Startups · Stress management

Dealing with burnout?

Eugene Gekhter CEO, Memorable. Founder, SharePay.

June 17th, 2015

I've been developing non-stop for 14 months and have two startups in the works (one with 100 SaaS paid customers).
What are some concrete ways that folks deal with burnout while in startup mode?
It's very clear that stress is a productivity killer, but how do you stop and take a break (and for how long?) knowing your competition is winning, has more brand recognition, and obviously more engineering and marketing resources?


Steve Everhard All Things Startup

June 17th, 2015

From what you have said I would surmise that your stress really comes from frustration borne of competition. External factors that we cannot control are often the source of more persistent stress. You can take time out, reconnect wit your social circle or a sport of hobby but that is really only going to add to your stress as you  would be constantly thinking about your competition pulling ahead of you. It is time for a review of strategy.

If you have a team then try an offsite meeting, a day of perhaps moderated discussion on your competitive and market position. Challenge your assumptions, think more broadly 0 is your strategy for success still appropriate 14 months later? Then blow off some steam and try to resolve any frustration between team members.

If you are in a very small team or working solo then take a day out with a trusted advisor or two to look at how you draw in more resources and revisit your assumptions about your market, etc,.

In startup mode we can all get blinkered and single-minded. We forget to look up. The one advantage you have over bigger competition is flexibility and the ability to exploit niches which are uneconomic for them. The more you win the less stress you'll feel.

Raja Kumar Code Surgeries | Micro Fixed Bids | Scala | Go | Kotlin | ReactJS | Android | Java | NFR Doctor

June 17th, 2015

Few thoughts

1. Make sure, you have at least one person in the team, whos only role is bringing efficiency each day
- This guy would have refactoring, unit testing, latest technology knowledge, technology transformation expertise.
- This is guy should not have direct delivery responsibility but a highly sensitive all rounder to deal with each day growing technology complexity

2. Scale the team and bring in min process

If you have the funds, this would help a lot, specially when, demand in your business is high and you wish to be fair in dealing with your own employees.

To me burnout is the result of not allowing intellect to produce but trying to sweat by being ordinary. At least have 10% intellect work (as separate role) and rest can be ordinary.


Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

June 17th, 2015

first, get at least 45 minutes of hard exercise per day.  without the endorphins naught will help. 

The rest is just part of the game

 If you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen. 

Lane Campbell Lifelong Entrepreneur

June 17th, 2015

I offer advice to others for free.  It gets me in front of so many people and it keeps me from feeling any burnout.  I try and spend at least four hours a week helping other people.

Lonnie Sciambi

June 17th, 2015

Have a release.  Whether that be exercise as John noted, yoga or just sitting under a tree reading a non-business book, set aside time just for you.  To truly face off against competition, you need to be at full strength whenever you are in the game.  That means you, periodically, need a mental and physical break.  Athletes, no matter how hard they train, need and take down time.   For you, maybe it's just a day off, without ever checking email or voicemail, or any interaction with technology.  If you have a family or a significant other, go somewhere with them for a day or a weekend.  Re-charge.  You will come back refreshed and ready to take on your business and its competition much more readily. As important, plan for it, so it's part of your schedule, be it weekly or monthly (no less).  Trust me, this is advice borne of 30+ years as an entrepreneur and advisor to and investor in entrepreneurial businesses.

John Skelly Founder, CEO at GasAnywhere

June 17th, 2015

I feel your pain bro! I say exercise every single day, even if it's a brisk walk while eating a sandwich. Eat healthy, low or no refined sugars. No soda. Listen to some tony Robbins every morning. Go kick today's asses! :)

Daniel Marques Director of Application Development at Pragma Securities LLC

June 17th, 2015

At my first startup (I was CTO - a day 1 employee) I delayed taking a honeymoon for three years, thinking that if I was away for a minute everything would fall apart.

At some point, the 2nd in charge of technology went away on vacation: and I realized that everything went smoothly, and that we didn't even know he was gone (and he was an incredibly valuable employee).

The lesson, I learned, is that we overthink our importance, even if we are the most important person at the organization. This doesn't mean there aren't crucial times where you can't be away - it just means that every moment isn't such a time.

Schedule a day off, but schedule it filled with stuff (meet someone for breakfast, then go to a museum, then meet someone for lunch, etc.) so that you don't have any free time to think about how you should be at work (or worse, so you don't grab your laptop and start coding).

Parminder Saini CEO & Founder at ABS

June 17th, 2015

14 hour days are not uncommon in startup world. I know there's no one answer to the problem you highlighted. I myself have been in similar situation multiple times and what really worked for me was to force myself to plan my day better, delegate, take a quick break...even if it means spending time with family, watching a movie or just stepping out for a walk/jog or run! Hope this helps.


Quoc Tran CTO at Possum, LLC

June 17th, 2015

I was in a similar situation as tech director at a prior startup competing against a company whose sales team was larger than our entire company.

Echoing what other folks have said here: avoid junk food, eat well, get exercise. Don't eat lunch alone - always eat with family, friends, coworkers. They'll help you maintain perspective.

Eugene Gekhter CEO, Memorable. Founder, SharePay.

June 18th, 2015

Thanks everyone for your experiences and advice.
It's great to know we have this great community where we can give and receive support - it sure makes the life of an entrepreneur better.