You know the feeling. You started out excited, bursting with enthusiasm and energy. The inspiration was coming fast and furious. But lately you’re feeling a little, well, tired. Your creativity feels like it’s drying up almost as quickly as the sleep deprivation is gaining ground.
Warning -- you’re on the path to burnout!
As an entrepreneur, you work hard because you love what you do. It’s you out there making things happen. But remember that the saying, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” is especially true for entrepreneurs.
Here are five quick and easy ways to assess if you’re on the path to entrepreneurial burnout -- and what to do about it:
1. You’re getting less than six hours of sleep a day. Sleep is one of the most important tools in an entrepreneur’s toolbox. Think there’s too much to get done and sleep can be passed up? Think again. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, calls sleep deprivation, “the root of all bad decisions.” Sleep gives you the refresh you need for new ideas and it gives your body the reset it needs to stay healthy.
Tips: It’s best to wait a few hours after dinner before going to sleep. The same goes for alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Keep your phone away from your bedside or consider putting it in do not disturb mode. Sleep studies have shown that the chimes and beeps and the light of the screen interrupt your sleep.
2. You are chronically the “yes” man/woman. "Yes" can sometimes be a dangerous word. Say "yes" too much and you’re going to get overwhelmed. Take some time before committing to a new client, job or even personal obligation to figure out if it’s really in your overall best interest. Sometimes saying "no" helps you set healthy boundaries and results in better quality work that aligns with your values.
Tips: Think long term. Will committing to this person, event or activity be a decision you regret? One key trigger word to watch out for if you’re a chronic “over-committer” is should. If you find the true feeling behind your “yes” is more like a reluctant feeling of “should,” set your boundaries and say no.
3. You are neglecting your health. If you’re interested in living a long, successful life, you’re going to need your brain and body to function at their best. And innovation is one of the pillars of entrepreneurism. Entrepreneur and Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels stresses that creating time for fitness in your busy schedule is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and a sharp mind.
Tips: Don’t make a mountain out of molehill. For most of us health is about simple, frequent choices, not a drastic lifestyle makeover. What about swapping out fast food for a healthier option, such as a lean deli sandwich? Can you take your conference call while also taking a short walk? Exercise is a great stress relief to help you avoid burnout, too.
4. You aren’t having fun. While every day might not be a walk in the park, fun is an important part of creativity. As Mary Poppins once advised you as a child, “in every job that’s to be done, there is an element of fun.” Her film’s creator, Walt Disney, was the champion of putting fun and fantasy into his brilliantly successful company.
Tips: Let go of the idea that working long hours is a sign of a great entrepreneur. Work smarter, not harder. Take a little time out during your day to laugh, play and enjoy some aspect of your life. Fun is essential to recharge your batteries and stave off burnout.
5. You are an island. Simon and Garfunkel taught us the follies of thinking you are a rock or an island. Every successful person needs a tribe. If you’re working in isolation, like so many entrepreneurs, find a group to plug into that inspires, pushes and makes you have some fun.
Tips: Get involved. Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin wrote an entire book about the importance of interacting with the right people, Tribes. It’s about ways you can connect your personal leadership with your ideas, and those of others. Start something new or help fill a leadership void, but find your tribe. There are lots of organizations both for your professional pursuits and your personal passions.