7 Signs of Burnout & How to Reignite

by Laura Simms on 05.03.12

in A Meaningful Life, Entrepreneurship

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7 signs of burnout

You know the ole saying:

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day of your life.”

Well, I call poppycock. You can have too much of a good thing, and you still need a break from doing work you’re deeply passionate about. Just like sometimes you need a break from your spouse or kids or┬álovely home.

I cringe when I hear entrepreneurs wear exhaustion like a badge of honor. There’s no honor in self-abuse, and you don’t get points for spreading yourself so thin that you’re reduced to a wine sipping hulu zobmie 5 nights a week.

As any good high school dance chaperone could tell you, you gotta put a balloon in between you and your slow-dance-partner-of-a-business to leave room for the holy ghost.

7 signs of burnout

  • 1. Things that would normally be fun are just another thing to cross off your to do list.
  • 2. You sit down to do something that you’d normally do in 20 minutes and it takes you 60.
  • 3. You’re out of ideas.
  • 4. You just. don’t. want. to. keep your commitments.
  • 5. You daydream about a fantastical misadventure that somehow leaves you stranded on a desert island. And you like it.
  • 6. You (mentally or verbally) lash out people who make requests of you.
  • 7. You have a negative physical reaction to the thought of doing certain tasks.

If you identified with 3 or more of the above statements, you make be experiencing burn out. While it might not be possible to hit that desert island this afternoon, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a break.

7 simple ways to reignite

  • 1. Say no to any new commitments for one month.
  • 2. Schedule a vacation in the future so you have something to look forward to.
  • 3. Commiserate with someone who gets it.
  • 4. Kindly ask someone who cares to pamper you for a day.
  • 5. Order in. The good stuff.
  • 6. Declare one night, one day, one weekend totally off-limits from any work-related activity.
  • 7. Unplug for an afternoon. No gadgets, no screens.

If you can run a small empire, surely you can run a small self-preservation campaign.

How can you tell when you’re approaching burn out, and what do you do about it? Let me know in the comments.

Gathering light,


I REALLY needed to read this article. Thank you from a fellow wine sipping hulu zombie.



Thanks, Ranell!



Love this. You can definitely get burnt out, even if you ‘love what you do’.

I know I’m burnt out when I stop caring about ME. Like, I’m dragging myself to the laptop to write, but I haven’t brushed my hair yet. When I’m NOT burnt out, there’s more balance to my life. I take of me – my personal appearance, my health, I spend time with real life people, etc… while, still getting my work done.



Loved this one, Laura. I liked that you not only itemized the signs of burnout – but also offered great suggestions for overcoming it.



Right on! Thanks for dispelling the myth that one’s business should always be fun and not work. It’s completely unrealistic, yet you hear that quote all the time! I can always tell when I’m approaching burnout when even the tiniest errand seems like a giant chore. And then I usually come down with a cold because I haven’t been taking care of myself. It’s like my body is saying “Take THAT! I’ll MAKE you rest, whether you like it or not!”


Jessica Jones

I really needed to hear this today. Thanks.


Jessica Molnar

Thank you for this post (and thanks for posting as an article rather than video…I may be alone here, but I generally skip video posts). I’m just coming out of looong drawn out burn-out/creative slump. Last year I had three huge projects on my plate that I was completely fired up about. Turns out I’d over-committed myself and each of the projects flopped. I spent a while beating myself up. I was able to salvage one of the projects which has helped. I’ve also made a point of looking after my health and excising. The lesson that I took away from all of that is that it’s great to have huge goals, but keep commitments within the realm of reason! I don’t think anything has ever had such a detrimental effect on my creativity as knowing that there is no way I can deliver what I promised.



That last sentence…I’d write that down next to my calendar. Great point.



WOW, you’re good! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I know that several of the things above are true for me (nothings fun, I don’t want to keep commitments, etc). But also when I fall asleep sitting up with the laptop still in my lap I know I’m headed for burnout. I’ve just started a new policy in this last week that business ends at 9PM; no exceptions. No “but they really need this now!” (seriously? How likely are they to be waiting up at midnight to check their email anyway?). I’m also making myself a priority and eating better and allowing myself more sleep. Also, my new motto? “I didn’t finish it today?! There’s always tomorrow.” I think most fires aren’t nearly the beast we make them to be in our heads.



I know “burnout” is creeping down the alley when I find myself procrastinating, sleeping in, finding every excuse to do other things. Ok, I do give myself some slack when the “other things” are productive. Sometimes my work pushes other to-do items to the side. Balance is one of those things that doesn’t always find its way into my vocabulary. :-)



HI Laura,
I almost laughed when I read this- I have been in a funk for about a week- couldn’t put my finger on it- then WHAM- last weekend I just KNEW I needed to take a break from designing stuff for my Etsy shop and my website. I can’t completely unplug because my customers do expect me to email their orders to them- but this week- when the ONLY thing I have done work related is to email the orders- I have had one of the most profitable weeks ever!!! I am redoing things in my house that have been neglected- and having fun! I will be ready to get back to designing, but I am going to let that moment come when the inspiration strikes- for now- I am painting my hall lime green- that ought to scare the daylights out of my husband! thanks for another stellar insight!



Sometimes great stuff comes when you don’t push so hard. Thanks for the reminder, Beth!


Paul C.

I really needed to hear this one. Thanks for the light!



Brillant Blog, there are definately too many of those burnout signs with ticks beside them! I think its time for a break !



This is great and so true -“If you can run a small empire, surely you can run a small self-preservation campaign.”



When I feel like I’m wearing my grumpy pants for more than a short time — burn out is afoot!

Great read – thanks for the reminders!!



Thank you Laura for this great post. I needed to hear this. I know I’ve reached my burnout stage because I’m getting snappy, feel like I have no time for fun, and feel exhausted. Like you say I know I need to stop committing myself to anything until I reevaluate where I am and dedicate more time to the activities that really nourish me and allow me to thrive. I’ll start this Sunday with declaring the night for only fun, no work. Thanks again for the great tips!


Zina at Debt Free After Three

I’m in the middle of growing my freelance business and it’s so hard to step away. I find myself walking my dog and trying to respond to emails and read blog posts at the same time. Declaring one day off and limiting my to-do list are two recent changes I’ve made. It’s so hard to feel “done” when you’re working for yourself – no one’s telling you to go home and stop working. Burnout is very real and I think it’s important to talk about it, so no one think it’s a good idea to be a martyr.


Sarah Spencer

Oh my God, so much of this is so true. Especially the “lashing out” part, haha. I’m definitely not exempt from that one. My poor fiance.


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