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THIS "CONCEPT CLARIFIER" BLOG POST OF 4000+ WORDS OFFERS KNOWLEDGE AND ACTION TIPS

This blog post below is a classic concept-clarifier on “Business Burnout”. Concept-clarifier posts must both explain a concept and give actionable additional tips. 

This is also a good example of a “pain-point solution” post. Providing solutions to your target audience’s pain points is among the smartest way to get their interest, deliver value, build trust, and boost loyalty in the long run.

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Business Burnout: Signs, Signals, And Soothing First-Aid

Portfolio Item 3 - Concept Clarifier Blog Post

A big part of the business community stop business after a short period of time – not because they’re failing, but because they have burnout.

Business burnout is when you experience debilitating exhaustion because of work, and can no longer keep up. In any business, especially a single-person business, if you don’t know how to set your priorities, and have no work-life balance, your body and mind break down.

More importantly, you may not even understand why things are so unless you can see the signs. Fortunately, there are things you can do for first-aid, for recovery.

CONTENTS:

VIDEO: Laura Knights and Summer Alexander talk on “How to Avoid Solopreneur Burnout” (Must watch: 5:48 minutes)

In this insightful video, the two wise minds behind the TheSolopreneurSystem.com answer a question on how to avoid burnout. They’ve got four solutions you must listen to them talk about – Get Help, Get Away, Get Together, and Get Guidance.

They also suggest you take action on any one step each week, so you know which area of your worklife needs most attention to keep off that burnout.

1. What exactly is business burnout?

An explanation of business burnout

“Burnout” is the term psychologists use to explain the syndrome of such deep stress that afflicted persons are not able to work again. Their brains get foggy and creak to a halt. Their bodies get fatigued beyond tolerable limits. They go into a downward spiral. They have depleting ability to act. Then have guilt about this inability. That then renders them even more inactive … and so on. Finally, they hit a wall of deep despair that makes them incapable of taking any more.

Solopreneurs, being single-person businesses (where business owners take the whole workload on themselves) are particularly prone to burnout. In the initial days of business, they try to overachieve, because they are brimming with enthusiasm, and have so many new things to do. They can’t seem to stop themselves from overworking.

Running a sprint instead of a marathon

Like runners of marathons, who run too fast too early, and later can’t make the distance, over-eager new business owners also want to get ahead in the race too soon, but they burnout before they’ve even covered the first leg of the race. The problem is usually in the mindset. They start businesses treating the race to success like a sprint and not a marathon.

Don’t be dismissive of the syndrome

Business burnout is not a malady to be taken lightly. For those who are afflicted with it, it can be a really serious health issue. The problem is that it takes businesspeople a long time to acknowledge the symptoms of it, or to realize they are in the thick of ill-health state they should be concerned about.

It’s often explained away as “not getting ideas”, “finding it all boring” or “seeing no money and getting frustrated”. Business burnout is not just one of these possibilities. It is a cumulation of all such symptoms, manifesting day after day, and cutting down productivity to almost zero. The situation should ring alarm bells.

You may need first-aid, deep rest, and a realism-driven reboot

Even though a lot of people enter into business every day, only a few of them become successful and continue on the journey. A big part of the business community (often in their first year or two) find they have to stop business after they have indulged in some frenetic activity. Having unrealistic expectations from business, and therefore feeling compelled to handle unreasonable workloads, are often the reasons why their engines of creation ultimately grind to a halt.

We’ve put together some first-aid tips here for business burnout. Plus, there are some tips on how to take deep rest for recovery. We also have some more tips on how to restart life with a more realistic, long-term perspective after recovery. All three aspects are important – the first-aid remedies, the deep rest period, and the ultimate recovery with realism.

2. What are the signs you’re heading for a burnout?

Some earliest signs of burnout can be innocuous

A few of the typical early signs of burnout may manifest as easy-to-ignore symptoms:

  • You always feel guilty and doubtful, and all you see are the drawbacks in business.
  • Even after spending long hours at work, you no longer work as effectively and productively.
  • You end up with incomplete projects and a much, much longer to-do list.
  • You can’t remember when you last slept soundly without interfering thoughts about work.

An expert explains what to look for

There is a beautiful article on this whole topic of burnout by one of the leading psychology experts Sherrie Bourg Carter (Psy.D.) titled “The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?”.


Here’s a key snippet from her article:

“Burnout is one of those road hazards in life that high-achievers really should keep a close eye out for, but sadly, – often because of their “I can do everything” personalities – they rarely see it coming.

Because high-achievers are often so passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working exceptionally long hours, taking on exceedingly heavy workloads, and putting enormous pressure on themselves to excel – all of which make them ripe for burnout.

What is burnout? Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment


When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. However, burnout doesn’t happen suddenly. You don’t wake up one morning and all of the sudden “have burnout”.

Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognize it before it’s too late.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, this should be a wake-up call that you may be on a dangerous path. Take some time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late.

Burnout isn’t like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some changes in your life. And as hard as that may seem, it’s the smartest thing to do because making a few little changes now will keep you in the race with a lot of gas to get you across the finish line.”

Take action when you get aware you’re on this slippery slope

This is advice from an expert who knows a thing or two about the typical behaviors of those who set over-ambitious goals and then beat themselves to live up to a totally illogical image of themselves. Don’t just skim over this advice, take it in. Plan to take action when you still have the ability to act.

3. What are the reasons for business burnout?

When you do burnout, you have no one to blame but yourself

When you are a business owner, no one else is dictating what you should do. You are your own boss. But it’s you who expects yourself to do it all with aplomb – the management, the marketing, the PR, the grunt work. You get so hard on yourself because you are so driven by your own goals to succeed, and so pressured to see money come in. It’s no wonder that when you do burnout, you have no one to shift the blame to.

It’s so ironic that people who have left 9-to-5 jobs, hoping to start business and work less (to get that beautiful work-life balance), end up working harder than they ever did 9-to-5. They probably don’t realize that a To-Do List is often more tyrannical than any 9-to-5 boss can be.

6 major causes for solopreneur burnout

Research suggests that burnout is often caused by self-flagellation. If you feel you are heading for burnout, see if your own behavior and expectations are the causes behind it all.

  • Workload unmatched to personal capacity: You may be totally unrealistic about how much you can do, and set yourself overwhelming lists to complete in totally unrealistic time frames. You may be doing this all the time, not just now and then. This may become a habitual way of driving yourself. You may be expecting cooperation from your mind and body like an Army Major expects unquestioning do-or-die behavior from his soldiers.

  • Feeling satisfied with being out of control: The inner boss in you – who is also an inner critic – may be making you feel worthless unless you’ve piled your plate with tasks that leave you feeling slightly out of control. In fact, feeling a little out of control may even be giving you a false feeling of high productivity … until things get so out of hand. You may be measuring your worth by how high your plate is piled with tasks.

  • In the absence of real rewards, work tasks may become equal to imaginary money: When you aren’t yet productive of earnings from your business, you may shift your goalpost subliminally to seeing rewards in the amount of work you can do. Many over-driven business owners admit that they imagine every jot of work as being equal to dollars going into their banks. Check yourself to see if you too have started believing that “workload equals invisible money”, and that working even harder will soon make that money visible.

  • You may be always compelled to do that “one more thing”: When you have to stop work and go and do something else, you may find yourself unable to stop. You may feel as if you can close your worktime only after completing that “one more thing” … and then another “one more thing”. If you don’t keep doing these “one more things” you feel as if you’ve betrayed your sense of perfection, and left things incomplete and in a mess. The truth is that work expands to fill the time you have. The more time you give yourself, the more “one more things” you will find to fill up the time.

  • You may be promising yourself that “when business gets traction, I’ll balance my life”: You could be a silent believer in the dictum that you have to work very hard, in the beginning, to get the business moving, and then a time will come when the business will start gaining momentum and traction of its own, and work will get easier of its own. And, at that time you’ll stop working like a maniac. That day, in fact, never comes, because a business is by nature dynamic. Situations will always arise to make something a contingency, if you so choose to see it. And you’ll always be wearing yourself out thinking “Tomorrow may be that day”.

  • You may be reading (and believing) stories of people who say, “I made $123,456,7890 in 5 days”: Being online as a business owner has its pluses and minuses. Among the minuses is the fact that many people lie a lot. They even publish so-called “income statements” that are Photoshopped. The problem happens when you read so many of these “I got rich quick” articles that you start thinking it is possible. In fact, your natural skepticism dwindles because you want to believe it is possible. Those liars don’t cheat you, as much as you want to cheat yourself that they may be right. The result is that you work yourself to the bone, doing everything that all of those charlatans recommended.

4. What do statistics say on business burnout?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), 20% of start-up businesses fail during their initial year, 30% fail during the second year, and 50% fail within the first five years of existence.

Although there could be a lot of reasons why businesses fail, burnout or complete mental and physical exhaustion remains one of the top causes of business failure and closure. One research study hints that entrepreneurial firm failure and bankruptcy is likely to contribute significantly to the $300 billion that burnout costs the U.S. annually.

Harvard Business Review showcased a study on the relationship between entrepreneurs (including solopreneus), burnout, and two types of passion.

  • The first type of passion was identified as “harmonious passion,” which leads business owners to high levels of concentration, attention, and absorption. “Harmoniously passionate” entrepreneurs were those able to balance their job with other activities in their lives, without experiencing conflict, guilt, or negative effects.

  • By contrast, the second type of passion — termed as “obsessive passion” — led entrepreneurs who had this type of passion to struggle to pay attention at work. This was largely due to their guilt and unhappy feelings that they were neglecting the other sides of their lives (such as family and staying healthy).

No prizes for guessing the “obsessively passionate” group were serious candidates for burnout. This study seems to show that it’s not just the extra work solopreneurs and other business owners do that makes them burnout faster. It’s their guilt about other important priorities they are sacrificing, to do their work, that is also a major contributory factor to burnout.

5. Do high-achievers get business burnout faster?

High-achievers are those who both aim high and take setbacks in their stride. They are people with both agility and resilience. What exactly are “agility” and “resilience”? For starters, both agility and resilience demand extreme toughness, so if you are in the high-achiever game you may be dealing with two different traits that are both stress-laden.

  • Agility is the readiness to spot opportunity. High-achievers with agility are very quick in grabbing chances and using them to their advantage. They go after even risky chances, hoping to convert seeming disadvantages into advantages. They are nimble and alert.

  • Resilience is the toughness to rebound from setbacks. High-achievers with resilience are quick to put bad experiments behind them and move on without remorse. They do not get too negatively analytical nor self-critical. They demonstrate the power to recover quickly from difficulties.

All high achievers don’t have a perfect 50-50 balance of agility and resilience. Some have more agility and low resilience. They may take risks with new opportunities without much stress, but get burnt out by low resilience to setbacks. On the other hand, some others may have low agility and high resilience. They may get stressed out when faced with risks they should take, but may actually bounce back beautifully if they have disruptions in business.

Most high-achievers have their own combination of the agility-resilience ratio, so what makes them burnout faster would depend on what their strengths and weaknesses are. Either way, high-achiever play the entrepreneurial game from the edge of both extremes of agility and resilience … and so, one way or the other, they could fall faster into the burnout trap.

6. What quotes can help burnout sufferers?

There are six beautiful quotes I have come across that have saved me from crossing that thin red line between hard work and burnout. Here are my favorites that could help you too:

  • “Just because you take breaks doesn’t mean you’re broken.”

  • “The problem with “everything” is that it ends up looking an awful lot like nothing.”

  • “The most fruitful breaks are often those we are or were forced to take by life.”

  • “Burnout exists because we’ve made rest a reward rather than a right.”

  • “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

  • “How can you manage a business if you can’t manage yourself?”

7. What are the best first-aid burnout remedies?

Burnout never goes away on its own. Most of us are quick to dismiss mental disorders and feelings because they aren’t immediately visible like a fractured leg might be. Also, ignoring burnout or failing to address the situation fast, only makes the situation worsen progressively. Before you know it, you have so many external symptoms in your body, and so many churning thoughts in the mind, that even the ability to react to and handle the burnout goes out of your own control.

Some form of immediate remedial measures must be taken to preserve your mental and physical ability to reach for deeper rest or help. Remember: Even with immediate remedial first-aid, you won’t get better in a day. But you will stop the problem from intensifying. You will save your mind and body so that it is in a position to seek and get rest and therapy if needed.

In the following sections of the article I have listed six of the best first-aid measures you can take to immediately stop burnout from building upon its impact.

7a. Recognize the signs of burnout – and respect them

A sense of purposelessness is a clear clue to impending burnout

There’s a difference between “feeling the blues” about work, and actually beginning to feel a sense of “purposelessness”. Many businesspeople don’t hear the alert sounds when they first begin to feel the “pointlessness” in the work they do. Beyond the physical fatigue, the mind starts feeling apathy, disenchantment, detachment, and withdrawal from work – sometimes even from life.

If problems you face are physical there are probably things you can do to revive energy. But if the mind begins to detach and feel numb, you absolutely cannot ignore the signals. Nor can you beat the mind further to tell you why it feels this way.

Don’t try to become your own psycho-analyst and “search” yourself

When a sense of “I can’t connect with this anymore!” sets in about your business, it’s not the best time to be doing deep psycho-analysis, or to ask your mind searching questions like: “Why are you feeling this way? What would you like changed?” More and more mind-searching for answers doesn’t help, because what you need is first-aid for a mind that’s stopped thinking.

When you feel your mind getting disconnected from your work, when it is spacing out and refusing to go on, say to yourself: “Enough, I need help, not reasons. I can’t go on torturing myself, knowing that my mind is not in a state to co-operate.”

Recognize definite burnout signals when the mind disengages from your work – and respect those signals. The mind always tells the truth.

7b. Realize your limitations – do try to avoid them

Don’t try to cut off all activity completely

In the midst of having a solopreneur burnout, there may be things you find you absolutely cannot do – while there are other things that you can do that seem to give some relief.

Many solopreneurs, and other entrepreneurs, say that when their minds refuse to work, they’d rather not lie in bed. They’d rather be whiling away time doing a mundane mindless activity – like walking in the park, thinking of nothing … or cleaning out a closet … or maybe doing some cooking. There seems to be relief in doing activities by rote, rather than by merely sinking into a mattress.

By all means, try to do those things that bring relief. The answer to mental tiredness is often in physical action, just as the answer to physical exhaustion is often found in sitting down to introspect.

Your mind and body can help each other if you let them

The moral of the story here is to not stop everything, because the mind-body complex is built such that the body helps the mind, and the mind helps the body. So realize that when the mind wants to switch off, there are actions that can be done lightly and mindlessly that give immense relief, and get the blood flowing, even when the mind waves are not working.

7c. Say “no” quickly – don’t wait for things to worsen

Stop all overt and covert self-pressurizing tactics

Since all business owners enter into an online business to succeed, we put immense pressure on ourselves to see signs of success as fast as possible. Sometimes we are aware of the pressure we put on ourselves – it stares at us as a schedule or a time-table to get some work-lot done, come what may.

Sometimes, we aren’t even aware we are pressuring ourselves. But we can tell the signs when we see ourselves feverishly scouring the Internet for articles like “How long does blogging take to work?”, or “How many blog posts do I need to write per day?”, or “What is Neil Patel’s daily schedule?”

The secret to helping yourself through burnout is to say “No more!” to any type of self-pressure. Don’t think that cutting down your workload, or reading more articles on “making your workload easier”, will help. You need to cut away from all overt and covert forms of self-flagellation.

Reading that one more article, or watching that one more tutorial video, or buying that one more book on Amazon that says “Ways to Beat the Procrastination” are all cop-outs. You have to face the truth early enough to know you are stealthily punishing yourself in this way.

Understand that procrastination is a symptom, not a problem

There’s always an underlying reason why procrastination happens, but again going into the analysis of those reasons, at this time of burnout, doesn’t help. It only adds to the burden of personal guilt.

So, quit chastising yourself by looking at what others have to say about their way around obstacles. Stop the success-chasing game right here and now, and let those “knowledgeable others” get out of your life. Do this early. Don’t wait to see if more knowledge from them can help rev your mind up. It won’t.

Locate the actions you can take without using the mind, and do them to keep your circulation going. It’s important to keep moving, even if it’s in a mind-detached way.

7d. Take a break – the world will not end if you do

The man who dropped out of business and still made money

Let me tell you something I learned from a solopreneur-blogger who makes a lot of money – in fact, so much money that I was tempted to write to him and ask if he would teach me his method. What he told me – his secret to successful blogging – was a revelation.

He had started a blog with a great deal of earnestness, and in the first six months he blogged a lot on his niche topic – he kept up a schedule of one big fat blog post every day. Soon he had about 150-180 posts in about 6 months, but then solopreneur burnout set in and he found he could write no more – so he shut down his blogging.

He was tempted to shut down his site and not incur the monthly hosting costs anymore – but he was so tired, he says, he never got around to doing that. But he closed the email address associated with his site because he couldn’t bear to see more mails on a subject he had shut his mind from. He took a rest for nearly a year, working on his health, and then got a regular day job and forgot his blog and his site.

Then one day it struck him to close down his site, but while he was about to do so he was aghast to find his blog had been getting close to 10,500 visitors per month, many of whom had even signed up to his mailing list for his free downloadable ebook … and he never even sent them any newsletters in all this time. He had even earned about $3500 in affiliate income which he hadn’t claimed. People had been dropping by his site, reading his stuff, signing up for his list, buying affiliate products – and they were still doing so in monthly five-digit traffic that was growing every month.

One more lesson this man learned

There’s more to this story. This blogger later realized that many other solopreneur-bloggers had a smart plan. They’d work on their niche sites for 6 months, and then move away, letting Google do its thing – while they took a break and then built other new niche sites.

Moral? If you’re having a burnout, stop work by all means. Some people are succeeding by taking breaks regularly. Feel blissful, though, that Google never stops.

7e. Look after your body – it needs repair and restoration

Sometimes, the body and mind creaking to a halt are like a gift

Burnout may put you in touch with your real self (not the electronic self), and show you what’s important in life. Burnout may also show you lots of new things you can begin in your life, that are good habits to replace the bad ones you had fallen into.

  • There’s nothing better for the body than some good rest. Preferably some deep rest. Activities like yoga (that call for deep breathing) and meditation (that can quieten the mind) are excellent habits to begin at a time like this.

  • Your mind and body need loads of TLC after burnout, so make sure you give them that. Eat good healthy food, drink plenty of fluids to remove all the toxins from your system, cleanse the body of impurities with a fiber-rich diet, and get sunshine and fresh air as often as you can.

  • Eat freshly cooked food, preferably real food that doesn’t come in cans and bottles. Cook it yourself, because it’s said that imbibing the kitchen aromas and the look of freshly cooking food is almost as healthy as eating it.

  • Learn to breathe deep. It’s something that’s easy to forget to do when you’re hunched over a computer and your mind is whirring with the tensions of getting your work for the day done. Ancient wisdom in India (where I come from) says that our longevity is actually counted in number of breaths, and not in days or months or years. So if your breathing is shallow you’ll expend your lifetime faster. If you breathe deep and long for each breath you take, you’ve live longer.

  • Have a good circle of friends, and preferably those that are not just available online. One-to-one contact with real people can be invigorating. Have a good laugh with friends, chat about everything except work, spend time with family, spend time frolicking with pets, or get to meet or see new people when you do errands for your daily living.

  • Don’t cocoon yourself with a computer and a smartphone, and order everything via home delivery. Get out and about and rediscover the joys of real life outside of a laptop computer.

  • Also, discover that real life can be enjoyed without spending too much money. If you don’t buy so much, you won’t feel the pressure to earn more than that. Pare your needs down, declutter your home, and discover that less is more.

Don’t go back to your work in a hurry, when you feel a bit better

After your mind and body feel a bit restored and well, don’t rush back into work. Let the old habits die with disuse till a new life of health, exercise, fun, and laughter (and a better life-work balance) can take over. Wait till you feel like your life has transformed around a new set of priorities that begin with caring for your health … then go back to the earning of wealth.

7f. If stopping work adds to anxiety – outsource work

How to handle your “I’m the best” syndrome

There are some among us who hate hiring others, but because we don’t think someone else can do as perfect a job as we want to do. We are basically against the idea of outsourcing for two or three reasons:

  • One, we are fastidious about our own notions of perfectionism, and are never satisfied with the work of others on our behalf.

  • Two, we don’t like the idea of getting work out of others, because that feels harder to do than finishing it all ourselves.

  • Three, we may be shoestring entrepreneurs, and not have the budget to outsource good quality hires who need less shepherding.

The way to decide whether you need outsourced help is this: if the anxiety of not working is more than the issues you have with outsourcing, then do try outsourcing if you have the wherewithal for it.

Two things to do if you’re ready to try outsourcing

  • Make it known to the person you are hiring that this is a trial, and you’ll continue with the arrangement only if it suits. Who knows, you may get along with the other person fabulously and discover your fears or resistance were more in your head than real.

  • If outsourcing work doesn’t suit your personality or adds to your already high blood pressure levels, it’s not worth it. Let go of the work, as we said earlier, safe in the knowledge that the Internet won’t hang up if you’re not adding your two-bits to it every day.

 

A famous quote I remember goes like this: “There are only two kinds of anxieties in life: one is how to to get what you need, and two is how to get what you think you need because of greed.” I can’t quite remember who wrote it but I give copious credit to the person who did.

Most of the business burnout we see around us seems to come from the second kind of need, which is actually greed masquerading as a need, wouldn’t you say?

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