Entrepreneur burnout is common among business owners, especially those in the early stages of establishing their businesses. Symptoms include anxiety, hopelessness, restlessness, irritability and depression -- and depression is the most dangerous.
According to research by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at University of California, 30 percent of all entrepreneurs experience depression. This is an alarming rate, especially because depression is a leading cause of suicide. The statistics echo our experiences of hearing about bright entrepreneurs taking their lives.
How can you, as an entrepreneur, make sure you run your business without running yourself into the ground? Here are four telltale signs of impending burnout.
1. It’s not just about the hours
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most small business owners work up to 50 hours a week -- at least 16 hours more than the national average. A poll of New York Enterprise Report readers found that 33 percent of small business owners work upwards of 50 hours a week, with an additional 25 percent clocking 60 hours a week. And these aren’t the only studies demonstrating the long working hours business owners put in.
The issue of entrepreneurs’ mental health, however, goes beyond the long work days.
Entrepreneurs are also under immense pressure because they are usually responsible for the livelihoods of other people. And if they don’t have employees, they may be stressed because their small businesses don’t have many resources to fall back on.
2. It’s like alcoholism... but for work
Starting and running your own business requires a huge commitment not many can sustain. But for those who can, this commitment can quickly devolve into addiction, i.e., workaholism.
Even when on vacation, about two thirds of small business owners check in with their businesses at least once a day, according to an OnDeck study. This illustrates the attachment they have to their businesses and the fact that most don’t even know they’re overworking.
Just like an alcoholic can’t function without drinking, workaholics can’t function without working. Working is like medication to workaholics -- they work to relieve stress and anxiety caused by external factors such as family. But like alcohol for alcoholics, work for workaholics eventually ceases to be medicine and turns into poison.
3. The importance of having enough sleep
Nearly everyone needs about eight hours of sleep every night to function. Sleeping fewer hours leads to adverse health effects such as fatigue and headaches. Apart from short sleepers, who need only four to six hours of sleep to perform properly, all of us -- entrepreneurs most of all -- need to rest at least a third of the day to make sure we function the remaining two thirds.
As a business owner, you need to stay calm and approachable at all times -- for your sake and for the sake of your employees and customers. No matter how hectic things are, you have to remain even-keeled to create a safe and stable environment for those led and served by you.
Good leaders are able to stay calm and focused on their jobs because they allow themselves to rejuvenate through proper sleep, despite the stress and technological distractions of the modern world. According to findings by Sleepenvie, 48 percent of Americans experience insomnia regularly, and 22 percent report suffering from it nightly. Smart entrepreneurs make sure they do not become the sad statics.
4. Almost everything can be delegated
An effective way for entrepreneurs to free up time for themselves is to delegate. Unfortunately, many are not comfortable handing over tasks to other people.
In a study of U.K. business owners, 70 percent of the respondents said they preferred to do everything themselves. A good number cited reasons such as:
- Being the most capable for the job (30 percent)
- Employees lacking proper skills (20 percent)
- Rushing to get things done (20 percent)
- Liking doing the tasks (19 percent)
Whether you like doing the tasks or not is irrelevant to the fact that you can delegate or outsource them. It’s a choice between being bogged down by doing everything yourself or setting up your business for growth.
If you want to create a system that works, set up strategies that will take your business further. That’s the part you cannot delegate.
Most business people do not separate life from work. Work is life for them. They spend endless hours at work; they stress; they don’t sleep well; and they do everything themselves.
What they don’t realize is that a work-life balance will create the life they crave -- an opportunity to enjoy life’s finer things while growing their businesses.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors