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.
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.
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.
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.
Some earliest signs of burnout can be innocuous
A few of the typical early signs of burnout may manifest as easy-to-ignore symptoms:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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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