Chapter 16 – What to Do If You Are Burned Out

Burned out, huh?  Boy, have I been there.  Yes, there are few worse ways to feel than burned out.  Because, not only does it take a toll on you, it takes a toll on everything you touch.  All at once, everything in your life, and especially in your business, becomes a burden.  All you want is for someone to take the workload away.  And, if you stay in burnout long enough, one way or another, you will get your wish (albeit probably not the way you want).

I have read a lot of definitions of burnout, but to me the definition is simple.  To me, burnout is the result of a prolonged mismatch between priorities and effort.  Burnout comes from spending way too much time and effort working on something we don’t really care about (or worse something that we do not agree with), and spending way too little time on the things we do truly care about.  Take most people, especially people who are passionate about what they do, and put them in a job that focuses on things they don’t really care about, and they will get burned out.  Some people can just accept this and keep going on with what they do, making an agreement with themselves to work a job they don’t really like in the interest of taking care of their financial needs.  For most entrepreneurs though; since by our nature we tend to be passionate, driven people; we simply try to work our way out of burnout.  To us, any problem usually boils down to either a lack of creativity, a lack of effort, or both.  This streak is usually what makes us successful as entrepreneurs.  However, this same trait can also make us pretty lousy at taking care of ourselves.

What does burnout feel like?  It feels like you have to peel yourself out of bed every work morning.  It feels like you have to drag yourself through your working day.  It feels like all of the joy has been sucked out of your life, so much so that you can’t really even remember the last time you really had fun, or even what you truly like to do.  It feels like you just want the crushing responsibility and workload to just go away, let it all be someone else’s problem.  Everything gets defined as what you don’t want to do (which are usually the things you are doing).  You have lost all of your verve, all of your mojo, all of your raison d’être.

Now I know that burnout, at least the way I describe it, sounds a lot like depression.  It does seem to me that the two go hand in hand.  Perhaps if you have a propensity for one, you will have a propensity for the other.  That, I am not qualified to say.  I will say, though, that burnout, although a pretty miserable place to be, is preventable.

Like every hardship we experience in our lives, underneath the pain is usually the seed of opportunity.  That is, perhaps the burnout is telling you that your life needs to be refocused, that you have gotten off track and you need a correction.  Perhaps by making those corrections, you can have the life you truly want.  And, if this does come to pass, you will realize that the burnout was not a ruthless demon, sent to feed on your soft insides.  No, the burnout was simply an impartial messenger, the bearer of a sign that perhaps you are not doing the right thing.  Listen to the message, and you have the chance to end up where you want to be, a chance you would not have gotten if it wasn’t for the burnout in the first place.

There are lots of good books on burnout, so I will assume if you are suffering, you can find many other resources.  What I think is important, though, is if you are suffering, to be honest about it.  And, as hard as it can be, to remember that things don’t have to be this way.  That is one of the perks, in my mind a huge perk, of being an entrepreneur.  Your job sucks?  Well, change it!  After all, there must be some advantage to being the buck-stopper in your business.  You are the only one who can fix this, so figure it out and fix it.  Your business should be enjoyable.  You started it for a reason, and you can reconnect with that original reason.

Just like how most divorced couples who hate each other now were in love once, you too were once in love with an idea, with the potential of what you could do.  Reconnect with that.  Reconnect with who you are, and what you think is important.  Build your business around you and what you uniquely have to say.  Odds are this is what brought customers to you initially in the first place, and by reconnecting with the original magic you had when you started the place, you will not only be doing yourself a lot of good, but you will also be doing your business a lot of good.  After all, you are no good to yourself, or your business, when you feel burned out.  Being burned out is a threat to your business, and thus a threat to your livelihood.  So, do something about it.  Only you truly can do anything to fix it, and let me tell you from my experience, putting forth the effort to fix it is always worth it.