I'm Burnt Out. What Do I Do?

At some point in this startup journey we all just hit a wall. We wake up and try to muster that same energy to fight through our day, and nothing happens.

June 18th, 2019   |    By: Wil Schroter

We're burnt out.

There's no version where "just pushing through another day" is going to make us more effective. In fact, it's the opposite. We're becoming irritable, anxious, frustrated and unhealthy.

When we hit a point of burn out it's important that we understand what to do about it. If we ignore it, the problem only gets much worse. So let's take a look at what Founders do to deal with burnout head on.

How do I take a break when there's SO much to do?

Chances are we can't "afford" to take a break because if we stop working the whole machine implodes (or so we think).

The traditional "I'll take a week of vacation" may simply not be an option. Instead, we may have to take our break in increments, in the form of half days or full days where during that time we do anything we possibly can to recharge.

Taking a single day off is 100x better than taking no time off.

How do I justify a break?

The first thing is to realize that if you don't take a break, the other option is way worse.

We all have a reserve of peak output where we do the most amazing things that allow us to create something from nothing. That "turbo meter" (video game analogy) depletes very quickly in our formative years and rarely has an opportunity to fill back up.

Even if we can't justify time off, we have to understand that if we don't refill our "turbo", we'll never perform at peak efficiency again. For some of us, the only way to justify a "break" is in the form of how we'll get more work done.

I'm not tired, I just don't feel effective. What's going on?

There are different types of breaks — physical, emotional, mental, creative (the list goes on). Think about what type of break you need most. If you're staring at a blinking cursor on your monitor and you can't get anything out of your head to move that damn cursor, chances are you may need a creative break.

That doesn't mean you have to stop working, it just means you need to change your work for a while to reduce the cognitive strain you're putting on yourself creatively. It’s important to identify what type of break you need to customize your recharge time.

No, but seriously, I'm totally fried. Now what?

There's a good chance you need more than a break.

You need a long, sustained reset period. In that case, the focus may be how to restructure your business for a period of time (1-3 months) where you work on a reduced load or have someone else step in and work full time in your stead.

These long recharge periods can be a game changer because they not only allow you to recharge, they give you some insight as to how the organization could be structured differently to help ease your burnt out long term.

In Case You Missed It

Founders, you can take a vacation. Productivity expert Dr. Ken Yeager debunks the myths behind all those excuses for remaining on the clock when you should be unplugging.

10 strategies for curbing your startup stress. 12 Labs Founder & CEO Durga Pandey reveals her secrets for getting things done in the face of inevitable startup struggles.

How to survive from burnout. Stuart MacDonald, former CMO of Expedia.com, offers advice about conquering burnout by deciding what’s important ahead of time.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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