How These 5 Multimillionaires and Billionaires Deal With Burnout
Burnout is what happens when you try to sprint the marathon.
Occupational burnout comes from long-term, constant stress that saps your energy and productivity. It leaves you physically and emotionally drained, unable to meet constant demand.
Burnout has become synonymous with careers where people are chronically overworked and under constant pressure to perform. It can leave people exhausted, listless, lacking creativity and stamina, and often with a cynical, toxic view of work. Executives who are burned out are known to become alienated and distanced from those around them. According to a 2013 Harvard Medical School study, you’ve got a 96 percent chance of feeling burned out if you’re a senior leader.
So what’s a hard-driving, dynamic business leader to do? Here’s how these five ultra-successful entrepreneurs and business leaders bolster their resilience, continue advancing their careers and keep burnout from taking them down.
1. Richard Branson
During his 50 years as an entrepreneur, Richard Branson turned a record store into a billion-dollar conglomerate. As the founder of Virgin Group, he controls more than 400 companies and has a net worth of $5.10 billion. But Branson also prides himself on maintaining a work–life balance, and it’s this equilibrium that gives him the stamina and enthusiasm to focus on his business and avoid burnout.
In an article posted on LinkedIn, Branson said that when he’s not working or spending time with his family, he’s pursuing other passions, such as his love of kitesurfing. “By spending my time on topics I am interested in and passionate about, I find I rarely need to unwind, reboot and refocus; instead I feel energized by my work,” Branson wrote.
Here are a few other pieces of advice that Branson offers on maintaining a healthy balance:
- Rise early -- find a routine that enables you to work on your most challenging task when you’re most productive.
- Limit screen time -- don’t let your devices take control, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur.
- Make time for sports -- find something you like doing to keep yourself focused throughout the day.
- Write lists -- according to Branson, this technique helped make Virgin what it is today.
- Make time for loved ones -- set aside time every day for your loved ones, even if it’s just a phone call or a Skype chat.
- Embrace something new -- try something new each day and see where it takes you and what you can learn. Make every day an adventure.
2. Sheryl Sandberg
As chief operating officer of Facebook, as well as an author, activist and mother of two, Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most influential and successful female executives in the world. She has acknowledged the difficulties of being a working mother, juggling family responsibilities and a successful, high-powered job.
Sandberg shocked the world when she opened up about her practice of leaving work at 5:30 p.m. to have dinner with her family. But making time for family doesn’t mean taking your foot off the gas pedal of your career. Instead, Sandberg encourages women to push forward, put in the hard work and rise into leadership positions.
Sandberg believes in finding ways to have both a career and a personal life. Even as she climbed the corporate ladder, she was careful to maintain a tight circle of friends. Those friendships helped bolster her as she faced tremendous grief following the unexpected death of her husband in 2015.
More recently, she has focused on the importance of building resilient communities and building connections to one another. Now, when she find herself feeling overwhelmed, she thinks of life as a ski slope she didn’t mean to go down -- she focuses on taking life one turn at a time and seizing moments of happiness to give her strength.
Related: 7 Ways to Build a Powerful Network
3. Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is currently the richest man in the world, and like other successful entrepreneurs, he looks for ways to maintain his focus on all the things that are important to him. He dislikes the phrase “work–life balance,” as he believes that implies a tradeoff. Instead, he prefers the concept of “work–life harmony,” meaning his professional and personal pursuits are two integrated parts -- not competing time constraints.
"If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. It actually is a circle; it's not a balance," Bezos said in an interview with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, Business Insider’s parent company. "You never want to be that guy -- and we all have a co-worker who's that person -- who as soon as they come into a meeting they drain all the energy out of the room. You can just feel the energy go whoosh! You don't want to be that guy. You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.”
To maintain his energy, Bezos makes sure he eats breakfast every morning with his family and keeps his schedule light on meetings. He’s careful about his screen time, rarely allowing himself to be distracted by his phone, and avoids multitasking. Instead, he focuses on the people he’s with and on what he’s doing in the moment.
Related: 3 Ways to End Technology Distraction
4. Arianna Huffington
Self-made millionaire Arianna Huffington is a prolific author and media mogul who isn't shy about sharing her experience with career burnout. As a co-founder of Huffington Post and a divorced mother, she had bought into the delusion that grappling with exhaustion, stress and burnout was the price you pay for success. Then one day, while working from home, she passed out and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. It was a wake-up call that changed her life, she says.
She is now a reformed workaholic and author of The Sleep Revolution. She has launched a health and wellness company, Thrive Global, which offers science-based solutions to end stress and burnout.
To avoid burnout, Huffington offers the following advice on creating an atmosphere where you can get rest and rejuvenate.
- Don’t allow yourself to become tethered to work 24/7. Set boundaries and unplug from your phone.
- Set a specific time at night when you turn off your cell phone and leave it outside your bedroom.
- Make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Eat breakfast and take a break during the workday.
She also recommends doing five minutes of meditation each day, and eventually building to 15 or 20 minutes.
5. Jason Fried
Jason Fried, co-founder and president of Basecamp, a software firm that builds web-based productivity tools, and co-author of the book Rework, believes 8 hours a day is plenty of time to do great work.
In an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Fried said that he's mystified by some of the attitudes about working harder, faster and longer than anyone else. While most other tech industry companies push 60- to 80-hour work weeks, Fried believes a 40-hour work week is more than enough.
In fact, Basecamp practices exactly this. The company allows all of its approximately 50 employees to live and work anywhere in the world. Employees are also given some amazing perks:
- a $5,000 annual vacation stipend
- $100 a month for home massages and $100 for fresh produce
- 16 weeks’ paid parental leave
- tenured sabbaticals every three years
- shortened four-day, 32-hour weeks during the summer
“We’re trying to go the opposite way of the industry, which is about more notifications, more real time. Everyone’s trying to get ahold of everyone all the time, but really I think it’s a toxic, terrible way to work,” Fried said in an interview with Bianca Bartz. “We’re now trying to go in the opposite direction by slowing things down, being more deliberate, calming things down, being more peaceful, not interrupting each other. And then you end up having plenty of time to do great work.”
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