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Burnout: It can happen


jordandesertThe alarm goes off, and you get a sick feeling in your stomach.  You do NOT want to go to work.  There’s only one problem, it’s your company.

That happens more often that you might think.  Most entrepreneurial types face burnout.   I don’t mean the feeling of being overloaded or frustrated, I mean burnout.

Per consultant Erica Diamond,  burnout is powerful and all consuming.  It’s the inability to feel at ease, happy, or restful.  Your mind is no longer your own, and for most, you can’t sleep.

I ran into this about two years after founding my industrial services company, EMA Inc. It seemed that despite my best efforts, I could never see the light at the end of the tunnel. My dreams and enthusiasm for growing a company had faded.  Just keeping up with the details, personnel issues, financial problems, sales, customer demands, and vendor problems consumed all my energy.

I was exhausted; I wasn’t running a business, it was running me.

I found myself, for the first time in my life, in a state of depression.  Something had to give.  I talked with my wife Vicki, with one of my Pastors, and with several other businessmen.  I prayed and thought about it and reached a conclusion.

I made a conscious decision to pull back from the business.  If it failed, it would fail, I just wasn’t going to lay awake at night worrying about it.

Amazingly, to me at least, after I did this, EMA began to prosper, and so did I.

I am thoroughly convinced that one of the primary causes of small business failure is founder burnout.

Erica Diamond gives 5 steps to combat it.

  1.  Get help:   Find an objective ear and shoulder to lean on.  This may mean learning a bit of humility,
  2. Get some balance:  You don’t have to stop, but you do have to balance.
  3. Create a “worry” list:  She suggests that when something pops into your mind after hours, write it down and forget it till the next day.  Give yourself some mental space.
  4. Learn your limits, know your needs:  I have learned what will set me off, and especially at night, I just will not read an upsetting  report or email till the next day.  You can’t hide (nor should you) from your responsibilities, but you do them on your time schedule.
  5. Sleep: Sounds so simple, but one of my biggest issues was lack of sleep.  Lay off the caffeine a bit, get some exercise, and set a cutoff time an hour or so before bedtime for business.

I’m all about business success, and have been blessed to experience quite a bit of it.  But, life has value and meaning because of relationships; primarily those with God, family, and friends.

The investment of yourself into those areas, must not be allowed to decline in order to keep a business running.

We are geared in our culture to arrive somewhere, including success.  It’s kind of like going on vacation; we’re in such a hurry to get to the beach.  But, the vacation doesn’t start when you get to the beach, it starts when you leave the driveway.  The trip is part of the vacation.

Many business owners will tell you the most enjoyable and memorable times of their business life was before their businesses had any great success.  The trip was fun.

None of this is to suggest that you not work hard.  In fact, if you don’t your business will likely fail.

But, while you’re working..   “it’s only life, enjoy the ride.”  (Ricky Skaggs song)