Avoid Entrepreneur Burnout: Fill Your Tank

Links updated October 2019

If you’re like me, you see opportunities everywhere. You find limitless ways to improve on things, or you’ll have an idea dump and before you know it, you’ve got 5 projects cooking in the skillet, 2 in the oven and about 10 on the backburner. Congratulations, you’re an entrepreneur.

Us entreprenueurs are blessed with a unique gift: the ability to see the things that could be, as opposed to what should be. We don’t settle for less, we figure out a better way. We’ll jump right in and build a prototype and have the 3rd round of revisions done before the committee decides the “best” way to do it. We’re movers and shakers, and the thrill of creating something new, sleek and sexy excites us.

BUT.

Being hard-wired as an entrepreneur has its downsides. I know, I know… we don’t want to admit it. But it’s true. Unfortunately, the curse to being an entrepreneur is that everything we start, we’re the leaders of. While this is an amazing feeling at first, eventually it begins to tear at us.

Feel the Burn

Burnout is something that can happen very easily to an entrepreneur. Although we love improving on things, ironically we don’t allow give ourselves the proper rest during and between projects. As we bury ourselves in more and more projects, the people around us become less important. Our creativity wanes, and our decisions become harder. Sometimes it feels like the “vision” we have can imprison us.

I went to a session by Wayne Cordeiro at the leadership summit, and he said that being a “reckless” entrepreneur had even gone so far as to seriously hamper his health. He had gone to the doctor after thinking he had a heart attack, and the doctor informed him it was actually a nervous breakdown. His body’s seratonin level had depleted so much that he was only running on adrenaline. The doctor informed him that if he did not recover right, he would never be as productive as he was before. This caused Wayne to completely re-evaluate everything that was important in his life. After completely changing his work and family habits, he found 5 principles that enabled him to have a healthy work life as a leader.

(A quick note: I’m sure you noticed that this series is title “Avoid Entreprenuer Burnout”, yet Wayne’s principles deal with leadership. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Like I said before, entrepreneurs have to lead everything they start. Therefore, entreprenuers are leaders. For those of you who like equations; if a=b, and b=c, then a=c.)

So here we go, Wayne’s 5 principles to avoiding entrepreneurial (leader) burnout.

1. Know what fills and drains your tank

Everyone has things they have to do that drains them. These are the things that we dread, and feel exhausted after doing them. They could be anything from long meetings to folding laundry. It’s important to make a list of these things, so that you can delegate them to someone who actually likes what you can’t stand. After you make list of the things that drain you, make a list of the things that fill you as well. It’s good to compare these with the people in your organization, because you might find the things you can’t stand to do, others love to do. That way, you can focus on the things that only you can do.

[This is also a great tactic for couples as well. If you swap lists, you’ll have a better understanding of each other. That way you can help ensure the things on his/her fill list happen, and you can provide support of the things that drain them. If you’re sensitive to each other’s likes and dislikes, I guarantee your relationship will benefit from it.]

Here’s where the interesting shift in thinking happens. Typically, when things come up that make your life busier, the first things that go are your tank-fillers. Everyone knows that the busier you become, the less free time you have. Well, it shouldn’t be this way.

Having those things that fills you is just as important as doing the things that drain you. Without these enjoyable things, your day becomes a solid drudgery. Now here’s the best part: the busier you become, add MORE things to your day that fill you. You’ll stay fresh, and won’t burn out because your day has fun things sprinkled into it. Heck, you might even enjoy your workday. Just remember, you can only do so much in one day. Building applications, organizations, or whatever, won’t get done any quicker if you put yourself into a hospital.

Read the next in the Avoiding Entrepreneur Burnout series: Understand the Balance In Life.

Leave a Comment

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Brenda August 24, 2010, 2:47 pm

    Great article. I doing some research on entrepreneurial burnout. Thanks so much.

  • glen August 22, 2006, 9:07 am

    Hi Gordon,

    Yeah, I’ll be covering the other 4 throughout this week.

  • Gordon August 21, 2006, 7:13 pm

    Good post – hope you’re going to cover Wayne’s other 4 points.