I hear a lot of people talk about burnout. That’s a strange term to me. It has a feeling of finality. Burnout is what happens when you get to the end of a candle. So for me, the human equivalent feels like it would have to either be dying or losing your mind. Either way, you’re not going to be returning to what you were doing before. When people speak about burnout though, they are usually talking about being completely and utterly exhausted or worn down. Either of those two states has a solution.
If you’re exhausted, you can take some time off to recharge your batteries. If you’re worn down, you might not be able to continue what you’re doing in the way you are doing it. In that case, you have to fix what has worn you down (maybe the way you work) and move on. Or if things are bad enough and you can’t fix what is wearing you down, maybe you have to move on to something new that you are still able to do.
A lot of people become entrepreneurs as a result of the second type of burnout. They’re worn down by either the meaninglessness of the work they’re doing or because of how they are being treated as an employee. So, rather than continue to either lose their souls to their work or allow themselves to be ground down for decades by less than desirable bosses, they decide to strike out on their own. While that’s a valid reason, it doesn’t work out well for everyone. It’s important to both know why you are burned out and who you are as a person before you can choose how best to fix your situation.
If you’re burned out because you have had horrible boss after horrible boss, you might decide that being your own boss is the solution. That could be a great choice for a real self starter that can do everything from finding business all the way through until billing. If you hate everything except for doing the work and would be ground down by hunting down work, dealing with customer complaints and doing your own billing, then you could be putting yourself in an even worse position. If that sounds like you, you might just have to hunt harder for a better work situation. That way you can focus on work without all the support tasks surrounding it. Or you could start a company with someone else who is willing to handle the aspects of the work that you just hate doing. In other words, there are always options, but for the best options you need to know yourself.
Now as for me, burnout isn’t something that I have ever experienced. I’ve been tired and frustrated during the busiest, hardest times in my career, but I can honestly say that I have always found meaning in the work I have done. Even more importantly, at least to me, I have always felt challenged by what I was doing. What I have done has changed so much over the years that I am always learning and doing something new. For me that seems to be one of the best protections against burnout.