Entrepreneurs

The Secret Cause of Burnout and How Entrepreneurs Can Avoid It

Having a non-stop hustle mentality can put you at a higher risk for burnout.
The Secret Cause of Burnout and How Entrepreneurs Can Avoid It
Image credit: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder and CEO of A Life With Health
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’ve ever sat down at the end of a long day and questioned whether or not entrepreneurship is worth it, you’re not alone. In my years of working for myself, I’ve witnessed countless, talented entrepreneurs around me doubt themselves and their ability to succeed. If you can relate, rest assured it doesn’t automatically mean you’re not cut out for the vigorous life of an entrepreneur. If you’ve ever felt extra doubtful, anxious or stressed, it doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and send in your application to the closest fast-food restaurant. It may just mean a few essential tweaks need to be made in your daily routine. 

The real lesser-known reason why entrepreneurs often reach a critical breaking point in their careers -- otherwise known as burnout -- is actually because they spend their days doing what I like to call busy work. In simple terms, busy work is a habit of completing tedious tasks that do not directly lead to revenue generation or business growth. Many entrepreneurs don’t even realize they do this until the point of burnout is reached and their brains start to become filled with doubt and defeat. 

Related: 4 Science-Backed Ways to Prevent Burnout

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 25 percent of entrepreneurs feel moderately burned out at some point in their careers. Anxiety, panic attacks, sudden outbursts, complete utter exhaustion and stress within your home life are just a few of the most common side effects entrepreneurs report feeling when they reach burnout

Avoiding burnout as an entrepreneur begins with increasing your productivity. Learning how to become more productive allows you to free up a significant amount of your time, reduce stress, and train your brain to only focus on and fulfill tasks that lead to revenue and business growth. Here are four proven tips you can take and start using today to skyrocket your productivity, beat the odds of reaching burnout and truly enjoy the journey of being an entrepreneur. 

1. Work smarter, not harder. Kick the hustle mentality. 

We live in a society that glorifies the idea of hustling -- the drive to be successful and work hard no matter what the cost. Take 60 seconds to scroll through motivational Instagram accounts, blogs or entrepreneur memes, and you’ll find an endless supply of content preaching you must embrace the hustle mentality in order to be successful. While it’s healthy to have a strong mindset and will to work towards your goals every day, the problem with embracing the hustle mentality is that it can put you at a much higher risk for burnout. 

The truth is, you don’t need to spend 12-16 hours a day hunched over your computer to grow your business, quit your 9-5, make money or be successful. 

Tim Ferris, New York Times best-selling author of The 4 Hour Work Week, made it his mission to spread a similar message of hope. He famously stated in one chapter, “focus on being productive instead of busy.” In other words, don’t bury yourself in busywork. Instead, try adopting the 80/20 rule. 

Known as one of the most helpful life and time management principles, the 80/20 rule was introduced in 1906 by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who discovered that 80 percent of outcomes (outputs) come from 20 percent of causes (inputs). In business terms, this essentially means that 80 percent of your business revenue comes from 20 percent of your actions. So, analyze your business from a bird's eye view to identify what tasks produce the most amount of revenue, and prioritize those tasks on a daily basis. 

Watch your business grow faster, your productivity skyrocket, and your risk of burnout decrease. Your future self will thank you. 

2. Learn how to effectively delegate responsibilities. 

One of the leading causes of burnout in entrepreneurs is too much work falling on their shoulders. 

As an entrepreneur, it’s extremely important to be aware that you are at risk of burnout even if you have a full team of high-performing employees supporting you and driving your vision forward. Entrepreneurs running already-successful businesses are just as susceptible to burnout as new entrepreneurs.

Related: 7 Ways to Get From Burnout to Balance

You may have a knack for hiring talent, but you may struggle with ensuring that the talent you hire actually gives you more time and freedom on a daily basis. And if you’re not there yet, you will be one day. Take note. 

To increase your productivity and avoid burnout, learn how to become a great leader. If your team members aren’t performing to the best of their ability, neither will you. Adopting an effective communication procedure within your team and assigning clear roles and responsibilities will save you more time and stress in the long run. The more you delegate and the better your team performs, the more time you will have to work on things that matter -- the 20 percent. 

Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, had a system for making sure his employees were always working on what they should be and nothing else. In an interview by Wired, Jobs said, “There's no excuse for employees to have any confusion after a meeting. An effective Apple meeting will include an action list, and next to each action item is a DRI -- a directly responsible individual who must ensure the task is accomplished.” 

Take his advice. Make sure you’re delegating responsibilities effectively within your own business. 

3. Filter the people in your life to avoid burnout. 

Have you ever heard that you’re the result of the five people you surround yourself with the most? 

If you want to avoid burnout and feel a boost in your productivity, make sure you choose your environment very intentionally. As simple as it sounds, it’s not so simple to achieve. Sometimes it requires you to make hard decisions or cut ties with people you’ve known or loved for a long while. 

The truth is, you can catch emotions and behaviors from the people you hang out with. A phenomenon known as emotional contagion explains this concept, and it means that you are influenced by the outlook, energy and demeanor of all the people you surround yourself with -- including your family, friends and team members. 

As an entrepreneur, it is even more critical to be selective of who you let into your circle. Be aware of how those around you may be affecting your energy and productivity on a daily basis. If you are constantly feeling drained, stressed, tired or low-energy, it might be a sign that it’s time to find a more optimistic, like-minded group of people to hang out with. Make no mistake, the people you interact with can be a catalyst toward burnout or a sanctuary for relaxation and joy. 

In a phone conversation with Erin Pande, health and wellness consultant for entrepreneurs, she expanded on the importance of protecting your energy and setting boundaries. “Conduct an audit of your social circle to make sure you are giving yourself the best chance of succeeding and keeping your productivity at an optimal height. Consider whether each and every person in your life adds to your energy or drains it. It’s not just OK to be picky when choosing who a slice of your time and energy; it’s mandatory.” 

4. Make quick decisions, and cut all "maybes" from your vocabulary. 

Once you’ve taken control of your mindset, your team and your inner circle, the last step is to take control of your actions -- specifically, your decision-making actions. 

Related: The Biggest Hidden Cause of Burnout (and What to Do About It)

You are forced to make hundreds of big and small decisions every day, many of which have the ability to change your life without you realizing it. If you want to feel a boost in your productivity and avoid reaching burnout, learn how to make decisions like the top 1 percent of people -- quickly and confidently. Learn how to cut your decision-making time in half with unshakeable confidence every time you are faced with a decision, so you can constantly move yourself and your business forward. 

Grant Cardone, investor and bestselling author of The 10X Rule, shared in a post with his audience, “My best productivity tip is when asked to do something, I decide immediately whether I am in or not. Decide immediately yes or no and have no maybes. Then, complete the task. The definition of work to me is not effort but a completed task.” 

Try it next time you’re faced with a decision, big or small, listen to your intuition, and make it a solid, immediate yes or no decision -- sans the maybes. You’ll thank yourself when you have more time to work on what matters most. Never forget the 80/20 rule.

Takeaway.

The road to success as an entrepreneur can be one that’s long, exhausting and stressful - putting you at risk of burnout. Boosting your productivity is the secret to performing your best, maintaining a healthy mental and physical state, growing your business to new levels and avoiding burnout. Put these tips into action now to start powering through your days like the CEO you are. 

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