How Experiencing A Burnout Helped Save My Business…and My Life

About 2 months ago I experienced burnout, and it was one of the worst burnouts I've had. But thankfully it opened my eyes to a whole new world which saved not only my business but my life.

A little history...

When I first started as an emerging entrepreneur, there were times when I would get to the point of burnout, and after one year where I slept for 3 days straight after Christmas, I decided it was enough. I started finding ways to manage my time better so I could start getting better sleep, but even more important to actually have time with my family. Things got better, but by this time I had packed on quite a few pounds and turned into a prediabetic, not good for energy levels.

Fast forward a few years later, and throughout the years reduced the number of crazy work hours...most weeks. I would still take non-sugary energy drinks to keep going on a regular occasion, but had the sense to take some time on the weekends or around holidays to get the rest I need to avoid burnout. That is until two months ago.

It had been one of the worst burnouts I had ever experienced, I had experienced extreme brain fog, had a hard time sleeping and even lost motivation to work or even spend time with the family. In short, I was exhausted beyond measure.

What led up to the burnout...

I had been increasing my book reading to help me grow my business, expand into other industries. I wanted to make this year the year we grew beyond the basic marketing agency I had. I had already put in a lot of time learning my craft and creating a marketing agency in the process that if all works well would allow me to strategize with my clients and oversee the bigger picture items while my small team handles the day to day tasks of the project.

One of my team members had developed a program we could use to share in the profits of some of the businesses we worked with. The idea was sound, help others grow and in turn, we share in the profits. It sounded easy enough.

I started to put in extra hours helping grow other businesses who were starting out. I knew what it was like having next to money with your startup and having to bootstrap your marketing. I wanted to be of help if I could, and it got me into trouble.

My focus became thinly spread. My personal brainpower was overloaded, I didn't read the signs that I was in burnout mode, nor did I know all the signs to look for. As soon as I was done with one thing for one client, I had to run to put out a fire for another.

Side note: It was amazing to me how easily fires can creep up from some of these clients. 

Part of the straw that broke the camel's back...

Finally, a project took a turn for the worse. The client wouldn't communicate back with me and decided to part ways, no big deal, we are not the perfect match for everyone nor is everyone a perfect match for my team. After I had paid my team with their final payment, and without any warning, I received a chargeback. It threw my account into the negative, now I had a real fire on my hands.

Some people may not realize it, but when you are a startup business bootstrapping it on your own, the first several years can be really tight. To the point that every dollar that comes in has a place to go. When a chargeback happens, it literally meant not paying some major bills.

The thoughts and emotions I had were for the most part, not very positive ones. I believe that if you do your best to be ethical and honest in your daily dealings that everything will work itself out, however at the moment you can't pay your monthly mortgage you tend to stress out.

I was already tired beyond the help of caffeine. I had been putting in a lot of extra hours for free helping not only this ex-client but others as well. Felt like a huge slap in the face. Maybe you have experienced something similar?

The bounceback...

I had to recover, so I pulled myself off of caffeine. I was tired, and not excited about work. I remember one day having a conversation with myself that I have a family looking to me for support so keep working just for a few hours more. I remembered a few tricks that worked for me in the past such as juice fasting, drinking lemon water, sleeping in, not scheduling appointments, and letting my team know what had happened.

Support came, the biggest of which came from my wife. It really makes a difference to have a supporting spouse who is willing to sacrifice to help my dreams become a reality.

One evening we had a heart to heart, where I just told her everything. Things where I felt I was failing at, why things had become so stressful. She asked me questions that helped me dig deeper into the stresses, looked at what possible preventative measures and even gave me some feedback that was brutally honest. She explained that I take a lot onto myself, which is true, it's the reason for the titan symbol of Atlas for my company.

Side note: The whole conversation with my wife reminded me why I love her so much. She'd support me making sculptures out of dog poop if I so choose.

The solution...

It's time to simplify this blog. And literally, I had to simplify. I am a bit of a geek and get excited about how many wonderful things can be done in the online world. I tend to feel like I can do it all, but the truth is as a startup I needed to keep a hyper-targeted focus. I've been learning this principle more over the years. I dropped a lot off my schedule, that helped. I changed my daily routine, rather I simplified my daily routine, another load off my shoulders. During my daily studying, I came across a talk that reminded me of journal writing. I had written in my journal before on a daily basis as a young man and noticed a positive difference, maybe it could have the same impact again?

Now dedicated while exhausted I had my mind blown. For almost two months straight, every night without fail I take some time to write what I noticed had a positive impact or a blessing in my day. Writing in this journal I chose to focus on the positive or things that bring real happiness. In turn, I find more things both big and small that are a blessing, my mind shuts off easier at night, I've had way better sleep and my energy has returned.

How it saved my business...

Many great things came out of that burnout. I came to realize more who I am, who I am not and an even greater vision for my business that is coming to fruition much faster than by working too many hours with little sleep.

Everything is working itself out, my team is now better equipped to take on more work, I have people who came out of the woodwork to support me, and with our new business focus have brought on clients who pay for a service which is more profitable for both parties involved.

In turn, a balanced focus on my life came about. I am focusing on a healthy personal and business life that can complement each other. The more balance I strive for, the more I gain personally and in business.

My little piece of advice: Don't let yourself burnout to gain perspective. Find your balance. 

Keep working on your dreams.

Matt

~ My purpose in typing this blog is to document what I go through, what I am learning and maybe it can help other entrepreneurs as well.