How to Launch a Startup and Avoid Burnout

Your startup is your life. We get it. You've lived it. Breathed it. And nurtured it as if it were a child. Now it's off the ground, and you're working hard to make it succeed. But a surefire way of doing just the opposite is by running yourself into the ground. Don't do that!


Startup Burnout

The concept of burnout is pretty self explanatory. Burnout means being in a state of emotional, mental, and/or physical exhaustion as a result of excessive stress.

Anyone who has launched a startup is a prime candidate for experiencing burnout.

Most tech startup founders actually juggle several jobs at once. They handle all or part of their startup's sales and marketing, product development, and even legal teams. Nobody's surprised that many admit to being stressed out and overwhelmed.

Burnout manifests itself in different ways for different people. But no matter who you are, your mind and body will give early warning signs and symptoms of stress.  Listen to these symptoms, step back and evaluate the root of them, and do what's needed to address them. That way, you can return to being productive instead of exhausted, frustrated, and doubting the viability of this whole startup idea.

While everybody's signs and symptoms are unique, there are some universal prevention practices that you can adopt to help avoid any looming burnout.

1. Regularly Seek Support

Most successful entrepreneurs agree the real learning takes place once you're out of the classroom, regardless of how good your MBA is. It's important to find a support network you can approach when real-world issues arise and you need an experienced voice to consult.

You likely have inside support from co-founders but add people you can trust who have accomplished what you hope to do in order to provide you with outside support.

2. Break-up Your Routine

Research has shown that changing your routine can have a psychological effect that leads to positive behavioral change. These benefits have to with neuroplasticity.

Change is hard. But as you get used to changing routine behaviors, you just may find out you enjoy the changes. That will lower the stress.

3. Take Time for Yourself Every Day

This should be a part of every founder's day, seven days a week. Completely unplug and do something that can bring you a sense of personal satisfaction. This enables you to better handle the stresses that come with growing your startup.

4. Clarify Your Goals

There is an infinite number of tasks you could be working on at any point in time. You could be doing things like making sales calls, improving marketing funnels, and/or introducing yourself to possible new investors. All of these can impact your success. The trick here is to stop thinking you have to do all of it every day.

Relist all those goals by time frame; divide them into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. If you start with those farthest out, you can essentially reverse engineer where to start. Answer these questions to determine where to begin.

  • By the end of this year, which three to five outcomes do I want to accomplish?
  • What overarching tasks do I need to complete to reach my final goals?
  • Which smaller tasks need to happen before the broader tasks and before the end goal is reached?
  • Repeat.

When the list is quite long and the tasks are broken into bite-sized pieces, you can fill in your calendar. Now, your goals seem attainable, and you'll have a path delineated for accomplishing them. Keep in mind how far you've come, too!

Recognizing burnout in colleagues

Recognizing burnout in yourself is important. There are also signs of burnout you can and should watch for in your colleagues. Things like dissatisfaction, apathy, lessened productivity, relationships at work deteriorating, or increases in absenteeism.

It's impossible to free any workplace from all stressors. But you can mitigate how likely burnout is and in turn save yourself and your employees from the hardest of times. As a result, your business will more readily thrive.

1. Clearly lay out what to expect before the first day of work

Have days for prospective applicants/employees to come hang out and have straightforward conversations about what they can expect and what a typical day on the job looks like. This minimizes the risk of burnout even before the employee starts.

2. Define roles in as much detail as possible

It's not unusual for startups to have somewhat nebulous hierarchies. This is great for creativity but can be too chaotic for people. Ignoring this reality can build resentment, infighting, power struggles, inequitable workloads, and poor work relationships. This then creates a stressful workplace that doesn't benefit anyone.

Build a company culture and value system from the start, and to the degree possible, have a decent chain of command in place that's understood across the board. When a new hire joins the team, help them learn their place in that chain so they know who to reach out to if they have questions or concerns.

3. Flexible hours and telecommuting can help keep key employees

Making flexible hours and telecommuting available can make employees feel appreciated. And that tends to decrease attrition. It also helps everyone deal with their own external worries and gives them another reason to value their employment with you.

4. Keep communication and feedback moving to prevent nasty surprises

Inadequate communication can make employees feel the company is rudderless. Or they will not speak up even when it's in the company's best interests because they don't feel comfortable sticking their necks out. These interpretations of the work environment tend to destroy trust in the workplace and create an environment of uncertainty. 

Be sure you hear what everybody says, about what is right or what is wrong.

Provide performance feedback regularly. You want to rectify any errors or misunderstandings, but you also want to be sure they know how much you value their performance.

5. Give everyone some decision-making power

Feelings of resentment develop when you make employees question the worth of what they do by doing too much hand-holding and/or micro-managing.

If you show even the most junior employees that you trust them with their responsibilities, you encourage them to take more pride in their work. This leads to better performance and an overall positive sense of what you are all doing in building the success of your company.

In conclusion:

Remember to treat yourself well, take some deep breaths, and move forward on your now prioritized list of tasks. We're rooting for you! If there's anything we can do to help, reach out to us through the link below.

Curious? Learn How to Grow Your Business!

Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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