If you answered “yes” to most or all of these questions, you’re at high risk for burnout.
Charlene Walters, Vice Provost and Dean of the Strayer Digital Entrepreneurship MBA, cautions against burnout because it harms both your personal well-being and your growing business. “If you’re working too hard, you’re actually becoming less productive, and you’ll start to get overwhelmed,” says Walters. “Many entrepreneurs have to fail a lot before they ultimately succeed. They need to have the energy to bounce back and keep going.”
Dealing with setbacks and rejections can be hard, especially when you’re just starting out. Walters stresses the importance of being resilient enough to hang in there. “You won’t hit it big until you put some time in. If you get burnt out too quickly, you won’t achieve that.”
Burnout can happen when your work-life balance shifts too much to the work side. Here are four strategies to get back in balance and prevent burnout:
If your startup is consuming every waking hour, it’s a good idea to set some boundaries. Walters recommends “time chunking,” which is scheduling blocks of time to focus on one particular area of your life. It’s easier to work efficiently during these dedicated time chunks, when your attention isn’t scattered between responsibilities.
For example, instead of squeezing startup tasks into Saturday family time, maybe you reserve 1-5 p.m. every Saturday for work. The rest of the day belongs to the family. Making a formal agreement like this with both yourself and the people in your life decreases tension. You’ll be able to work with fewer interruptions, and your family can count on your full attention once work hours are done.
Working long hours at a desk can do a number on your physical well-being. Your body can get tense and sore, and you may be eating more junk food than healthy meals. Dedicate time each day to move your body, even if it’s just doing some simple stretches at your desk or going for a 15-minute walk. Hitting the gym a few times per week is great, too, if you can swing it.
A simple way to eat healthier is to plan ahead. When you consciously choose your meals and snacks for the day or week, it’s more likely you’ll pick salads and other whole foods instead of junk. If you wait until you’re famished to make the decision, you’re more likely to head for the drive-thru or vending machine.
We live in an increasingly digital age. Social media can enrich both our professional and personal lives. Google puts a world of information at our fingertips. Netflix binges are fun! Too much time online, however, can leave you feeling imbalanced and prone to burnout. Once you start clicking and scrolling, it’s hard to stop, and you can unintentionally waste a lot of time.
Decide in advance how long you’ll spend on your favorite websites and apps, and stick to this limit. Set a timer, enable screen time limits on your phone, or use website-blocking software like Freedom.
Once you take control of your schedule, you’ll need to protect it. Sometimes, that means saying no to things you’d really like to do. For example, if a friend invites you to a BBQ on Saturday afternoon, you might have to say, “Sorry—that’s my startup work time.” Maybe you're asked to submit a last-minute project, but the deadline interferes with your family dinner, so you have to delay it. Saying no can be tough, but it’s crucial if you want to avoid burnout.
These are just a few ways to start reclaiming your work-life balance and keep burnout at bay. Try these, and come up with your own strategies to stay strong for the long haul. Remember that building a business is a marathon, not a sprint.