A huge misconception in the entrepreneurial world is that burnout is caused by working too hard. But, most founders work hard. They’ve dedicated their life to being their own boss and creating a lifestyle of independence — and that doesn’t come easy.
What actually causes burnout is the lack of ability and understanding to manage one’s emotions. Life can be a roller coaster, ups, downs and all arounds. Business building can expose the highs and the drops of emotions. If one is unaware of how to navigate this element of entrepreneurship, burnout follows.
As someone who helps professionals and leaders focus on mindfulness and their full potential, I’ve found that my top industry clients put an end to burnout when they shift their perspective and manage their emotions.
I first experienced burnout when I opened my yoga studio in 2008. There seemed to be a never ending list of things to do to support teachers and staff, serve clients and keep the physical space clean and tidy.
Eight months into having a new and successful studio, I decided to travel to India to study with a well-known guru. His teachings on intellect and objectivity gave me the knowledge to work smarter not harder. Swami Parthasarathy, or Swamiji, as his students refer to him, made this declaration that changed my life forever: “Life is a series of experiences. The quality of those experiences determine the quality of your life.”
Once I realized that through a shift of perception, I could change how I navigated the roller coaster of building a business, my world changed. I was no longer driven the majority of time by emotion; I was able to pause, discern and make choices that kept the creative and physical fuel flowing and the business growing.
I also dedicated myself to a strict morning routine of study, yoga and reflection. Not everyone has to rise at 5 a.m.; in fact some people actually do better by sleeping in and staying up late.
For those looking to avoid burnout, here are five simple things you can do each day.
1. Start every day smart.
The smartest thing you can do to start your day is to not give away your agenda to others before you’ve set intention, purpose and propelled yourself to a clean work day.
If you open emails, texts and social media first thing in the morning, you’ve opened up your life to everyone else’s energy and opinions. Once this happens your own mission and focus become diffused.
Start with a morning ritual that works for you and is easy to accomplish. For instance, if you like to meditate, read or work out in the morning, have everything you need ready the night before. And remember, your morning routine is not someone else’s. Do what’s right for you.
I always find it is helpful to set an intention for your day. If you desire sales and successful deals, give yourself space to see that happening before you set into the world. If you need to focus on clear and confident decision-making — set that intention.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness references morning routines to avoid burnout and support productivity. “When first starting the day, it’s important to avoid ‘decision fatigue’ by having a set morning routine.”
2. Understand that your energy goes where your thought flows.
What you focus on grows. So, if your focus is on everything that is not working, you can expect those things to expand in your business and stress you out. Focus on what is working, then reboot the places that need attention.
Many successful entrepreneurs find it helpful to write out what they want to accomplish. This allows clarity and by writing it there’s a muscle to mental connection plus a stronger sense of commitment to achieving it. This can be done in the morning during your routine, or at the end of the day before sleep.
For instance, tai chi world champion and former chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin uses a morning routine of several minutes of “thought-dumping” into his journal. This allows him to focus on the output and what he refers to as “crystallized intelligence.”
3. Stay out of the how.
How is an exhausting word for most people, especially entrepreneurs. When you ask how, you’ll feel a rush of anxiety going through your system that sets you off in many different scenarios and opens loops. For instance, “how am I going to get this all done?” is quite a daunting question.This is a recipe for burnout.
Instead of how, ask yourself, what needs to happen next? This puts your brain in solution mode. Make a list, and then prioritize. Where there is a problem, there is a solution.
Asking questions around next required actions will keep your brain focused on a solution map rather than spinning worry, which creates burnout.
4. Create mind space.
Agitation is a product of a cluttered and noisy mind. When noise takes over our thoughts, we are no longer in charge and the roller coaster begins. Taking breaks every 50 minutes to stretch, drink spring water and breathe deeply allows space.
Bill Gates is notorious for taking two “Think Weeks” every year. The seven-day stretch of alone time gives him the opportunity to read, think and strategize.
I also suggest taking 15 to 20 minutes midday to sit in silence, listen to your favorite music or better yet, meditate with purpose.
5. Avoid comparison and judging.
When we compare ourselves to other business owners, we’ll likely do one of two things: think negative thoughts about them or negative thoughts about ourselves. This creates a boomerang of low vibe energy and throws emotions into a downward spiral.
Founder of Spanx and self-made billionaire, Sarah Blakely states that “negative self talk is the No. 1 barrier to success.”
You can avoid deprecating self talk by lifting others up. Be excited for those doing well. You’re building a business in a universal system that is limitless.
Once you understand there’s a never-ending amount of support and creativity, you’ll feel inspired by those who do well and drop the competition.
It takes a dedicated and developed mind muscle to stay focused on task and purpose. Part of developing this muscle is to remind yourself of your why. Stay mission driven and avoid labeling things as failures.
The ideal and purpose you set forward for your business will be the compelling thought to come back to again and again. This will keep you set in your own success track. With clear purpose and intention, your ideal will thrive.
CEO, Illumination Academy