Starting a Business? Here’s How to Avoid the Burnout Trap

Apr 22, 2014 - Joe Matar

Starting a business is an arduous task and not for the faint of heart. With three-quarters of startups doomed to fail, you’re facing an uphill battle. New entrepreneurs can typically expect their fair share of stress, a few sleepless nights and any form of personal life to fall by the wayside as they work towards success.

But that’s not holding you back, because you know you can power through it. You know the old story: Put in your time now and reap the benefits when you’re successful. Work yourself to the bone at first, then you’ll be able to relax later on.

Except it doesn’t work like that. Clients, customers, business partner and investors buy into the workaholic you — because that’s what you sell them. If you answer the phone late at night and rarely ever take a vacation, that’s what they’ll come to expect. And they won’t be happy with much less.

So start your business as if you’re already as successful as you want to be. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Being a successful entrepreneur has just as much to do with health and happiness as it does with building a thriving business.

How do you do that? As you kick off your startup, here are five ways to run your business to avoid burnout and set yourself up for long-term success:

1. Work backwards

Being an entrepreneur means you get to design your company exactly how you want. Most people forget that also includes the hours you want to work, people you’re willing to work with and types of projects you’re willing to do.

Instead of frantically trying to do it all, get clear on what you want the end result of success to look like. Then you have a roadmap of how to set up the business now to coast right into the future.

2. Eat, sleep and breathe the life you want

No matter how much you try to compartmentalize your life, let’s be honest here: Nothing happens in a vacuum. People hire the vibrant, passionate guy or gal who’s on track to change the world, not the burnt-out entrepreneur.

Advocate for your own work-life balance early on. Nail down the nutrition, sleep and exercise schedule that give you energy to run a successful business.

3. Set boundaries before it’s too late

New entrepreneurs think there’s no way they could set boundaries because it might result in a missed opportunity. So they’re willing to work crazy hours and partner with people who treat them poorly.

But you’d stop the work immediately if a customer sexually harassed you or used racial slurs. So setting boundaries is about defining clear lines of what’s appropriate and who you’re willing to work with. And, if you set these boundaries from the get-go, it’s a lot easier to walk into success without stressful clients dragging you down.

4. Know your value

You’re starting this company because you believe you have a killer service or product that has the potential to change people’s lives. Everything you do in business — from the hours you keep to the prices you set to the marketing you do — comes back to the value of you, your time and your company.

It’s up to you to decide how flexible you’re willing to be the next time someone wants to reschedule a business meeting for the the third time. But remember that successful business owners recognize that time is valuable and hold people to scheduled meetings. Decide which one you want to be.

5. Assume this is it

You never know what the future will hold. Maybe you’ll be the next billion-dollar business. Or maybe this will be your plateau.

But if you start by assuming where you are is it, you’ll make sure to design the exact business you want — right now. You’ll keep the hours you want, set the prices that value your services and work with people you love. Start doing that, and you’ll already hit success. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Success is just as much an internal mindset as it is an outward experience. If from the very start you value yourself and your company, then work to design the life you want, the rest will fall into place.

Everybody wants to work with the passionate entrepreneur who can manage starting a company and still lives the amazing life he or she has always dreamed of. Everyone will want to know your secret. Everyone will want to know how to be as successful as you are. Mike Iamele is a corporate wellness coach and herbalist who specializes in helping entrepreneurs and executives manage stress, avoid burnout and put energy back into pursuing their passions. You can catch him at, where he shares advice every weekday about designing the life you want.