35 Secrets to Avoiding Burnout
Founders share how they stay energized and on track.
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.
Name: Whitney Wolfe
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
Name: John Zimmer
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.
Name: Shan-Lyn Ma
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.
Name: Aaron Levie
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.
Name: Jen Rubio
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.
Name: Luis von Ahn
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.
Name: Amber Venz
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.
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.
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.
Name: Bastian Lehmann
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.
Name: Julia Hartz
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.
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.
Name: David Bladow
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.
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.
Name: Tim Chen
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.
Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
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.
Name: Chris Wanstrath
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.
Name: Heidi Zak
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.
Make a plan to have no plans.
Name: Jordana Kier
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.
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.
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
Name: Kara Goldin
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.
Immerse yourself in a different culture.
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.
Name: Jeff Chapin
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.
Set boundaries with email.
Name: Vicki Fulop
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.
Name: Nirav Tolia
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.
Maintain your sense of humor and joy.
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.
Name: Christene Barberich
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.
Name: Sarah Kauss
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.
Find an unexpected creative outlet.
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.
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.
Know that you can’t do everything, so prioritize what matters.
Name: Payal Kadakia
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.
Name: Melanie Perkins
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.
Name: Marco Zappacosta
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.
Name: Zach Sims
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