reasons you started your business
  • You have trouble concentrating or focusing
  • You make excuses to procrastinate or avoid work altogether
  • You are constantly getting sick
  • You have fluctuations in your weight
  • You are irritable
  • You start taking shortcuts
  • You find yourself “going through the motions” and no longer care about the quality of your work

If you have a few of these signs more than once a week, you may be developing entrepreneurial burnout. Let’s try to fix that, shall we?

How to get Your Harmonious Passion Back

If you have entrepreneurial burnout, it’s not too late to get yourself back on track.  The following tips are good for combatting burnout, or for avoiding it altogether.  Take a look at what you can change to fall in love with your business all over again.

  1. Change Up Your Routines: Process your email at a coffee shop, delegate as many tasks as you comfortably can, or just take a few breaks during the day to get away from the desk.
  2. Take a Vacation: Yes, a real vacation or holiday. Not the mow-your-lawn variety of vacation, but a get-in-your-car-and-go one.  You started your business to enjoy more freedom, so do it.
  3. Set Clear Boundaries: To keep your professional life from bleeding into your personal one, you need to set clear expectations for each.  Turn the phone off, shut the computer down, and resist the urge to check your email every ten minutes after a set time of night.  Keep your weekends for yourself and your family.
  4. Have Reasonable Expectations: You are one person, or maybe a small office of two or three.  Setting goals is a good motivational tool, but make sure they are attainable ones.  A generic “I will be a millionaire in two months” is not quite as reasonable as “I will double my sales in three months.”
  5. Take a Few Minutes to Remind Yourself: You may need a period of quiet reflection every day to remind yourself why you started your own business to begin with.  It’s easy to lose sight of our original game plan when we are overwhelmed with numerous day to day details and chores.
  6. Manage Your Time: If you are running in circles of half-finished tasks, you will end up with a headache, a never-ending to-do list, and unsurprisingly, entrepreneurial burnout.  There are several ways to manage your time better so that you can have a productive day, including task batching, time management logs,  and timeboxing.

No one is immune from experiencing entrepreneurial burnout, but being aware of it and taking steps to prevent it can help you hold on to your business, your time, and your sanity.