It’s that time of the year when everyone is making plans and resolutions and committing to doing things better and bigger. Like everyone else, I have my list for 2016 — grow SupportBee, learn Spanish etc. However one thing that’s going to be on my list every year from now on is to avoid a burn out. It should be on your’s too.
I know what a lot of you are saying after reading this
Burn outs are only for people who don’t enjoy what they do. I love my work so much it barely feels like work. I can’t burn out.
And it’s probably true. You do love your work. However the reason you wake up excited every morning waiting to take on new challenges is because your body (in particular your adrenal glands) are in good shape and can support your drive. It’s easy to overwork them and once you do, it’s gonna take a while for them to recover. This is simple biology. It has nothing to do with how positively you think or how passionate you are.
More often than not burn outs hit you at the worst time possible — when your company is starting to take off after years of work. That’s what happened to me. After bootstrapping my startup for years, when things finally started taking off in 2013, I found myself out of energy and drive. The problems that excited me suddenly seemed overwhelming. It took me by surprise! Some friends had warned me about burnouts when they saw me working crazy hours under stress but I didn’t think there was anything to worry about. Unfortunately there was! Just like technical debt in a fast moving startup, in a chronically high stressed work environment, you are accumulating physical debt. At the very least, you should be aware of it.
It took me more than a year of downtime to recover from my burnout. It took a lot longer because I was still running the company, although not as well as I would have liked. That made things worse since I felt I wasn’t doing my job well. In the end I was left with no choice but to break away from day to day work for a few months and take care of my health.
As a CEO, you are a precious resource to your company and you should take care of your health. In fact, it’s your job to make sure everyone in your team is mentally healthy and there is no better way to do that than to lead by example. I request you to take some time out to read about Adrenal Fatigue and take the self diagnosis test. In the startup world, people wear their fatigue and stress as a badge although in reality, there is no badge for being the most burnt out founder. Startups are about sustaining your momentum for years and years and a burnout would certainly not help your cause.
Cheers to good health and all the creativity it brings. Happy New Yea 2016!