Although burnout can sometimes feel sudden and intense, it’s usually been in development for quite some time before we’re finally overwhelmed. Entrepreneurship burnout, in particular, is its own unique brand of exhaustion.
Burnout is a very real dilemma many entrepreneurs face due to their natural tendency to overwork themselves. Business owners often boast about their big ambitions and impressive work ethics without realizing that those strengths can also turn into weaknesses if left unchecked.
Know the Warnings
You might think that only some people are affected by burnout, but it can truly happen to anyone. Business owners, specifically, are more at risk for burnout because they tend to work hard for long hours with minimal breaks. As of 2022, 63% of business owners admit they’ve dealt with a burnout in the past or are currently struggling with it. However, burnout is something that should not be taken lightly.
Understanding the early signs of burnout can help empower you to prevent things from getting worse. It’s important to be just as vigilant about your mental health as you are about your business dealings. After all, your business can only thrive when its owner is feeling well and productive. Here are 5 signs you’re on the verge of business owner burnout.
1. Decline in Motivation
Entrepreneurship is an exercise in maintaining motivation. Entrepreneurs must learn how to stay motivated in order to power through toward their goals. With no boss to tell us what to do, we must learn to motivate ourselves day in and day out. When entrepreneurs begin to lose motivation, their businesses tend to suffer.
One of the first signs of burnout you might notice is a decline in motivation. This doesn’t exclusively apply to business-related tasks, either. You may notice yourself struggling to perform even small, simple activities at home or in your personal life. Burnout shares many characteristics with depression – and one of those includes struggling to find the motivation to complete tasks. If you work alone, this is particularly challenging as you do not have co-workers to help rebuild your motivation. Check out our article on the ways to avoid burnout as a solopreneur for some specific tips on preventing burnout.
2. Mood Changes
One of the symptoms of burnout is irritability. After coping for so long with heavy stress and pressure, you may feel callous towards those around you, or even resentful if they seem to be feeling better than you are. If this is left unchecked, it can potentially damage your social relationships and can even lead to depression.
Entrepreneurs are usually optimistic by nature, partly because they have to be. It’s hard to run a business, and there are always ups and downs. It takes an emotionally resilient individual to keep trying new things despite those setbacks. When you start to experience irritability and pessimism, it becomes even more difficult to push back against obstacles.
If you have employees, they might notice your irritability before you do. If you notice you’ve been unusually short-tempered or impatient with your employees, burnout may be the culprit. Don’t make your employees suffer for your own exhaustion – instead, take a step back and identify the cause of this behavior.
3. Inability to Focus
The ability to focus is an entrepreneurial superpower. We have to focus on the big picture, the day-to-day, deadlines, and targets. We also have to learn to remove distractions so that we can increase our focus on our business goals. Without focus, there is little hope for an entrepreneur to reach their goal. This is why an increased inability to focus is a red flag for an entrepreneur that is usually locked in.
Studies show that burnout actually impacts the brain’s ability to concentrate. Burnout, being a long-term stress response, chemically changes the way your brain operates, and part of that involves making it harder to push past distractions. It also makes it harder to resist negative thinking patterns, which can also keep you from being productive.
4. Negative Feelings About Work
If you wake up and immediately start dreading your workday, it’s an indicator that burnout is on the horizon. Although it’s normal to have days you just don’t feel your best, consistently dreading work isn’t healthy and can create a negative relationship between you and your business.
If you find yourself frequently daydreaming at work, that can also be an indicator of deeper unhappiness or exhaustion. If you struggle to feel positive about work, try taking a break and doing something else instead.
Cultivating positive, engaging hobbies outside of work can also help you feel more fulfilled and can give you something to look forward to after work. Hobbies can also be a great way to unwind and relieve stress after a long day.
5. Feeling Discouraged
It’s important that small business owners are able to envision a successful future for their businesses and work toward their goals regularly. However, when burnout begins, you might struggle to see your company becoming a success someday. When you think about your company’s mission and values, you might feel disconnected and apathetic.
This is one of the most dangerous symptoms of burnout because it not only kills your ambition, but it can quickly spiral into depression and pessimistic thoughts. As an entrepreneur, no one should have more faith in your company than you. Burnout can trick you into losing those dreams of success.
You might find yourself thinking very negatively about your business – Things like, “This isn’t going to work”, or “It’s just unrealistic”. As soon as you notice this negative self-talk, you should try to bring yourself back up. Burnout will try to convince you to give up – but you have to find the strength to resist.
6. You Can’t Stop Thinking About Time Off
During your workday, do you constantly think about taking time off or the next day off? Entrepreneurs who love their businesses usually have difficulty stepping away. In fact, entrepreneurs are notorious for not taking vacations. Many entrepreneurs are so intertwined with their businesses that vacations are usually not top of mind.
However, if all you can think about is escaping your business, your mind is trying to tell you something. The constant thinking about your next vacation can mean many things. One of them is that you are heading toward burnout.
Evaluate your thoughts and speak to mentors, co-founders, and family about your feelings. They can help validate your feelings and help you understand where they might be coming from and what they may mean.
If you notice these warning signs of burnout creeping into your life, it’s time to get a head start on resolving the problem at its root. Make sure you take the time to engage in self-care and take breaks from your work. Otherwise, your business could suffer in the long run.
Even if you’re not currently burnt out, it can happen to anyone. It’s always wise to watch out for these early signs of its onset. Burnout changes the way you work as well as the way you view the world around you. Avoiding burnout can be the best way to combat the beast. Don’t let exhaustion get between your business and success. Instead, make sure to take care of yourself and work responsibly so you and your business can thrive for a long time.