As an entrepreneur, your commitment to your business's purpose fuels your hard work. It often can be contagious to those who work with you. When you and your employees are in sync commitment-wise, great things are possible.

There is, however, a downside to high-commitment levels if they're not kept in check. This downside is commitment fatigue.

What is Commitment Fatigue?

Commitment fatigue is when you grow physically and mentally exhausted from the pursuit of an important cause--your work. The triggers are working long hours, consistently choosing work over enjoying personal time, and a growing resentment of work's interference with meaningful downtime.

Tony Schwartz, author, president and CEO of the Energy Project, calls commitment fatigue, compassion fatigue. Schwartz defines it as consistently prioritizing a company's cause over self-care.

As a business owner, your high performance is vital, as it is for those who work with you. Both are necessary in order to scale your business and sustain growth.

Commitment fatigue interferes with this and depletes your focus on and interest in high performance and growth.

Symptoms of Commitment Fatigue

How do you spot commitment fatigue? There are two types of symptoms--personal and business related. Let's look at the personal symptoms first.

  • Good stress (eustress) is replaced by distress, undermining your performance
  • Enthusiasm and focus for your company's cause is replaced by burnout
  • Work quality suffers
  • Results from your work become mediocre
  • Personal dissatisfaction with yourself, with the company begin to settle in
  • Relationships suffer
  • General sense of not caring about things once important

Commitment fatigue doesn't only influence you. It also undermines the business.

  • Employee morale weakens
  • Workplace negativity emerges
  • Workplace drama increases
  • Values alignment dissipates
  • Employee engagement suffers

How to Respond to Commitment Fatigue

As Schwartz points out, self-care is vital to your performance. It's your first line of defense. There is no other place to start to overturn commitment fatigue's influences. To combat the effects of it, you can't look outside yourself to overcome it. Commitment fatigue settles in when you don't prioritize self-care.

So, to replenish your zeal for your company's purpose and to benefit from high performance, consider these actions:

  • Stop checking email after a certain hour
  • Stop working after a certain hour
  • Read non-business related books. Fiction is your friend.
  • Plan time with family and friends
  • Go for walks
  • Go to the gym
  • Meditate/practice mindfulness
  • Eat clean foods
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Fill the time you're not working doing good--volunteer
  • Learn a new skill that's not work related, painting or cooking, for example

The underlying theme to the list above is to recover from work. Give yourself a mental and emotional break from the demands of running a business. Model work recovery practices for your employees. Show them that it's important to have a life outside of work.

One of my favorite entrepreneurial companies, BambooHR, implemented an anti-workaholic policy. The policy advocates for employees to have a healthy integration of their work and personal lives. It's not about balance, but fulfillment. The founders believe that if they (and their employees) don't have downtime, the work quality and enthusiasm for work diminishes.

You know how demanding it is to run a business. It will always want more from you. How you give "more" doesn't have to mean repeatedly working long hours. It does mean satisfying your professional and personal aspirations and goals, and not necessarily in equal amounts. Commitment fatigue will test your limits. Don't let it rob you of the passion that inspired you to build something for the world . . . and your customers.

Published on: Aug 1, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.