Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.
Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:
What are some telltale signs that you’re starting to experience burnout and need to hit the Pause button?
1. Input vs. Output
Are you working very hard, draining your batteries, but seeing very little concrete evidence of the time you’re spending? This means that your input/output is out of balance. You should be working efficiently and effectively, producing more than you invest, so if that’s flip-flopped, take some time to recalibrate.
2. Entrepreneurship Is Fun, Remember?
When you’re loving what you’re doing, the “fun to not-fun” ratio is heavily in favor of the fun side. You are excited to get up and get to work, full of energy and new ideas. You get stuff done fast and you’re in the flow. But once things start to shift to where the majority of your days aren’t enjoyable at all,you need to start looking for a break to get that passion, energy and fun back.
3. Blurry Focus
If you’re having trouble focusing because you’ve taken on too many different things, your work will suffer. You’ll notice a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of interest, and overall, a lack of quality output. If you’re not able to deliver what your client expects, you’re probably taking on too much. Focus on what you can and should be doing, and find a way to cut out the rest.
4. Voicemail’s Full!
If you begin dreading calls with clients, it’s a sign that something is out of balance. Use that warning to evaluate if you’re working too many hours or on tasks that can be easily outsourced, so you can fully enjoy every client conversation and network without feeling tired or burned out.
5. Unnecessary Insomnia
If you’re tossing and turning at night and having trouble getting those restful Zzz’s, it’s a sign you may have too much on your plate. It’s a dangerous self-fulfilling cycle too; if you can’t get to sleep because your mind is too active, you’ll be even more tired the following day. Look for ways to delegate your to-do’s and make R&R part of your routine.
6. Where Do I Start?
A disorganized list of tasks is the busy entrepreneur’s kryptonite. Without some sort of method to your daily madness, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. I recommend spending ten minutes every night reviewing your task list for the next day and creating a hierarchy that you will be excited about tomorrow.
7. Social Surfing
One sign that I knew I was getting burned out was that I’d spend way too much time on Facebook, Twitter, message boards, blogs, ESPN, news sites, anything to put off doing work. In the beginning, I was incredibly excited to get to work each day and crush my tasks. As I got burned out, I started to procrastinate and surf the net, tweeting more and commenting on Facebook posts and blogs.
8. Steering Clear of Your Own Office
Whenever I am experiencing burnout, the last place I head is my office. I’d rather do laundry, scrub bathrooms or go for a walk on a frigid day than sit and do work. If you are experiencing similar feelings, take a few hours or an entire day to just set the work down and go do something totally fun and frivolous. Your brain and body will thank you immensely!
9. Is This Annoying?
You know you’re starting to experience burnout when become very irritable and have a hard time keeping your emotions in check. You will tend to lash out at people that are undeserving of the outburst. Then you know it is time to take a break!
10. No Time for the Best Friend?
This might sound corny, but for me, if I’m too tired to play with our dog for at least a few minutes when I get home from work, it’s not a good sign.
11. When You Can’t See the Light
Personally, I don’t live to work, I work to live. Being outdoors is an extremely important part of my life and if I realize I haven’t seen sunlight in 18 hours, I know I’m headed straight for burnout. Even if I have to sadly supplement going skiing with taking a quick walk to get coffee, it’s better than not getting any vitamin D at all. Know what’s important to you and don’t neglect it.
12. Overwhelmed with Apathy
The biggest sign I have found time and time again is when you become apathetic to your business. You stop responding to emails immediately, you spend more time on websites like Facebook and “fun” sites, and you feel like things can wait.
13. What Is Burnout?
If you get to the point where you’re asking yourself what constitutes burnout, you’re probably already at a point where you need to take some away from work. It’s easy to push harder, but taking an “unplugged” day away from email and phone calls does wonders to the body and mind!
14. Didn’t I Go to Work Already?
If you are “at the office” even when you are at home asleep, it is time to take a breather.
15. I Love Email!
Managing email is one of the most inefficient tasks of the day, but when you start loving receiving and answering emails as an excuse for not doing real work, that becomes a problem. If you live for that nice little update in your inbox when you have a new message, you probably need to take a break to figure out how you can fall in love with your real job again.