How to deal with burnout?


In any startup there is always stuff to do. Lots of stuff and it demands to be done.

And while getting it done feels good, working around the clock for a while is a sure way to burnout.

So I wonder what do you do to prevent burnout from creeping in?


asked Oct 13 '09 at 03:58
Slav Ivanov
1,146 points

5 Answers


Being able to do it all doesn't mean you should do it all. There are more and more web based services "selling into the startup market". IMO there's three just about full time jobs for a startup - Developer, Community Manager, Business Person. If you are going to do several/all of these roles, you need to get extremely good productivity. Here's a few ways to do that:

  • Apply a proven methodology to tracking and processing your work with the least amount of overhead. For a lot of people Getting Things Done is that methodology.
  • You need to leverage what you do to maximize the value of what you do. Example: you spend 20 minutes writing a long tech support email to a customer (who then says, "huh?" and you spend an hour on the phone). Or, you take a quick screencast with Jing, create an email where you type ts1
  • Change of pace, real unwired vacations, fun are all good antidotes to burnout. There's another one that is extremely important for preventing burn out and for that matter you dropping dead: consistent physical exercise in a varying program appropriate for your age/overall health. As little fun as burnout is, back, neck and wrist afflictions are worse. And you still burn out!

Hope this helps,

answered Oct 13 '09 at 06:32
Bob Walsh
2,620 points


A few things:

  1. Do a new, unrelated project, even if it doesn't contribute to the business.
  2. Do a project that relates to the business but isn't something you'd normally do (like when Joel invented a new technique for shipping DVDs instead of writing code).
  3. Take a real vacation, like 4-6 weeks. I know, it's hard to leave your biz (and this isn't an option if you're solo), but let everyone else work on it. You'll be incredibly ready when you get back.
  4. Read posts or whole bloggers who inspire you emotionally. One guy that writes a lot about getting re-excited in your business is Howard Mann.

Remember: Any kind of break is better than being unhappy or cratering your business! So it's worth it.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 04:06
16,231 points


Good answers... One thing I'll add when I get burnt and have a tough time motivating myself, I'll write down every task I do during a day. Do it for a week. Then at the end of the week walk through your tasks and honestly evaluate what you're doing. Is it high value, are there things others can do, are there things you don't have to do? Just the act of doing it motivates me to keep pushing even when my brain doesn't want to.

And definitely agree about taking a vacation...getting into exercise to escape...and doing a completely different project.

Good comments.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 12:10
4,214 points


Take a break, a serious no checking email for days type of break. The world will continue to rotate without you. Personally I've found exercise is one of the keys during stressful times to control burnout and stay emotionally stable.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 04:11
Big Startups
124 points


There are many things you can do to kickstart motivation, but many of them are going to depend on who you are as a person.

Here are a couple things that I have found that work for me:

  1. Working on another project and only thinking about the project that I was burned out on.
  2. Taking an extended vacation.
  3. Getting involved in a community that is related to the idea that burnt me out.
  4. Reading a motivation book, such as How To Become CEO
  5. Watching a biopic from an individual I admire, such as The Aviator (Howard Hughes).
  6. Change gears with the idea. If you were programming, try doing market research. If you were writing a business plan, try programming, etc.

It is different for each person, but you have to find a way to re-ignite the fire. On the flip side, you also have to know when to let go.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 05:03
71 points

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