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How To Overcome Entrepreneurial Burnout

The energetic, gold-getting, world-conquering entrepreneur dives into his day’s work with bubbly enthusiasm or firm-faced determination, to solve a part of mankind’s problems and rake in some money in the process. He regularly works over long time stretches to get things done and prod his business towards growth and greater significance. He might even take pride in his extended toiling sessions- they prove that he’s a hardworker, a mission driven person. He regularly works himself to the point of utter exhaustion, but he considers this a necessity, even if it’s inconvenient. Led on by the belief that going hard at his target is the best way to hit it, he neglects ‘trivial’ detours like rest and play, and forfeits all his time to ‘hardwork’. Then he burns out.

Burnout isn’t the same as being ‘just tired’. And it’s not merely a word used by work-averse employees to make their laziness look respectable. It’s a real problem faced by millions the world over, and entrepreneurs are not spared its scourge. You’re almost certainly burning out if you’re experiencing (or developing) the following signs, usually progressing in roughly the order they’re presented here:

  • You’re losing your drive and joy for work. It’s becoming meaningless. It feels like you’re running on empty.
  • You grow to loathe work and eventually begin to ignore it. Tasks left undone pile up, leading to more pressure, more disillusionment, and more loathing. Productivity nosedives. You begin to wish you had a different kind of job from the one you’re doing, and even admire the lives and occupations of less skilled, lower paid people.
  • You feel overwhelmned a lot of the time.
  • You suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
  • You’re depressed. You can’t find joy in living, and don’t delight as much in things you once considered your hobbies. You withdraw from social activity and communication. You no longer believe life is worth your epic struggle to get out of bed.

Sometimes, burnouts get so bad that sufferers- whether they’re corporate workers or solo-preneurs -quit their jobs. And, contrary to the romantic view of entrepreneurship, this also happens with people who have a genuine love for what they do. Burnout is no respecter of persons.

Thankfully, there’s a way out of this dreadful condition. Here, we’ll explain five steps you can take to recover from it and get yourself back to being healthy and productive.

  1. Work with realistic expectations

If your targets are of the pie-in-the-sky type, and you seriously proceed to run with them, you’ll put yourself under immense pressure. The stress that results from this could build up over time, combine with other stress factors, and eventually lead to burnout.

I’m all for setting lofty goals and chasing down the impossible. But it shouldn’t be to the detriment of your physical and mental health. If you don’t take a rationalizing hold of your aims, they will sap you dry and wreck your spirit. Set achievable goals for yourself, and measure progress with realistic yardsticks. Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re already burning out. Take things easy. Your life is more important than the business empire you’re dying to build.

  1. Outsource

You know it’s time to shift some work away from yourself when you’re collapsing under the weight of everything you have to deal with on your own. Don’t try to be an all-in-one business maestro. Just do what you can with what you have. Outsource work when you can afford to do so. It’s even more important to give yourself breathing space when you’re being totally pounded by the continuous stream of work coming your way.

Find out how to get the best people for the work you outsource in our article Five Questions To Ask Before Outsourcing Work from Your Business.

  1. Say no

Maybe you take more orders than you should because you need the extra cash you’ll get for them. The problem is, there’s a big chance that you’ll spend quite a good sum on getting treated for burnout-associated health problems if you keep doing this. You should have the courage and discipline to refuse extra work if it’s clear to you that it’ll make you take an unhealthy path to making more money.

  1. Give yourself a break

Don’t cram your rest time with work or thoughts about work. Take the weekends off, get together with friends, and enjoy yourself. Take long walks, alone or with a loved one. Talk to somebody. Use all the sleep you can get.

Although it’s vital to keep the business going, you might have to take full vacations once in a while. The more rest time you deprive yourself of, the greater the period you’ll likely have to spend away from work and in recovery, when you finally break down. Nature works to balance things out, and this is a good example of an instance in which this balancing eventually takes place; even if it means leaving a job or shutting down an enterprise.

If the burnout is already quite bad, you will have to take an extended break. Carrying on with work will only make matters worse.

  1. Get creative

Engaging in activity that challenges the mind to be creative can have a therapeutic effect on people who struggle with burnout issues. It’s even better when it’s an activity that you love, or have some interest in. It could be playing musical instruments, writing a journal, hand-crafting, or some other enjoyable creative past time. Immerse yourself in it, and let anxiety and gloom recede into the background.

Note: In a few cases, persons suffering the effects of work-related breakdown and burnout may need to see a doctor or counselor.


It’s never a good idea to neglect your health while pursuing entrepreneurial success. You’ll need to have a fit body and sound mind to move your business forward. Exercise regularly, eat right, rest, hook up with friends, work hard and smart, and believe the best for yourself. A healthy and successful future is never totally out of reach.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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