Avoid Burnout and Find Balance: 7 Habits for Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur, business founder, CEO, and guru of your domain, you are constantly in demand. There is more to do than can possibly be done, and entrepreneurs are often tempted, in their pursuit of success, to try to do it all anyway.
That way lies burnout.
You might think you need to choose between building a great business and living a great life, but you don’t.
Making time to take breaks and de-stress is absolutely crucial. Here are 7 vital habits that can help you avoid burnout and find work-life balance so you can live your best life as an entrepreneur.
Meditate to Clear Your Mind
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is gaining popularity in modern cultures. It is an effective technique for coping with stress. Given the pressure entrepreneurs are under, this alone may be enough to prompt you to start meditating immediately. But if you need more motivation, studies show that meditation can increase all the good stuff that helps you be a great leader: focus, attention, clarity, growth of brain matter, memory, productivity, emotional intelligence, and mental stability. Meanwhile, it decreases all the bad stuff: stress, distraction, insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, back pain, and even addiction.
It can be difficult to get into the slow groove of meditation when you’re a very busy, always-in-a-hurry entrepreneur, but you’ll thank yourself for taking the time. After all, what’s the point of building a business that’s raking in the cash if you’re too stressed to enjoy it? Practicing meditation can help you make space in your mind, and you can use that space to move forward in all aspects of your life.
Sleep to Refresh Your Body and Brain
If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not at your best. And if you’re not at your best, neither is your company.
YEC member Jonathan Pritchard discusses the mysterious phenomenon that has led exhausted entrepreneurs to brag about being sleep-deprived, because it gives the impression that they’re more committed, passionate, or dedicated. But science says lack of sleep is bad for us. All of the science. So, Jonathan says, “Sleep should be baked into our wellness routines, and the first step is to stand up and proudly say, ‘I got seven (or more) hours of sleep last night, and I feel more motivated, more focused and so amazing!’”
Take time to sleep. You will work better and faster when well-rested, so you won’t actually lose any productive time. You’ll replace the time you spent awake and exhausted with 1) sleeping and 2) working smarter with more energy, accomplishing more faster.
Read to Refuel Your Imagination
When you’ve got a business to run, why should you take time to read?
Being an entrepreneur is creative work. Like any artist, you need rich, varied sources of inspiration for your brain to draw from. Every person accesses their own experiences and education to create their own life, and entrepreneurs do the same with their businesses. It’s like a master chef making stew: they use creativity to mix and match ingredients, finding perfect flavor and texture complements to create a great end product. Reading is the way you restock your mental pantry.
YEC member Stephanie Wells points out that some of the most successful people in the world make reading an integral part of their lives. So the “I don’t have time” argument is off the table. If Oprah and Obama can find the time, so can you. Stephanie notes that entrepreneurs often live by to-do lists, so adding specific reading goals to your list can ensure that you don’t let reading slide. She also points out that you can choose to read whatever you want, whether it’s science fiction or biographies. Reading about your industry has value, but so does the open space your mind gains by exploring other territory.
Exercise for Strength and Health
Ok, you know this one is super-important. The American Heart Association is just one of many organizations full of smart people who advocate for physical activity to create health benefits like lower risk of all kinds of disease, better sleep, less weight gain, and improved cognition.
Improved cognition? Yep, your brain, where all your entrepreneurial, business-founding, people-managing ideas come from, is just a hunk of cells in your body. If your body is not taken care of, your brain will show the effects.
“Maintaining physical health is another habit that has also played a role in my success. I truly believe that if you don't have a healthy body, it will be a longer road to success. That means that I have an exercise regimen that I stick to as best as I can, I try to get a good night's sleep every night, and I also eat a healthy diet.” — YEC member Andrew Schrage, co-owner, Money Crashers
So. ‘Nuff said. Get moving.
Delegate to Lighten Your Load
“There comes a point in life where you can't do everything, but everything still needs to get done. It's about learning where to outsource and learning to let things go. Let it go. Have the discipline to not do everything on your own.” — YEC member Carrie Rich, CEO of The Global Good Fund
Doing it all yourself is dangerous.
Startups start with one person’s idea. So it’s common for the solopreneur to do a little bit of everything — actually a lot of everything — until things get rolling. But once they are rolling (that is, when you start to feel overwhelmed because you can’t do it all) it’s time to start hiring and delegating.
YEC’er Steven Knight says, “While most entrepreneurs have a very wide range of skills, it’s almost impossible for them to have all of the skills they need to scale properly and with profit. Recognize what you’re good at and what you love to do, then go do it. Delegate the rest to people who love to do the things you don’t.”
Focus on Your Mission to Stay Motivated
For some entrepreneurs, the best way to avoid burnout is to focus attention on the purpose you wanted to achieve when you started out. We’re not talking goals or KPIs here. What good did you want to do when you started out? What problem did you want to solve to make the world a better place? Successful founders focus on that “why” to keep their priorities on track.
“Your purpose is your foundation,” says YEC member Andrew McConnell. “Rather than being a temporary feeling we continuously chase and then have to re-up once the high begins to fade, purpose has fixed permanence for us. It serves as a North Star we can use as a guide and work toward on an ongoing basis.”
And YEC’er Nikki Carlson asks, “Why did you start your business? Are your mission, purpose or values in alignment with how you operate today? How can you change your business to serve your mission? How will you measure that?”
Is your focus where it needs to be, on your company’s reason for being? Or are you swept up in managing details? (If it’s the latter, see above; delegate.)
Connect to Find and Give Support
The basic tenets of networking are familiar to most entrepreneurs. But the “event - business card - perfunctory follow-up email - silence till you need something” model is a thing of the past. Making real connections and developing real relationships are the keys to a real “network.”
Yes, you’re already crazy busy (we get it). But investing in relationships is never a waste of time or energy. You’ll find that the more you give, the more you get.
But remember, it’s not a one-to-one exchange. Networking does not operate on the vending-machine model (put in enough coins, get out a specific treat). Instead, it’s like a pot luck dinner. Everyone brings something, and everyone gets what they need.
Try paying it forward, helping others where and when you can, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a supportive and powerful network.
All entrepreneurs struggle with avoiding burnout. Build these 7 habits into your schedule to create balance and keep your sanity. And when you’re ready to connect with other outstanding entrepreneurs who get what you’re going through, see if you qualify to join YEC today.
Quoted in this Article (YEC members published on Forbes.com; links to published articles can be found in each member's profile):
“Entrepreneur Sleep Deprivation: A Work Trend That Needs To Be Put To Bed” by Jonathan Pritchard
“How to Create a Daily Reading Habit and Improve Your Well-Being” by Stephanie Wells
“Want To Grow Your Business? Stop Trying To Do It All Yourself” by Steven Knight
“Life, Business, and the Pursuit Of Purpose” by Andrew McConnell
“Three Healthy Habits Of Successful Entrepreneurs” by Nikki Carlson