I'm exhausted with my consulting business. How can I find the energy?


Cross-post from reddit.com/r/startups.

Hey All,

I'm Ken, and I run a startup in Houston. I really love my company. We're not super profitable, but we're profitable. My friends and I get to do what we love all day long. We have a great collection of clients, (we're consultants) and we're getting really close to the sale of our first product. There's just one huge problem for me. I'm tired; I'm really tired. I'm exhausted, and sometimes apathetic. I want to put absolutely everything I can into my company, but I seem to run out of energy far too quickly. I'm lucky to get a solid 8 hours of work in a day. I read about guys who get 16 hours a day in and have the energy to do it 5 days a week. Is this realistic? Does this really happen? Or is this just some god-damn myth that the start-up community likes to use to make us feel like shit. I feel like I've never been able to put in a good eight hours a day. When we started the company I stopped going to school. Even after a good day I have my evenings free, and I couldn't manage to take even a single class or two without doing poorly. I always end up becoming tired and apathetic, and give myself an excuse to not do it.

I'm curious as to how others have overcome feelings like this to be more productive.

Motivation Burnout

asked Dec 16 '10 at 09:17
140 points
  • Looks like a burn out. I recommend 2 weeks in Dominican Republic with no Internet :) – Olivier Lalonde 13 years ago
  • Agree with Olivier, send me an email when you come ;) – Sd Reyes 13 years ago
  • go see a doctor. If you're fine, then keep looking for opinions from people who diagnose and help non-specific fatigue symptoms. If that is not the issue then find another line of work. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • I agree. You're very close to being depressed. Go see someone. Those things will do bad stuff for your life and business. – John Sj√∂lander 13 years ago

9 Answers


I think most of us here can relate at one time or another. As a matter of fact, I'm just getting past a large period of burnout. Here's my suggestions:


1) Take some time off. This is never as easy as it sounds, but it's worth it. Laying on a beach sounds appealing, but, for me, it was just time to stew on everything I was leaving behind at work. Instead, I found ways to remove my mind into other things such as sports, exercise, and movies.

2) Indulge in a guilty pleasure. I bought a video game (as cheesy as it sounds). I love video games but I typically stay away from them because they are a time suck. Instead of feeling guilty, I indulged a little. It felt good to allow a guilty pleasure once in a while.


1) Scale back. Are you trying to conquer the world? Maybe start with a small country or two first. I had 2 major initiatives going, and I stopped one and focused on the one with the most potential.

2) Hire someone or outsource some work. This is hard, but I'm sure there are aspects that someon else could do better and relatively inexpensively.

3) Remember why you started and remind yourself every day. If you find you can't remain true to that, change something.

Best of luck!

answered Dec 16 '10 at 10:54
Matthew Dorian
292 points


Here are some of the things that I do to keep my game sharp ;)

  • Eat healthy. If you are eating like garbage you will feel like garbage.
  • Excercise. Humans aren't meant to sit at a desk all day everyday. Walk, jog, ride a bike. Find something that gets your heart going and lets you release
  • Don't play video games or watch mindless TV if your occupation keeps you in front of a screen. Use down time to recharge and
  • Read a book. Read some motivational stuff like: Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, or listen to some motivational tapes during a commute to or from work
  • Make a list. If you are having trouble being productive every morning write out what you want to accomplish that day
  • Release it all at night. If you stress about things you need to do also write a list at night so you can have it down and FORGET IT and get on to something else
  • Have someone else do the stuff you don't like doing
  • Have someone else do things that you aren't good at
  • Unplug, vacations are a good thing and we don't take enough of them in the US
  • Know you can do it - YOU CAN DO IT!
  • Get rid of distractions so you can actually get things done. Turn off that annoying popup in Outlook of every email that comes in, or that ding it makes.
  • Try checking your email before lunch and near the end of the day... and that's it! Just try it... so much time is wasted with email
  • Call people more instead of back and forth over email
  • Turn off your phone, put a sign up that says BUSY on your door during set hours of the day so you can really get into it
  • Meditate and calm your mind even for 5 minutes a day can do wonders

Doctors ... usually a quick solution for a deeper issue. Most which can be solved by altering our daily habits. How we think, eat and exercise can do wonders.

answered Dec 16 '10 at 14:27
Ryan Doom
5,472 points


I feel with you. I was hesitating what to say to you but I can tell you a story about how it all happened to me.

It took about 6 month for me before I even understood what had happened to me. It took even longer before I accepted my condition. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever. I had trouble moving. This lead me to believe it was physical but it turned out to be a depression.

Before this (about 8 years ago) I had all the energy I wanted. I could work for more than 32 hours straight - no problem. Skipping a night's sleep - no problem. I couldn't understand why people went home after work in the evening. There was so much to do!

This made me accustomed to the constant positive energy flow and I started new projects constantly and finishing others. I was juggling about 10 major projects at any given time (including personal, business, hobby, education, etc.)

One day I woke up and couldn't move. I was paralyzed. The only thing I could move was my eyes and I looked up at the ceiling and I remember feeling really sick and empty. The paralysis slowly went away over the next few hours.

That was the first major sign. And I arrogantly ignored it.

As my energy started to slowly return I just went on with business as usual thinking no more of it. It wasn't until a few months later that I totally broke down.

In retrospect there were very many signs with increasing amplification. As if my body was telling me to slow down and not waste my energy.

From there to here is about 8 years of soul-searching and learning to live with low energy boundaries.

For better or worse if you really hit the bottom you will never regain your energy levels as they were before. You can choose if you want to see this as a blessing or a curse. You will probably see it both ways over time and starting off seeing it as a curse.

What is my point. Well. It is a complex topic and there is not only one solution. But the solution has to be about YOU. Only you know what is important enough to spending your energy on.

Ok, that was a long story to give you some background. Now the advice you asked for:

  • Embrace things that gives you joy and energy while avoid doing things that will drain you of energy.
If you can master this you will have more than enough energy to do what you WANT to do. However it is really hard to do this. I mean REALLY hard. It is about questioning every aspect of your life. From what you eat, whom you talk to, where you live, what you work with, do you work on fulfilling your dreams or someone else's, etc? You have to really identify what takes you energy.

Leave no stone unturned.

My best wishes,

answered Dec 17 '10 at 01:51
Anders Hansson
606 points


Are you sure your lack of energy stems from work? You say you love your company and your work, so if you are right and not deluding yourself, it must come from somewhere else. Have you had a full physical? Do you sleep well? I had a friend who didn't know he had a minor sleep disorder. After diagnosis and some work on it, he's much more chipper.

No matter what, speak to your doctor. This forum won't help you eliminate that serious possibility.

Also, you may need to acknowledge that different people have different work/play balances. I sleep about 5-6 hours a night without any harm. Been doing it that way for twenty years. My wife gets cranky with any less than a steady 8 hours a night, yet is otherwise miles more patient than I.

answered Dec 16 '10 at 12:57
1,383 points


You should go to a medical professional and get checked out. Being exhausted after barely 8 hours in one day - and being burned out consistently is not a good sign.

Additionally, it sounds like you need to find a different company. You don't sound enthusiastic about it at all. if it is this bad now you will be miserable later. It is just going to get worse - not better.

answered Dec 16 '10 at 12:45
Tim J
8,346 points


Nobody does a solid 8 hours (let alone 16).

Is the problem you have too much work, too many distractions, a lack of motivation or maybe just unwell/burnt out? Each option has a straight-forward solution.

At the end of the day nobody cares how many hours you do - its what you achieve that matters.

answered Dec 16 '10 at 09:37
Mark Stephens
976 points
  • Really? no one works for 8 hours? That's absolutely wrong. Might be a physical ailment or not enough sleep or he is just unmotivated. There is no reason someone can't work for 8 hours. Absolutely none. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Not solidly. They work in bursts. You can 'work' for 8 hours, but not be in the zone all that time. – Mark Stephens 13 years ago
  • Also depends on work. Between meetings, business lunch, some coding etc. you CAN work 8 hours "straight". But for example pure coding... needs breaks etc. – Net Tecture 13 years ago
  • that is untrue. – Tim J 13 years ago


You may be one of these people who like creating a company and then moving on creating another company. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but you might be just this kind of person. If you can, sell your shares to your business partners and do something else.

answered Dec 24 '10 at 07:16
Yakov Fain
221 points


Create and sell a product based on your consulting business.

answered Dec 17 '10 at 18:16
184 points


Not sure if this is the proper way to do this, but!

I seem to be much better now. I still go up and down as most entrepreneurs do, but I feel much much better, and I have my energy back.

Here's what did it for me:
- Regular sleep schedule. Up at 5:30, gym at 6, leave at 7, breakfast, work at 8, work as long as I want, almost free energy. In bed by 10, 11 at the latest. Worked wonders. I also started eating slightly better.

Thanks for all the awesome responses!

answered Feb 5 '11 at 16:44
140 points
  • Sounds like you are on the right track. I just read a book I found immensely helpful which was about regulating cycles of active and passive activities during the day for optimum performance. Also looking after sleep and nutrition & water needs. I have found it really useful to increase my energy & enthusiasm. It's based on science and research with elite athletes but applied to everyday people. The book is [Toughness Training for Life](http://amzn.to/eC35Ku) by James Loehr. – Susan Jones 13 years ago
  • I'm glad to hear that. – Joel Spolsky 13 years ago

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