by Jake Hare, founder of Launchpeer
According to the World Health Organization, burnout has officially been categorized as a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” in the International Classification of Diseases. The ripple effect of burnout has reached global highs and is a massive contributing factor to what is now known as The Great Resignation or The Big Quit.
We are existing in a technological age, experiencing a faster, more stimulated way of life than ever before. It’s no wonder reports of burnout are reaching all time highs, and individuals are leaving traditional career paths and jobs in search of a more fulfilling opportunity or vocation. What better way to increase quality of life than to abandon an old post and pursue a new calling with your own rules, timeline, and goals?
As it turns out, entrepreneurship is not a one-way ticket to work-life balance. Quite the opposite, as this is one of the primary reasons startups fail, potentially more than any other reason. It’s not uncommon for a new business to demand an exorbitant amount of hours worked in the early phases, and many successful entrepreneurs report the hours put into the business directly affect your success.
It’s no mystery how the slippery slope begins, but it also begs the question: is working that much in anyone’s best interest? Starting and maintaining a successful business demands determination, focus, and resilience, but also self-awareness. In an ideal world, business owners are aware of burnout and its associated risks, and can take preventative measures to avoid experiencing any symptoms or backlash.
Entrepreneurs have an exceptionally high likelihood of experiencing burnout. They tend to function in high uncertainty, be more passionately devoted to their work, and hence oftentimes more socially isolated, all of which makes them more susceptible. The signs of burnout are fairly easy to identify, as they remain consistent amongst business leaders across all industries.
Whether it’s knowledge for personal accountability, or to help support someone in your organization, let’s first discover how to spot entrepreneurial burnout.
- Avoidance of work/sense of dread going to work. We have all likely heard the legend of finding a career or job you love so you ‘never have to work a day in your life.’ And while that may be an extreme, there is absolutely some truth to that statement. When you find enjoyment, fulfillment, or true interest in your craft, you likely also experience excitement to wake up and launch into action each day. Early phases of burnout have shown the complete opposite, a sense of dread, or the age old, “I don’t want to go to school today.”
- Loss of satisfaction in your work. Accomplishing goals, completing tasks, or basic productivity no longer bring you a sense of satisfaction. People often take risks as entrepreneurs within a field that inspires passion and conviction, identifying a problem or need that resonates with them and setting out to make a difference or fill a niche.
- This is often referred to as the feeling of watching yourself from the sidelines. A potential component to experiencing a loss in satisfaction or avoidance of work, but individuals may endure a persistent disconnect from their mental processes and/or physical body.
- Potentially one of the more noticeable symptoms to those closest to you, as it’s not uncommon for close friends and family to call out changes in your mood and personality. Increased irritability really manifests itself as a byproduct of decreased bandwidth.
- Increased forgetfulness. Another consequence of burnout and decreased bandwidth is the likelihood of memory lapse. When you’re stuck with your feet in the mud of dread and dissatisfaction, your mind turns into a sieve without much control of what slips through the cracks.
- Physical symptoms. Numerous studies have uncovered and proven a wide spectrum of conditions that burnout has the potential to initiate or worsen. The immune system takes a huge hit as a result of burnout, but there’s also an increased risk of elevated cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic pain, insomnia, gastrointestinal stress, and obesity. Beyond the aspect of physical health, entrepreneurs may run a greater risk of depression as well.
Now, all hope is not lost. Not only are there countless ways to heal and correct these symptoms or conditions, but avoiding them all together is not just a pipedream. Most importantly, have a strong sense of self-awareness, and keep these indicators in mind. When you’re in the thick of a new business venture, it can feel inevitable that a sign or sensation of burnout will sneak in unannounced, but that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy we’re trying to suppress.
Set up a strong network, both internally and externally, of people who will help prioritize your best interests. Simply establishing this network won’t suffice, nurture these relationships by investing time and energy into them; the closer they are, the better equipped they will be to help call out when you may be slowly sliding towards burnout. More specifically, connect with other founders who may be at the same or similar stages in their business development. Don’t ever underestimate the power of having a network that can empathize with your experiences.
Within the day to day of operating a business, it is essential to understand the barriers between what can and cannot be controlled. Keep the focus on what is within your control, and target your energy and efforts here. Disconnecting from what’s happening in the world around you is crucial in this realm. Whether your business is directly impacted by politics or social issues, make an attempt to create some separation, as it can be so overwhelming and easy to feel a total lack of control and usefulness. And when in doubt – delegate! Trust and lean on those around you when the cup starts to overflow.
The concept ‘work smarter not harder’ holds a lot of truth and validity. Working just to work won’t lead to a successful business. We live in an age where people are attempting to rebalance their work lives and personal lives in order to prioritize overall wellness and quality of life. But most changes of that kind are driven by a broken system, in this case, years of glorifying the ‘workaholic’ culture. People have lived their lives defining their worth by what they do and how well they do it. Preventing entrepreneurial burnout doesn’t have to be complicated. Prioritize and value your own self-care, as no one is more qualified for that job than you!
Jake Hare is a former homeless teen, proud Army veteran, and founder of Launchpeer, an incubator program focused on early stage startups. Launchpeer works with entrepreneurs to implement their formulaic, data-driven system that guarantees to get them from napkin sketch idea built, launched, and funded while avoiding the pitfalls that kill most startups.