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How to recover from founder burnout

client founder burn out cartoon
Is this you?

“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”, according to Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, politician, and teacher who lived in 551 B.C. 

Now with all the passion projects you can start with a tap or a click, this quote is easier said than done.

The quote is even harder to emulate for business owners and founders. Can it be rephrased to: “Build a business you love and you’ll never burn out”? Sounds impossible.

Since businesses have more moving parts and sources of disappointment such as suppliers, employees, clients, financial challenges, tech advancements, and even Covid-19, stress has become a badge of honour for entrepreneurs.

Can a passionate founder burn out?

Short and simple: Yes. Owners are humans who get tired and disheartened. Burnout means more than being exhausted. You can’t just sleep it away or drown it in coffee. Even high-performing go-getters eventually run out of fuel.

The type of burnout experienced by entrepreneurs is dangerous because they’re starting to lose interest in a company they have nurtured from the ground up and that other employees are dependent on.

Unlike employees who can simply file a resignation, founders can’t simply throw in the towel. If they do, they’re not only giving up on a business, they’re giving up on a lifelong dream.

As a maritime tradition goes, “The captain goes down with the ship”.

The more passionate you are, the more likely you will experience burnout. Here are the signs you’ll experience when you have burnout:

  • you’re always at work… even if you’re not, your focus is
  • you are (always) frustrated
  • your performance is dropping
  • you treat yourself (and your people) poorly

4 ways to recover from founder burnout

I won’t ask if you are about to burn out, most likely as the business owner, you are already in the middle of it. Acknowledge the situation you are in and recover fast. Here are some of the ways you can do to get better:

Avoid tech outside work hours

Once you set boundaries, you should also commit to being offline. Once you are off work already, avoid using your laptop and cellphone. If you don’t, you’re exposing yourself to notifications that will suck you back in the work zone.

For this suggestion to work, you have to change your mindset first: your team doesn’t need parenting. To grow independently, they need your trust to do the work without you hovering 24/7.

Take this opportunity to take a breather. Exercise, enjoy a hobby, read a book, unwind, bond with your family and friends, preferably without tech.

outsourcing remote designers cartoon
Outsourcing can help.

Outsource tasks you’re weak in

Entrust some of your work to a well-trained, reliable manager. Doing so will save you time and effort from having to master another skill.

If you’re bad at Maths, maybe it is better to hire an accountant. If you suck in closing a deal, hire a sales professional.

On-demand services are excellent options for outsourcing. Not only are the rates more affordable, but they are also more reliable because they have a process that ensures quality output, no training needed.

Tasks like graphic design, accounting, admin, deliveries, and even business processes are only some of the tasks you can outsource.

Choose an on-demand service that suits your culture and budget. Invest time in communicating your preferences and they can complete tasks for you while you’re unwinding.

Outsource tasks you’re good in

Founders think only they can run their business well. Are you guilty of this? You’re not alone, almost all founders suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Your business is your baby and as you nurture it, it is natural to assume that you know everything about your bundle of joy.

As babies grow, they take a life of their own. After a few years, you’ll be surprised, they need to start school. You contemplate if you can teach your child instead. You can do it for free and it’s just ABC. How hard can it be?

There is an option to homeschool your child, but doing so will demand a chunk of your time and a new set of skills. Are you prepared to do everything, again? 

Teachers are professionally equipped to teach your child. There are tasks that only professionals can do well.

Outsourcing is trusting a professional to look after your business. There may be apprehensions at first, but with the right professional partner, your business (and you) can achieve more.

relaxed client yoga cartoon

Stop obsessing over other’s businesses

Comparing your business from others in a similar industry is needed for marketing research and sales strategies. However, after the plan has been laid out, it’s better to focus on executing it.

Obsessing over how successful others are or how they’re failing is unhealthy. It will only add to the stress you’re already experiencing trying to please clients, manage employees, and complete paperwork all at the same time.

Be a phoenix

Business owners and founders like you are like phoenixes.

You suffer from mini burnouts day in and day out but what makes you different from quitters is that you rise to become a better leader every time.

Burnouts are part of the entrepreneurship journey. The path you chose is difficult and it’s perfectly okay to show weakness. The key is to recover and to rise not only for yourself but for employees and clients who depend on your business.