Entrepreneurs, by nature, are optimistic and full of enthusiasm, (most anyways). However, after you’ve been in a specific business for a while there is a tendency to get fatigued or worse, burned out. One thing I’ve learned about running my own business is that it’s very different from working at a job. As an employee, you generally clock in and out at a predictable time. When you’re the boss, you not only put in long hours but work is with you all the time. If you’re not careful, the pressure can and will catch up to you over time. Fortunately, over time, I’ve discovered some effective strategies to help me avoid burnout.
Keeping My Body in Shape
I’ve found that the condition of my body plays a significant role in my work life .For years I played sports like hockey, football, and rugby. I was active in the gym, lifting weights, doing cardio, etc, but then I had kids. For years I neglected to focus on my health and the priorities had shifted to raising three boys and one very active little girl. I noticed a decline in my energy, largely due to the lack of sleep, eating badly and not exercising. This went on for too long, and one morning, on scale, I realized that I’d hit 205 lbs. For a guy who’s a “tall 5’7” hitting 205 was scary, knowing that it was only going to get worse if I didn’t do something about it. Not only was my personal health being compromised, but my energy at work was also at an all-time low. Enough was enough, and I decided to join a gym that would push me and changed everything about my lifestyle to enhance work and life. Within 6 months, I’m down to 181lbs, YES, down almost 25 pounds, and my energy levels have never been higher.
People nowadays are sedentary and I, for one, sit at a desk all day. This isn’t just bad for your long-term health but it makes it harder to focus. Everyone will have their own ways of exercising and staying fit; here are some of my favourites:
- Go to the gym. For busy people, the gym is an efficient way to make sure you work out consistently. It’s good to do both cardio (e.g. treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical machine, etc.) and strength training. Research indicates that regular exercise helps you reduce stress, regulate your blood sugar levels, and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. This isn’t in any way an advert but I joined Orange Theory Fitness and it’s been a game changer. Their methods and coaching have worked wonders for me, I’d encourage everyone to check them out.
Here I am at 205 with my beautiful wife… but Pudgy!
- Sports. I enjoy playing hockey. It’s a great workout, gives me a chance to spend time with buddies, and helps me unwind and crush any stress that I may have built up. You may have your own favorite activity whether it’s tennis, biking, rock-climbing, or something else. If you find something you enjoy, it doesn’t even seem like exercise. I like to maintain a certain balance in my life between work and extracurricular activities and hockey is one way I do this.
- Eat a healthy diet. The saying “garbage in, garbage out,” applies to humans as well as computers. The way I eat definitely affects my ability to concentrate. People who rely on junk foods, sweets, and empty calories for short-term energy are on a downward spiral. When your body gets accustomed to this kind of junk it craves more of it. Make the effort to eat more fruits and vegetables, salads, and quality proteins.
- Get enough sleep. Getting enough rest is essential for your health as well as your ability to stay motivated. If I get insufficient sleep for too many nights in a row, it’s harder for me to stay sharp and make good decisions. Lack of sleep is probably an underappreciated cause of burnout. According to the CDC, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. Entrepreneurs often have some control over their schedules. If you can’t get 7 or 8 consecutive hours of sleep, try to fit in a power nap in the afternoon or early evening. I sleep like a dead man now and it feels fantastic!
There are also some micro techniques for mental focus I use while at work that are effective for preventing stress and burnout.
- Plan the day. While it’s impossible to plan out every second of the workday, it’s helpful to have your basic goals written down or at least clear in your mind. I’ve noticed that when I do feel stress, it’s often because I didn’t set an efficient schedule for the day. For example, forgetting an important call or meeting can throw your day out of whack. Time management is also crucial here. If you spend too much time on calls, meetings, and busywork you’ll have to rush to finish urgent projects. It’s also important to keep deadlines in mind. If I need to really focus, I take time away from email, phone calls, and non-essential meetings.
- Meditate. Meditation is one of the best ways to keep your mind fresh. Even a short session helps me let go of any issues I may be dealing with at work. After meditating, I can often look at things from a new perspective. I love using Headspace, the app has worked wonders for me in terms of focus and relaxation. It’s a guided meditation app which takes you through step by step in helping eliminate stress and bringing wellness and balance into your day to day life.
- Take short breaks. It’s important to take regular breaks from work, even if only for five minutes. I find that taking short walks is helpful for staying alert. There’s recently been quite a bit of publicity about the dangers of sitting too much. Aside from the health benefits of moving around, I just find walking therapeutic and energizing. In many cases, it can be combined with work if you’re talking to someone on a headset or brainstorming as you walk.
Keeping My Vision in Mind
Keeping daily goals in mind helps to make the day go more smoothly, which is why I listed it as a strategy for mental focus. However, what’s even more important is keeping your long-term vision in mind. As a CEO, I want to make sure that the “why” of my actions is never far from my awareness. I think that one reason that people experience burnout is that they get so caught up in everyday details that they lose sight of the big picture. Entrepreneurs, at least in theory, have an edge here over most employees. After all, there was some reason you started your business. If you can remember this on a day-to-day basis, you’ll find it easier to meet challenges and deal with stress.
Entrepreneurs, at least the successful ones, tend to be passionate about what they do, I still fucking love my job and what I’m able to contribute. It’s normal that your enthusiasm fluctuates with the highs and lows of your life. However, it’s essential to maintain your passion so you’re always clear about why you’re in business. If I notice I’m not as excited about my business as I once was, I know that I need to look closely at what I’m doing and make some changes. Most often, however, it’s more a matter of reminding myself that I really believe in what I’m doing.
Entrepreneurs Don’t Need to Burn Out
Being an entrepreneur has its challenges but that doesn’t mean you need to feel like you’re in a pressure cooker. I’ve shared some of the ways that I reduce stress and avoid burnout. Each person has a different focus but it’s important for everyone to stay healthy, manage their time effectively, and keep sight of their vision and passion. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to chart my own path and achieve my personal goals. When I remember this as well as follow common sense guidelines for staying focused and healthy, I don’t have to worry about burnout.