Everyone knows that startup life is hard for founders and their teams. Investors and advisors might tell you that building a business is a marathon and not a sprint, but the reality is that many of us are constantly running the marathon like a sprint. You're trying to grow all the time and in every way possible. You work around the clock and often your personal life goes out the window as you're consumed at all times and at all hours with trying to do what's best for your business.
However, there comes a moment when you wake up and your brain is so full that you feel it might actually explode. Decisions get harder as more information and ideas clutter your mental process. Oh, and by the way, there is the fact that you are simply exhausted. No amount of caffeine in the world is going to help you see things more clearly at this point. Guess what? You might be on the brink of burnout which is a very scary thing. Poor choices are made when people get burnt out. Creativity has no room to thrive and innovation halts when you can't see through the chaos. People ask me all the time how I achieve work/life balance and I always joke that I try my best but often fall short. Over the last two years, I've learned what to look out for and how to make sure I stay on track.
Here are some of the signs that you may be bordering on burnout and how to get back in the groove.
When was the last time you worked out? Trust me, this is one of the hardest ones. I don't think I went to the gym the entire first year Laurel & Wolf was in business. I felt it was literally impossible to find the time and the energy to go and do something active. Every second of my day was consumed with work and all of my routines were thrown so far off it wasn't even funny. I finally got the courage and inspiration to try and work fitness back into my routine and it is definitely for the best. Working out helps pump much needed endorphins and is a phenomenal stress reliever. Some days it's still hard to pull myself out of bed for my early AM workout but it certainly helps keep my mind clear and focused.
Have you stopped eating regular meals? Does having your first meal of the day at 4pm sound about right? Once your schedule gets thrown off, it becomes easier and easier to forget meals. Eating regularly is critical to staying healthy and for fueling your body with what it needs for those brainstorming sessions and tough decisions that need to be made. Not to mention, no one likes working with someone who is hangry!
Has your phone become another limb? When was the last time you went more than four hours without checking your email on a Saturday? I used to think the only way to push the business forward was to be on and connected at ALL times. While this is still an area that I personally struggle with, not disconnecting can definitely lead to burnout. There isn't a good way to recharge your mental batteries and clear your head if you are always re-engaging with emails/slacks/messages and more. Try going away for a weekend and only checking your emails once in the morning for 30-60 minutes and once in the evening for 30 minutes. This gives me the confidence that I'm not missing anything critical and the freedom to enjoy a full day of activities, giving my mind the opportunity to relax and imagine.
When was the last time you spent quality time with your friends or loved ones? When I first started Laurel & Wolf I really struggled finding time to spend with my friends and family. I felt like I had been transplanted to another planet and having "normal" conversations were actually tough as I was glued to my phone and always thinking about work. However, being grounded in reality and people is exceptionally important for your mental stability as well as thinking about how to solve problems in your business. Put the phone away and go get lost in good conversations, adventures, love, and most importantly, laughter.
When did you last engage in an activity that you truly love? Didn't you used to have hobbies? Well, it may be time to find them again. I know, I know... if there isn't time for working out, eating right and spending time with family then how are you ever going to find time for hobbies. However, finding that spark and excitement is often the thing needed to reignite your creative/problem solving mojo. Even if it's only here and there (as we all know there actually isn't time for everything), I've found that occasionally making time for the things you love doing, even in small doses, is incredibly freeing.