Avoiding burn-out in start-ups

Feb 15, 2016

Taking the plunge and launching your own product or business can be an exhilarating ride. However, the realities of getting a new business off the ground can put entrepreneurs and owners under relentless pressure, risking burn-out.

Many small business owners end up working long hours for months at a time, especially within the first few years of setting up their company.

But as the entrepreneurs and psychologists interviewed for this article in The Age point out, “as you become more stressed you stop focusing on the creative elements of a start-up – the ones that will deliver growth and benefits to yourself and users – and instead you spend your time on tasks that simply use up your energy, and generate more stress, because you can't solve the problem.”

These experts believe that people running their own business need access to tools and skills to help them manage stress and take care of their overall wellbeing.

Creative or reactive? 

Clinical psychologist Dr Jay Spence experienced the challenges of start-up life while developing a new app, Uprise, which teaches other entrepreneurs the psychological skills needed to boost performance and prevent burnout. 

He says that taking regular breaks and making time for reflection and socialising with friends are essential to help him solve the problems that typically arise in a small business. When he hasn’t taken time out and looked after himself, his thinking and approach has gone from creative to reactive.

"I would become more tired and stressed, doing what other people were telling me [to do] rather than having a capacity to think critically, which happens when I'm not stressed."

Being aware of your own wellbeing and any change in how you're prioritising your mental health can help you take action earlier. 

For Dr Spence, it was only after he couldn't answer a question from his wife –  "when was the last time he'd gone for his daily, morning swim?" – that he'd realised his business had taken over his life, to the detriment of his wellbeing.

Better for you, better for your business

While it can be tempting to work longer and harder to get things done, it’s a strategy that’s unlikely to be effective beyond the short term. Giving yourself some breathing space can be beneficial to both your wellbeing and your company’s success, and we’ve got some tips to help you

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