How To Avoid Burnout as a New Entrepreneur

A cautionary tale for anyone considering self-employment.


Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 5 min read

It’s so easy to get pulled into the excitement of owning your own business, knowing that it’s success or failure rests in your hands.

In my own case the running of my business was so much more fulfilling than I’d imagined, I’d go to bed excited about the prospect of getting up the next day and doing it all again!

As an entrepreneur you quickly find that there’s always just one more thing to do — one more thing that needs your attention.

When you’re first starting out it’s tempting to think that you can do it all. You stretch and spread yourself thinner and thinner — trying to complete paid work and then put systems and processes in place to make the actual running of your business possible.

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The work inspires you and it doesn’t feel like a job that you’re dragging yourself to each day. Its likely this mindset that tells you its okay to give up your evenings and start cutting into your weekends to get ahead or at the very least catch up on where you think you should be.

But be warned — this is a slippery slope to burnout-land because no matter how much you love the work, you have to learn to take a break and set boundaries. Without these in place you’re all but guaranteed to find yourself exhausted, frustrated and wondering how to restore some semblance of balance to your life.

At least that’s where I find myself after four months of going hard and burning the candle at both ends. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way with some suggestions that you can use about how to avoid burnout.

You Can’t Do it All

When you’re flying high on excitement and adrenaline, throwing yourself into all aspects of your business seems reasonable.

Despite my writing earlier about outsourcing certain jobs and functions and focusing on your high-value activities, it’s really easy and tempting to try and do it all.

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For entrepreneurs and founders, getting lost in the details can hurt your business.

Not only does it save you money, it’s also a nice little boost to the ego to be able to step back and say…

“I did it myself!”

At the end of the day you end up paying for whatever task you’re trying to get done through either your time or with your wallet. You have to decide what has the higher value to you.

The truth is you can’t do it all and trying to jam more work into your waking hours isn’t the answer.

Make a list of your priorities and honestly assess them as to how much time, energy and attention they’ll take to complete. Be as realistic as possible when considering how long something will take to complete — none of this best case scenario stuff that we all know never happens.

From there decide what three things you’re going to focus on over the next quarter and put the rest on the back burner. It can wait.

Hold Yourself Accountable

I have no problems meeting client deadlines and producing a quality product with an eye to providing amazing service to anyone I work with.

What I struggle with is taking breaks, going for my regularly planned and scheduled walks, picking my son up from after school care at a consistent time, and never allowing myself enough time to make it to meetings or appointments.

My guess is that these are all symptoms of my problem of trying to do it all.

Working from home means that I can set my own hours and theoretically have all the flexibility in the world, but I have yet to really take advantage of this.

I’ve been too busy working.

With no one around to hold me accountable for the time management issues that I need to work on, I’m left holding the bag.

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Regardless of whether you struggle in the same areas I do or your Achilles heel is something else, you have to learn to hold yourself accountable for how you spend your time and invest in your self-care.

Your productivity, ability to think creatively, and function well all depend on it and the results will show if you don’t address this early on. If you don’t take care of yourself, your business will suffer.

A Lot of Things Can Wait

There’s always pressure to get more done and in order to do that effectively quick decisions must be made.

While this is the case in some situations, it certainly isn’t true of each and every one. In fact trying to make a quick decision for the sake of efficiency will often slow things down or stop them all together.

I’ve found that often if things are left without an immediate resolution, they’ll sit and simmer, and might just work themselves out without any intervention from you.

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Now this isn’t a pass to get away from making hard decisions or dealing with things that make you uncomfortable. It’s more of a call to slow down and let all the facts about a situation materialize and then make a decision.

It might also work out that the pressing deadline you thought you had really isn’t that important. If you’re like me, that deadline is often self-imposed and assumes I’m operating at maximum efficiency.

This is rarely if ever the case.

There are many, many things that require attention when you’re starting a new business, but the truth is a lot of them can wait.

Website? Nice to have but not entirely necessary (depending of course on what your line of work is).

Rolling out boutique consulting packages when you’re still looking for your first real client? Sit on that one.

The key is evaluating each opportunity based on it’s potential value to your business and how it brings you closer to your goals. Shifting your mindset from trying to do it all, to being strategic as to where you invest your time will give you some extra breathing room.

While its only been four months of being self-employed full time, it feels like I’ve been at it a lot longer — and I’m tired. Avoiding burnout is just one of the issues that any entrepreneur needs to keep in mind because your livelihood depends on it. By acknowledging that you can’t do it all, holding yourself accountable for your time management, and learning what can wait you better position yourself for long term success. This is a marathon, not a sprint and the last thing you want is to crash and burn.

This article was originally published by Shannon hennig on medium.


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