Eight Simple Questions To Rescue Every Burned-Out Entrepreneur

Overwhelmed? Put down your phone, close your inbox, and grab a pen and paper. This simple exercise can help the most stressed-out founder reconnect with what matters.

Eight Simple Questions To Rescue Every Burned-Out Entrepreneur
[Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay]

Starting a business can be exciting but also requires a lot of energy. As the going gets tough, one of the top challenges every entrepreneur faces is simply avoiding burnout and staying energized and inspired.


The startup experience can be exhausting, and there’s a risk of getting bogged down in minutiae. Sometimes it helps to step back completely and think about your big-picture vision and goals and what you really want. To help you pause and reflect, ponder these eight questions for a few minutes and jot down your answers:

  1. What do I truly want from this business?
  2. How do I feel about the day-to-day realities of running it?
  3. Do I want to grow the business or keep it the same size?
  4. Am I comfortable with the amount of time the business leaves me for my relationships and personal interests?
  5. Can I grow the business in a way that lets me keep living my lifestyle, or am I willing to change my lifestyle for a while in order to expand it?
  6. Do I need to hack the way I’m running the business, so it keeps running smoothly as it grows?
  7. Will I ever want to sell this business, or is this something I can see myself doing for the indefinite future?
  8. How does my ultimate goal for the business influence the ways in which I need to get things done?

Every Business Owner’s Motivation Is Different

There are plenty of entrepreneurship gurus out there ready to tell you what you should want, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. Just because everyone around you is trying to raise venture capital or build a business with hundreds of employees doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. These eight questions can help you refocus on what is.

The goal of this exercise is to know where you stand in relation to what matters to you, so you can consciously make decisions to support your vision and goals. So once you’ve jotted down your responses, try writing a short paragraph that sums up these two things

  • your overall vision for your company
  • your top-priority goal for the next 12 months

The act of writing this down makes you put into words what really matters to you, which is sometimes harder than you might think. I even recommend handwriting it–something you may not have done for a while. It will force you to slow down a bit and think on a deeper level.

Related: This Silicon Valley Therapist’s Tips For Coping With Startup Stress


How Purpose Curbs Burnout

Repeat this exercise once a quarter or even once a month if things are changing really quickly. Keep a copy of your one-paragraph statement with you–ideally on your desk or even in your wallet–so you can refer back to it when you’re feeling pulled in many different directions or when you hit a rough patch. It can be hard to ignore the many competing voices around you. Actively reconnecting with your vision by looking at your own handwritten words on paper will help you stay focused on your dream.

What if the way you’re running the business is actually in sync with what matters to you, but it’s sucking up all your time? In many ways, that’s an easier problem to solve. By looking for ways to automate routine tasks, bring on freelancers to supplement your efforts (as your cash flow supports it), and even outsource dull work to an industry-specific back-office provider, so you can start to get back some of your time.

After all, no matter how much you love your work, you won’t be able to thrive as an entrepreneur if you never get any distance from it. So once you do get back some time, make sure you spend it away from your business, doing something that completely consumes your attention–whether that’s playing with your kids, mountain biking, or meditating–so you can clear the decks mentally.

That will help you avoid burnout and allow you to stay connected to what’s really in your heart. The goal is to unblock your creative energy and free you to come up your best ideas–but it all starts with these eight questions and a simple writing exercise.

This article is adapted with permission from The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business by Elaine Pofeldt.