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9 CEOs on how they prevent themselves from feeling burned out

Chronic stress is something that all types of workers can experience.

9 CEOs on how they prevent themselves from feeling burned out
[Photo: ronaldosantospires/Pixabay]

There’s been plenty of talk about burnout lately, sparked by the World Health Organization’s move to expand the definition of burnout in its latest revision of the Internal Classification of Diseases, or ICD. Burnout is now defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

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Despite the recent media attention, burnout isn’t a new thing, and chronic stress is something that all types of workers can experience, to varying degrees. We decided to ask nine leaders to share their best tips for staying motivated and fresh on the job:

Prioritize when you can

“I don’t profess to have mastered it,” admits Rhian Horgan, Kindur’s CEO and founder. “But prioritization and delegation are the only way to survive. At the office, this means bringing on seasoned execs who can both be early individual contributors but also build and scale teams. At home, I prioritize bringing my kids to school daily and a weekly date night with my husband.”

John Paasonen, CEO of Maxwell Financial Labs, also emphasizes prioritization. There was a week where we were raising a round of funding, holding a board meeting, evaluating an acquisition, setting our biannual and quarterly goals, and our third child decided to be born, in what ended up being a complicated delivery,” he recalls. “Then our refrigerator decided to break down, too!” 

In the midst of crazy times like those, Paasonen says he focuses on prioritization and his mid-term and long-term goals. “Goals are critical to sharpen what is imperative and what is not. I block times in my calendar to advance critical work—and perhaps most importantly—ensure I’m still dedicating time for my family.” 

Master compartmentalization

When I’m in a product meeting, I need to be fully present, and when I leave that meeting and head to marketing, I need to give that team my full attention,” says Analisa Goodin, founder and CEO of Catch&Release. “Being able to compartmentalize is not something you learn once and then forget about—it’s an active state of mind, and one you continually have to be aware of.”

Remove toxic people

“Surrounding yourself with amazing, supportive people is key,” says John Hall, cofounder of Calendar. “I’ve had people come down hard at me and my team during board meetings [and] that has caused burnout not only for me, but others. Now I know the best thing to avoid burnout is remove toxic people [from] my professional life.” 

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Reignite your passion

Ross Richie, CEO of BOOM! Studios, takes time to remember why he’s playing the entrepreneur game in the first place. “I own a comic book company, so I go back to the comic book store and find an old comic I can get excited about that reignites my passion,” says Richie. “I leave the office for an afternoon, avoid email, turn off the phone, and go into a research hole that refreshes my spirit.”

Meditate in the morning

Muffi Ghadiali, cofounder and CEO of Electriphi, says meditation is the single most important thing that keeps him grounded through the “startup marathon.” “I see meditation as a conversation with my mind with very few words, and it can take many different forms (listening to music, guided meditations, or breathing techniques). Sometimes taking just 15 minutes out during the day can be challenging, so I stick with a morning routine, before all hell breaks loose,” says Ghadiali. 

Make good use of weekends 

“When I was on the verge of burnout, having not seen friends nor taken a vacation for the better half of a year, my fiancé and I planned a weekend getaway to a nearby B&B and unplugged,” says Michelle Zhu, CEO of Tinctorium. “After planning it, I felt reenergized just for having something to look forward to.” 

Zhu says she also isn’t opposed to occasionally using her weekend to get a head start on the week ahead. “I also have really enjoyed weekends where I’ve been able to block out four to five hours at a coffee shop to just catch up on emails. It makes Mondays feel far less stressful.” 

Limit your time

Limit yourself to 12-hour days, six days a week,” says Julie Legault, CEO of Amino Labs. “Once 7 p.m. arrives, shut down. . . . It is really important to realize that it takes 5 to 10 years to turn an idea into a real company. The brute force approach doesn’t work so well.” 

Sometimes, embrace a bigger reset

Mita Carriman, founder and CEO of Adventurely, thought her startup was doomed. “Prior to getting our seed from Backstage, we found ourselves with no choice but to indefinitely suspend operations when our ability to continue bootstrapping was above and beyond anything sustainable,” she says. Carriman decided to take some time to travel and figure out what she wanted to do next. “I ended up being on a solo trip of a lifetime that took me to eight countries between Latin America and Europe over several months.”

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After that extended travel, something happened. “Being away from the business and returning to my natural love for solo travel . . .  reinvigorated my passions for the solo travel market, helped me to identify more deeply with my customers, and [gave me] so many fresh and exciting ideas on how I could relaunch Adventurely,” she says.

Adventurely landed a seed investment from Backstage Capital’s Accelerator and made its way to the top of 1,900 startup applicants to be selected for Backstage’s competitive program. “The lesson I got from this experience is how taking time away from work not only can help your mental wellness, but can really help improve the clarity and execution of your business as a founder or CEO.” 

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About the author

Beck Bamberger founded BAM Communications in 2008 and writes regularly for Forbes, Inc., and HuffPost about entrepreneurship, public relations, and culture.

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