10 Burnout Warning Signs Every Startup Founder Should Watch For

Stressed out businesswoman at the office.

Burnout is a common problem among startup founders. Entrepreneurship is exciting and fun, but it’s also highly demanding — and sometimes, your to-do list feels endless. 

After weeks (or months) of hard work and no break, you may wake up one day dreading the thought of going to the office. The idea of pursuing your dreams might feel stressful or overwhelming. 

That feeling is entrepreneurial burnout. 

Recommended: Check out our article on the ways entrepreneurs can prevent burnout.

Common Warning Signs of Founder Burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen all at once; it results from persistent feelings of frustration and annoyance. Here are ten signs of burnout that you should be aware of as an entrepreneur: 

1. You’re Exhausted Both Physically and Emotionally

Exhaustion is a textbook sign of entrepreneurial burnout. It can leave you feeling physically and mentally drained, no matter how much sleep you get—and having zero energy all the time can affect your work performance. A better work-life balance can help. Take some time for yourself and recharge. 

2. You Lack Motivation and Confidence

When you’re suffering from burnout, you may begin to lose interest and motivation in your business or question your ability to perform in the workplace. Several issues can cause this, including an unmanageable workload and excessive time pressure. One of the best things you can do as a startup founder is learning to delegate; it’s okay to hand off some tasks to gain a little “me” time.

3. You’ve Become More Cynical

On the flip side, you may find that you’re quick to point out the negative or that sometimes you can’t see the positive at all. If nothing anyone else does seems good enough, and you believe that you’re the only one keeping your startup afloat, it could be a sign of burnout. 

4. You’re Working Longer Hours

Common signs of burnout, like exhaustion and brain fog, can cause your performance to drop. If you know your work is slipping, you might try even harder— and work longer hours—to make up for it. Unfortunately, for many founders, this means continuing work even when they’re not in the office, interrupting valuable time with family and loved ones. This is an ineffective strategy, and it can worsen many of your burnout symptoms. 

5. You’re Making More Mistakes

Burnout puts your brain in a fog, making remembering things difficult. On top of that, being tired, distracted, and irritable means you’re likely to make more mistakes than usual, as well. For example, you may find yourself missing deadlines, forgetting about important meetings, or even messing up basic business operations. 

6. You’ve Deprioritized Your Health and Well-Being

A lack of concern for your health and wellbeing can significantly contribute to burnout. And if you’re unable to step away from whatever is stressing you to take care of yourself, it will end poorly. Experts recommend taking time for a daily check-in with yourself. Ask yourself, “How am I doing physically? How am I doing mentally?” A healthy daily routine — including nonwork time — is essential to the long-term success of your business. 

7. You Consistently Dread Going to Work

One of the most common signs of burnout is dreading the thought of work. Of course, everyone wants to skip a day at the office on occasion — maybe there’s a client you don’t want to see or a meeting you’d rather not go to, but if you loathe the idea of logging in every single day, it may be a sign of something more serious. 

8. Your Mood and Personality Have Changed

Burnout often leads to profound changes in a person’s mood or personality. However, since these changes typically happen gradually, it isn’t easy to notice them ourselves. Take heed if the people around you (at work or at home) notice that you’re acting more irritable, angry, or annoyed than before. It could mean you’re on the road to burnout. 

9. You Can’t Stand the People You Work With

As an entrepreneur, you likely hand-picked every person on your team. They were people that you respected and wanted to collaborate with. So why is it that almost every one of them is on your last nerve lately? If you find yourself constantly frustrated with others for no real reason, take a step back and look at the big picture. It likely has nothing to do with them. 

10. You’re Experiencing Physical Symptoms

As burnout progresses, more and more physical symptoms present themselves. For example, you may find that you have constant headaches or frequently feel nauseated. In addition, you’ll likely experience sleep disturbances, including the inability to fall or stay asleep. This can lead to a host of other problems, like depression and anxiety and increased susceptibility to sickness and disease.

Resources to Help With Burnout