35 Secrets to Avoiding Burnout

Founders share how they stay energized and on track.
35 Secrets to Avoiding Burnout
Image credit: opolja | Getty Images

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
15 min read

We all know the feeling when we reach our outer limit. 

Exhaustion, lack of focus and irritability can turn us into people we don't recognize. And it always seems to creep up at the least opportune moments. But when you start to feel like you're losing your grip, it's important to remember that you aren't alone. A recent study from Deloitte found that 77 percent of survey participants shared they had experienced burnout. 

There is no one right way to prevent it, and it can take a fair amount of trial and error before we can figure out what works best for us, even for the most successful people.

We spoke to 35 entrepreneurs and they shared their top strategies for keeping stress at bay.



Make self-care a priority.

Make self-care a priority.
Image credit: Bumble

Name: Whitney Wolfe
Company: Bumble
De-stressing strategy: Go to bed an extra hour early or go to a movie. Do things you haven't had time for. Go for a run. It's about allowing yourself to focus on yourself outside of work.

Read more about Wolfe: The Founder of Bumble Reveals How the 'Question of Nine' Can Help You Stay Focused


Stay active.

Stay active.
Image credit: Lyft

Name: John Zimmer
Company: Lyft
De-stressing strategy: Exercise four to five days a week and then spending quality time as much as possible with family.

Read more about Zimmer: Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer: 'You Should Never Veer Off the Path of Your Own Values'


Get some shut eye.

Get some shut eye.
Image credit: Zola

Name: Shan-Lyn Ma
Company: Zola
De-stressing strategy: I am a big fan of sleep. I think of weekends as a prime time to catch up on sleep. It's a luxury that helps me stay sane.

Read more about Ma: This Founder Has a 5-Minute Secret Weapon That Helps Her Focus Every Day


Identify what drains you and delegate it.

Identify what drains you and delegate it.
Image credit: Box

Name: Aaron Levie
Company: Box
De-stressing strategy: It's not the easiest advice for anybody to take, but I am constantly tracking the things I'm doing that I don't think I am good at. I try to delegate those things as frequently as possible, and get better people to solve those problems.

Read more about Levie: Why This Founder Says You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Go Big


Get some distance.

Get some distance.
Image credit: Masha Maltsava

Name: Jen Rubio
Company: Away
De-stressing strategy: Being aware of the world around me. I'm passionate about Away and all the things we're doing here, but having perspective and talking to friends about things that aren't work is so important.

It's easy to burn yourself out if you're in a bubble of what you're doing, and you're not aware of the world around you. I used to think things were life and death, but I realized, we're selling suitcases. We're good at it, and we love it but getting perspective is really important.

Read more about Rubio: Use This Founder's Top Tip To Make Your Meetings Work For You



Establish boundaries and stick to them.

Establish boundaries and stick to them.
Image credit: Duolingo

Name: Luis von Ahn
Company: Duolingo
De-stressing strategy: I am a workaholic, but I have learned to cap the number of hours a day that I spend working. My biggest strategy is no matter what I am doing at around 8:00 pm I stop working.

Read more about von Ahn: Why This Founder Says the Worst Advice He Ever Got Was to Listen to His Users


Stop putting off that vacation.

Stop putting off that vacation.
Image credit: RewardStyle

Name: Amber Venz
Company: RewardStyle
De-stressing strategy: Blocking out time in both my work and my private life. The second thing is vacation time. I wasn't taking any of my vacation daysl, so that's something that I've actually planned out in my calendars as well.

The next thing comes back to delegation, and it's focusing on my strength. I'm doing things I love, that I'm really good at and I'm making an impact.

Read more about Venz: This Founder Shares the Mindset That Helps Her Stay On Track


Find a hobby that lets you unplug.

Find a hobby that lets you unplug.
Image credit: Brit + Co

Name: Brit Morin
Company: Brit + Co
De-stressing strategy: Always make time to unplug and take breaks. It is about being present when I am with my family and keeping up with hobbies that I've always been drawn to help me recharge and be productive at work. There's a reason that "adult coloring books" have become so popular -- creativity is one of the top stress relievers out there.


Read more about Morin: This Founder Shares the Secret to How to Make Your Business Last


Embrace the great outdoors.

Embrace the great outdoors.
Image credit: Pure Barre

Name: Carrie Dorr
Company: Pure Barre
De-stressing strategy: I get outside. I'm fortunate enough to live in Colorado so that makes it easy. Also, it's accepting that it can be done in an hour. You don't need a week away or a plane ride. I love the saying "happiness is an inside job." I don't like to rely on outside factors to make that happen.

Read more about Dorr: This Founder Shares How to Tailor Your Schedule to Fit Your Brain


Take time to yourself.

Take time to yourself.
Image credit: Postmates

Name: Bastian Lehmann
Company: Postmates
De-stressing strategy: When I feel that I'm running on low flames, spending time by myself sets my compass straight. Personal reflection is so important.

Read more about Lehmann: This Founder Shares the One Trait He Looks for in Every Hire


Get out of your office, even for a few minutes.

Get out of your office, even for a few minutes.
Image credit: Eventbrite

Name: Julia Hartz
Company: Eventbrite
De-stressing strategy: The best way to do that is through exercise. I alternate between yoga, pilates and barre in the mornings. I also try to take time to step away during the day, even if it's for a quick walk around the office. Disconnecting for a bit during the day allows me to clear my mind and be more productive throughout the day.

Read more about Hartz: The Day This Eventbrite Co-Founder Learned When to Speak Up


Hang out with some animals.

Hang out with some animals.
Image credit: Lucky Iron Fish

Name: Gavin Armstrong
Company: Lucky Iron Fish
De-stressing strategy: I'm a huge dog person. I have friends with dogs, so I help with them, go on dog trails and explore with them.

To de-stress I also love to cook at home. I get so caught up in the meal prep -- all the other stuff washes away.

Read more about Armstrong: This CEO Has Helped Thousands -- and He's Just Getting Started


Schedule things that excite you.

Schedule things that excite you.
Image credit: BloomThat

Name: David Bladow
Company: BloomThat
De-stressing strategy: I've become stricter on protecting my time and putting hard stops when I have to get out of the office. Every three to four months, I also give myself a weekend away.

Read more about Bladow: This Founder Has 3 Simple Tips to Achieve Maximum Productivity


Specifically block out time in your calendar for you.

Specifically block out time in your calendar for you.
Image credit: Randi Zuckerberg

Name: Randi Zuckerberg
Company: Zuckerberg Media
De-stressing strategy : I have two toddlers, and I'm on the road over 100 days a year for work. It's really easy to put yourself last. So self care was at the bottom of my priority list. If you don't carve out time for yourself, you're not going to be good to anyone else in your life.

Now I block out those do not schedule chunks. I'm the only one that is going to create those boundaries for myself and my time, not anyone else.

Read more about Zuckerberg: Why Everyone Can Use Randi Zuckerberg's Number One Focus Tip


Set smart, achievable goals.

Set smart, achievable goals.
Image credit: Nerdwallet

Name: Tim Chen
Company: Nerdwallet
De-stressing strategy: Burnout is never about the hours of work, but how deterministic the work is. If you have to accomplish some kind of goal and you're excited about the outcome, the key to avoiding burnout is staying somewhere in the middle, out of your comfort zone, but not doing things that are so out of reach.

Read more about Chen: Nerdwallet's Founder Shares the Worst Advice He Ever Got


Don’t just unplug, go for sensory deprivation.

Don’t just unplug, go for sensory deprivation.
Image credit: BaubleBar

Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Company: BaubleBar
De-stressing strategy: I love sensory deprivation. You get into a small closed pool of water that has high salt content so you float and there is no light and no sound. It really clears your head. It is this wonderful and peaceful moment.

Read more about Yacobovsky: This Co-Founder of BaubleBar's Secret for Inspiration?


Change up your routine.

Change up your routine.
Image credit: GitHub

Name: Chris Wanstrath
Company: GitHub
De-stressing strategy: Change is the answer. What burns me out the most is the repetitiveness of something. If I feel uninspired, I just try to switch it up a bit.

Read more about Wanstrath: This Founder Believes He Found the Answer for Burnout


Put your devices away.

Put your devices away.
Image credit: ThirdLove

Name: Heidi Zak
Company: ThirdLove
De-stressing strategy: It goes back to exercise and being outdoors. In the winter that might be snowboarding or going on a trail run, or maybe surfing, being outside and getting away from technology. Those activities really energize me.

Read more about Zak: What This Founder Learned at a Farmstand Helped Her Bra Startup

Make a plan to have no plans.

Make a plan to have no plans.
Image credit: Stephanie Geddes

Name: Jordana Kier
Company: Lola
De-stressing strategy: No plans Wednesday. Every Wednesday night there are just no plans to be had, and it's a great break. Now we have no-meetings Wednesday. We may need to meet with vendors, but as far as internal meetings go, we don't do any on Wednesday, except for one all-hands team meeting. It lets people focus on what they need to work on. We get to check-in informally as a team, enjoy food and catch up with colleagues.

Read more about Kier: How You Can Use Your Computer Password to Make Your Aspirations a Reality


Tackle something new.

Tackle something new.
Image credit: Nicole Franzen

Name: Jenny Ripps
Company: Owl's Brew
De-stressing strategy: I find there's always so much to do and that excites me. In a way that helps me prevent burn out.

For instance, if I'm working on some sales outreach, and I begin to get burned out, I'll take a time out to think about something big picture that's bothering me, or I'll try to tackle something that's very challenging.

I tend to switch around what I'm thinking about and how I'm thinking about things to prevent burnout.

Read more about Ripps: The One Thing This Entrepreneur Does Each Day to Stay Productive


Make taking time off a priority.

Make taking time off a priority.
Image credit: Angie Hicks

Name: Angie Hicks
Company: Angie's List
De-stressing strategy: I'm a firm believer in taking a vacation. Sometimes people only take one or two days off, and during our one-on-one time I'll say I haven't seen your minimum weeklong vacation show up on my calendar -- get it done, get it scheduled. If you don't get away for multiple days you don't get refreshed. When you're on that vacation, take time to unplug.

Read more about Hicks: This Introvert Founder Swears by This Management Tip


Get moving.

Get moving.
Image credit: Kara Goldin

Name: Kara Goldin
Company: Hint
De-stressing strategy: Exercise really helps me stay energized and focused. It's my time, which is essential when there are so many demands on my time every day.

Read more about Goldin: The Entrepreneur Behind a $90 Million Company Shares How You Can Get Past the Naysayers to Build a Successful Business

Immerse yourself in a different culture.

Immerse yourself in a different culture.
Image credit: G Adventures

Name: Bruce Poon Tip
Company: G Adventures
De-stressing strategy: I go to remote places to understand new cultures and see and appreciate beautiful things. Whether it's art, food or music, experiencing them will allow you to do beautiful things in your work.

Read more about Poon Tip: I Was About to Shut Down My Business but I Changed My Mind. Here's Why.

Learn something new every day.

Learn something new every day.
Image credit: Casper

Name: Jeff Chapin
Company: Casper
De-stressing strategy: I like working, so I'm not that at risk at burnout. I'm focused in the specific job I have and the field I've chosen. We always take on new projects and for every new project there's things to learn about materials or functionality. As long as you're doing that, it's hard to burn out, because the next thing is exciting.

Read more about Chapin: Behind a $100 Million Mattress Startup, Casper Co-Founder Shares Advice on Finding Success as an Entrepreneur

Set boundaries with email.

Set boundaries with email.
Image credit: Brooklinen

Name: Vicki Fulop
Company: Brooklinen
De-stressing strategy: I stop checking email at a certain time each evening. I'm pretty strict about that with myself -- just to give my brain time to unplug. I schedule time to read emails and address anything pressing, and I'll try to let my team know when I'll be checking email, so we can resolve stuff in buckets.

Read more about Fulop: Use This Founder's Simple Email Strategy to Keep Burnout at Bay

Surround yourself with a team you believe in.

Surround yourself with a team you believe in.
Image credit: Nirav Tolia

Name: Nirav Tolia
Company: Nextdoor
De-stressing strategy: I don't feel burned out, because I surround myself with people that I like, respect and trust. I get energy from other people. I don't mind the short-term sacrifice as long as there's a goal and a team around me.

Read more about Tolia: This Successful Entrepreneur Shares How You Can Build A High-Performing Company While Staying True to Your Values

Maintain your sense of humor and joy.

Maintain your sense of humor and joy.
Image credit: Jennifer Hyman

Name: Jennifer Hyman
Company: Rent the Runway
De-stressing strategy: To me, burnout doesn't come from quantity of work, difficult business problems or hours in the office, but from unhappiness. When I'm happy, I'm energized and can get an incredible amount accomplished quickly. The key to happiness is simple: be around friends and people who don't take life too seriously.

Read more about Hyman: Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Shares Her Worst Advice Ever: 'Shut Up and Act Sweet'

Block out time for quiet reflection.

Block out time for quiet reflection.
Image credit: Frankie Marin

Name: Christene Barberich
Company: Refinery29
De-stressing strategy: Definitely prioritizing rest, or if not rest, just quiet time at home. Scheduling time that is for me is so helpful and important for unwinding your brain.

Read more about Barberich: Why Your Done List is Just as Important as Your To-Do List

Have something fun to look forward to.

Have something fun to look forward to.
Image credit: Sarah Kauss

Name: Sarah Kauss
Company: S'well
De-stressing strategy: I haven't taken a true vacation in a long time, but I'm counting daydreaming as a mini vacation. So when I'm struggling, busy and working on the weekend, I can close my eyes for a second. I think having something to look forward to for me is my mental release.

Read more about Kauss: This Successful Entrepreneur Shares Why You Should Do The Thing You Dread Most First Thing Every Day

Find an unexpected creative outlet.

Find an unexpected creative outlet.
Image credit: Barbara Corcoran

Name: Barbara Corcoran
Company: Forefront Venture Partners
De-stressing strategy: I plan for fun. I look at my evenings and think when can I have my best friends over for dinner. What kind of a theme party could we have? How about a psychic party? How about a learn to knit party? How about a make real pasta party? I always have a theme, because then I get involved with planning. Even though that's not a vacation, mentally it is for me, because [it allows for] total creativity.

Read more about Corcoran: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran Explains Why You Must Make Time in Your Schedule For Fun

Define what is important to you.

Define what is important to you.
Image credit: Tristan Walker

Name: Tristan Walker
Company: Walker & Company
De-stressing strategy: By defining to my team what's important to me. It's important to me that I'm home every night to have dinner with my son. It's important to me that I put him to bed every night. After that happens, I focus on spending time with my wife, which means I don't have email on my phone. What happens is over time you get fewer emails -- nothing really blows up. No one calls you, because everything's okay. I do it by being upfront with my team about the things that are important to me.

Read more about Walker: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why You Don't Need Billions to Build a Brand That Hits Home

Know that you can’t do everything, so prioritize what matters.

Know that you can’t do everything, so prioritize what matters.
Image credit: Payal Kadakia

Name: Payal Kadakia
Company: ClassPass
De-stressing strategy: I recommend preventing burnout in three ways. First, be passionate about what you do. This makes the long hours worthwhile. It doesn't feel as much like work when you love it. Be intentional in your actions. Prioritize ruthlessly, eliminate the obligations and focus only on what truly matters. And surround yourself with an amazing team. We become burned out when we try to do everything ourselves. I surround myself with incredible, capable people who are empowered to do their best work. We support each other and accomplish more together than we ever could alone.

Read more about Kadakia: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why You Can't Succeed Unless You Invest in Yourself

Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Image credit: Melanie Perkins

Name: Melanie Perkins
Company: Canva
De-stressing strategy: I like to travel whenever I can. While on breaks at university I spent months backpacking around India, South East Asia, and Africa. I've always enjoyed new experiences, pushing my comfort zone and abilities.

Rad more about Perkins: She Was Told 'No' 100 Times. Now This 30-Year-Old Female Founder Runs a $1 Billion Business.

Remember the reason why.

Remember the reason why.
Image credit: Marco Zappacosta

Name: Marco Zappacosta
Company: Thumbtack
De-stressing strategy: Keeping the focus on the "why" is ultimately more motivating for me than the specific task that I'm doing in that moment. If there's ever sort of a moment where I'm tired, reminding myself of the "why" helps me. I try to talk to a few pros every week, get their stories and talk to them about what's going on.

Read more about Zappacosta: The Productivity Secrets of an Entrepreneur Whose First Business Idea Turned Into Multimillion-Dollar Company

Constantly revisit your priorities.

Constantly revisit your priorities.
Image credit: Zach Sims

Name: Zach Sims
Company: Codecademy
De-stressing strategy: One of the things that's helpful every morning is when I write down my priorities and to take a minute and think about how I feel. I just have to ask myself, are things going well? Are they not? What can I do about it?

Read more about Sims: The Surprising Reason Why This Young Tech Entrepreneur Swears By Pen and Paper

More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors will guide you through the entire franchising process, for FREE!
  1. Book a one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Take a survey about your needs & goals
  3. Find your ideal franchise
  4. Learn about that franchise
  5. Meet the franchisor
  6. Receive the best business resources
Discover the franchise that’s right for you by answering some quick questions about
  • Which industry you’re interested in
  • Why you want to buy a franchise
  • What your financial needs are
  • Where you’re located
  • And more
Try a risk-free trial of Entrepreneur’s BIZ PLANNING PLUS powered by LivePlan for 60 days:
  • Get step-by-step guidance for writing your plan
  • Gain inspiration from 500+ sample plans
  • Utilize business and legal templates
  • And much more

Latest on Entrepreneur