There are two ways this can go down. You can either…
#1 Keep pushing yourself to knock off every task from your list
#2 Stop, but start regretting your decision.
Whichever choice you make, results won’t look pretty. Trust me, I’ve been there. 27 times. Probably more down the road.
The thing is, burnouts are inevitable in almost every startup. And much more prominent if you’re the type to go full throttle into whatever gets thrown at you.
I’m not suggesting you should take things slow, but to watch yourself from collapsing from mental exhaustion. Because once you fall, it’s hard to recover. It’s like suddenly sprinting for 5 minutes straight after slacking off from the gym for a year. Sure, you got further than what you have expected.
But at what cost?
A throbbing headache. A plunge in productivity. Disappointed teammates.
Tell me, is it really worth writing that extra blog post? Or outreaching to ten more influentials? Honestly, no.
There’s so much more you can do when you’re not burned-out. Take it from these successful startup founders, who have experienced real burn-outs but kept strong.
Now, if there’s one thing you must learn in this article, it’s to realize when you’re about to burnout. The second, taking precautionary steps to prevent that.
The Multiple Layers of Burnout
People still get tongue-tied when describing what burnout really is. But let’s revisit the 1970s. This was the time Herbert Freudenberger, a psychologist, first coined the definition of ‘burnout’ by categorizing it into 12 stages:
These stages don’t exactly happen in order, since everyone reacts differently to high stress. But if you start experiencing 5 of these “symptoms,” it’s time you listen to your inner self and drop some things off your plate.
How to Prevent Burnouts
Burnouts are like a disguised emotion ready to explode at the smallest trigger. Once you truly burnout, you no longer want to continue what you’re doing. Even worse, your personality starts shifting. What you’ve thought of yourself — a happy go-getter — can easily change into a melancholic (i.e. a severely depressed person).
The only way to prevent this awful syndrome is….
“Stress and business go hand-in-hand, and that’s not a bad thing — high-pressure situations can certainly be motivating — but too much pressure can be emotionally and physically damaging. I’ve found that the best way to manage stress is to find a good work-life balance.”
— Virgin founder, Richard Branson
There’s a reason why bosses and managers encourage their employees to keep a healthy work-life balance. It’s so that people don’t start flipping shit in the office or threatening to burn the whole building. Okay, maybe not to that extreme, but you get the point.
Luckily, I didn’t end up in that direction. But to be honest, it was extremely tough to just take a step back from the screen to recoup motivation and push forward. I had to let the workaholic sober up before I could continue my work with a clear mind. That meant taking a day off, actually a few, to do what I haven’t done in weeks: browse through recipe sites, watch City Hunter (best Korean drama hands-down!), rekindle with old friends, experiment with new dish creations.
Lemme tell you, it felt strange at first to expose myself to these simple joys of life instead of jumping full-gear into work for the next 15 hours. But it also felt good. Because by the time I was back in the office, I was ready for action. If only I knew spending time with people you care about and also to do what you love, could alleviate that burnout feeling and keep your head above water.
“You can do anything, but not everything.”
So for you crazy workaholics, do yourself a favor and keep your mind healthy.
- Spend time with people you can never get sick of
- Sip your favorite drink
- Eat some healthy comfort food
- Pump your blood up with a good workout or light walk (a little bit of endorphins go a long way)
- Play some games (computer, video, board games)
- Listen to your favorite song
- Watch your favorite TV show or see a new movie
- Attend a meetup, build new relationships
- Make a spontanous trip to somewhere foreign
- Try an activity you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for
Whatever you do, let yourself go. Distract your mind from work. COMPLETELY. Because only then can you fully recover from a burnout and keep yourself sane.