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Danger! Burnout can be a Business Killer

Published on Sep 7, 2012


Read 'Danger! Burnout can be a Business Killer' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.

By Adam Toren

How are you feeling these days? Do you still have that fire in your belly about your business? Or is it slowly turning into a burned-out feeling that is keeping you down? This is not unusual; running your own business is exhausting and it’s particularly hard when all of your work hasn’t yet produced much in the way of returns. But burnout is a dangerous thing for an entrepreneur with a business to build. Here are some signs that you may be facing burnout and a few suggestions for recovering.

You may be starting to burn out if you:

  • Don’t really want to get out of bed in the morning
  • Find yourself procrastinating over things that you used to enjoy doing
  • Use excuses to get out of work
  • Avoid spending time with friends and colleagues
  • Have stopped cold-calling
  • Are ignoring your self-set deadlines
  • Find yourself getting discouraged with every small setback

Most of the time, burnout is temporary, but before you recover your lack of enthusiasm it may drive your burgeoning business to the ground. You need to take steps to come back from this difficult emotional position before your attitude and behavior undo everything you’ve already accomplished. Here are a few suggestions to help you recover that initial enthusiasm.

Review and rejoice

Spend a little time every day admiring how much you have accomplished with your business so far. Have you started making sales? Did your prototype capture people’s attention? Have you interested investors in your business? Are you proud of your business plan? Instead of coming to work and immediately starting on all the things you still need to do, look at how far you’ve come. This can help you move back to the mindset that drove all that work not all that long ago.

Take a break

How long has it been since you got away from your business for even a few days? Often people experience what looks like burnout when it’s really mental and or physical exhaustion. Take a few days and do anything but business. Visit family, hike, take a road trip, have some fun!

Talk to friends

How much of your frustration and discouragement are you sharing with close friends and family? Are you honest about the setbacks or instead using your best salesperson’s pitch to convince everyone that everything’s great? Keeping up appearances can be draining, and with friends it’s not your best move. Talking – some – about your challenges is the first step toward getting the support and encouragement you need. And your friends can be a good sounding board for ideas and solutions.

Talk to other entrepreneurs

Do you know others who are starting a business? Think about getting together with them regularly to discuss challenges and plans. One of the hardest things about starting a company is that often you’re working hard all by yourself without the energy you can get from other people. Take advantage of the smarts and understanding of others in your position. Why not start a monthly roundtable to discuss specific issues that you are all facing?

Talk to yourself

What’s your self-talk like these days? Are you still proud of your work or do you spend too much time worrying? Are you looking toward the future or regretting the past? Negative self-talk can take way too much of your energy and enthusiasm. Take the time to listen to yourself and give your thoughts a positive twist.

Adjust your behavior

Are you going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up naturally rather than with an alarm most days of the week? How are your eating habits? Are you working to eat well or do you find yourself getting one or more meals a day from fast-food places or vending machines? What about regular exercise – and pacing doesn’t count. You can’t work at your best when you’re not taking care of yourself.

Get a check-up

Is this burnout or something else? Get a complete physical and be sure to tell your physician about your current feelings and behavior. You may be dealing with depression, which is as much physical as mental. Other physical problems can make you tired and discouraged. Take the time to rule these out.

Ask yourself some tough questions

If you’ve tried some or most of the ideas above and you still are feeling burned out, maybe the problem isn’t you. Maybe you’ve just taken your business as far as you can. Talk to mentors and other businesspeople about where you are and what you want to do. It may be time for a major change in your approach or letting go of some or all of your business dreams. Sometimes the thing that’s burning out is your business plans and all the work in the world won’t fix that. If that’s the case, be prepared to make changes or move on.

Feed your recovery

If you find yourself feeling better and recovering some of your original energy, keep those spirits going. Don’t stop the changes you’ve made and add to them as time goes on. Focus on the work that you enjoy the most and give yourself many, many pats on the back. You can recover from burnout and bring back that enthusiastic entrepreneurial energy to keep growing your business.


Adam Toren
Adam Toren

Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of the award winning books, Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right. Their latest project is a free classified ads network called: iSell.com.