6 ways the most successful entrepreneurs avoid burnout

Successful entrepreneurs offer advice on making room for what matters, saying no, and other methods for staving off burnout.

6 ways the most successful entrepreneurs avoid burnout
[Photo: Erik Odiin/Unsplash]

Roughly a quarter of entrepreneurs have felt moderately burned out, according to a 2018 Harvard Business Review survey. Yet there’s a lot of cliché in how the topic is discussed, says Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerX chairman and serial entrepreneur.


For Vaynerchuk, who kicked off 2019 with the launch of his fifth book and umpteenth venture, avoiding that spiral into a state where you can no longer function is more complicated than “get more sleep.” Here are some tactics he and other leading founders use to maintain their stamina and their companies.

Track your happiness, not your sleep.–Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX

There are people who are going to work 15 hours a day this year who are not going to come even remotely close to burning out because they love it emotionally and handle it physically. It has to do almost completely with, ‘Are you happy?’ A lot of people are playing happy on social media . . . Are you actually invigorated eight out of 10 days when you wake up? . . . The American Dream shouldn’t be owning a home. The American Dream should be to be happy. It’s about what you need for yourself.

Treat personal commitments as meetings.–Marisa Renee Lee, founder of Supportal

I work out four to five times a week, and if someone asks if I can do a call during the only window I know I have to work out, I tell them, ‘No, I have a meeting.’ I also take a break to spend time with my amazing coworker, my dog Sadie, at least once a day. She grounds me in the present moment. It helps to accept that there will never be a day when everything is ‘done.’

Say “no” to 999 things and “yes” to one.–Joey Zwillinger, cofounder of Allbirds

There are two questions [my cofounder] Tim and I always go back to when making decisions: ‘Does it help our mission?’ and ‘Does it help our customer?’ Those guide everything. There are constant temptations. But we say no religiously. That has been critical.

Recruit like your life depends on it.–Cate Luzio, founder and CEO of Luminary

Whether you are an entrepreneur or not, you’re not alone; it’s always about bringing on the right team. When you’re going a million miles an hour, you have to take the time to pick and choose the right people. I look for passion, intent, and urgency. You’ve got to believe in the mission and be willing to go after it. Also, we have one team meeting a week, not multiple a day. Align and go.

Channel travel into refreshing perspective.–Roya Mohammad, cofounder and CEO of Digital Citizen Fund

I take time to travel, meet with inspiring people, and hear new perspectives. When I’m away for speaking engagements and conferences, I sometimes stay a few extra days to digest the experience or catch up with friends and family. I’m able to give space to my team to do their jobs, and I return ready to work harder and change things that aren’t working.

Free yourself of FOMO.–Kirin Sinha, founder and CEO of Illumix

I’ve tried to stop worrying about what other people are doing with their time. When I was feeling stressed from constant work, it was easy for me to compare my life to others who seemed to be having an easier time. Once I let go of that and instead channeled my energy to focus on the opportunities in front of me, I felt much more at peace.

Katie Sanders is a freelance journalist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @katieSSanders.