One of the pitfalls of being an entrepreneur is trying to run the business entirely on your own. While only you may be able to get the job done to your standards of perfection, you will eventually burn out if you keep trying to do it all yourself.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for doing everything themselves. They—I should say, we—stake our lives on our businesses. Overriding all other mottos and mantras for us seems to be “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
And how often we prove ourselves right on that one. We hire assistants or employees and entrust certain tasks to them, only to discover sooner or later that their work just didn’t meet our standards of perfection. We end up redoing the work ourselves and ruing the day we turned the job over to someone else to begin with.
This is the definition of a martyr-preneur: The entrepreneur who practically kills themselves doing everything on their own to meet their standards of perfection.
What’s wrong with that? you may be asking.
What wrong with that is the “practically killing yourself” part.
If your business can’t survive without you, then how do you expect your business to survive without you?
I know that question is filled with redundancy, and the answer seems so obvious. But most of us entrepreneurs are so focused on our business that we miss—or choose to ignore—this most obvious paradox. Our businesses rely so much on us that we are willing to do anything for our businesses, even at the expense of our own health and wellbeing.
Some people take pride in being a martyr-preneur. They don’t even have to have their own business to be one. You know who I’m taking about: the person who constantly has to one-up you on how much work they have and how stressed they are. The more work they have and the more stressed they are, the more important they feel. But they’re usually not very happy. And, with all that stress, the work they do usually isn’t so great.
For actual entrepreneurial types, it’s even easier to become a martyr-preneur. Our standards are so high, and we are so motivated to make everything “just right” that we often slip out of entrepreneurship and slide right into martyr-preneurship. We insist that our high standards are the only possible standards. We are quickly frustrated by other people’s opinions and timetables. We can’t tolerate any deviation from our own mission and objective.
And so we try to do it all.
Until we just can’t anymore. That’s the thing about being a martyr-preneur: By definition, you burn out. You burn out physically, mentally and possibly even financially.
But you don’t have to be a martyr-preneur. You can save yourself!
The two most important things you can do to stop being a martyr-preneur and avoid entrepreneurial burnout are taking care of yourself and getting help.
1. Take care of yourself
As much as we take care of our businesses, we entrepreneurs are loathe to take care of ourselves. It often feels like a waste of precious time to do something for ourselves at the expense of our business. But it’s not at the expense of our business! Ignoring our own physical, mental and spiritual needs causes the greatest expense to our business.
Here is a fun and easy way to take care of yourself every day: Create a self-care jar. Take a dozen or more scraps of paper. On each piece of paper, write down a fun and/or relaxing activity that you can do in 15 minutes. Put all the scraps of paper into a jar. Now here’s the tough part: Every day, draw a piece of paper from the jar and do that activity.
If you end up not liking that activity, get rid of it. If you enjoy it, put it back in the jar for another day.
Here are some activities you might want to put in your self-care jar:
- Read a non-work magazine
- Take a walk
- Drink a cup of hot tea in silence
- Read a fluffy book
- Call a friend (and don’t talk shop!)
- Watch a silly video on YouTube
- Read a comic book
The point of these activities is not to boost your brain but to reduce your stress. So pick activities that are calming and relaxing or else silly and funny. Laughter is a great way to reduce stress!
2. Get help
Deep down, you know that you can’t do it all yourself. So get some help!
As an entrepreneur, you need to focus on strategic planning and on doing your actual job. You don’t need to be the one to do every job associated with your business. And you don’t need to be the only one responsible for every household job. Maybe you’ve hired employees in the past and had a bad experience. If you want your business—and yourself—to survive, then you’re going to have to hire some help. Hire a virtual assistant or an actual employee. Delegate the tasks that drain you. Hire someone to clean your home. If you don’t have the cash flow to hire actual people, then find freelancers or barter with other people.
To make the experience a good one this time, be very clear with yourself and with them about the job description and your expectations. Remember that no one is as invested in your business as you are. But you can still get good people to do great work for you. You just have to be clear and direct. Write down a job description, as well as milestones and metrics.
Share them with your new hire. Then stick to them!
I hope these ideas have inspired you to avoid becoming—or stop being—a martyr-preneur. Taking care of yourself does not take away from your business. Taking care of yourself helps expand your business.
Kelly Eckert is a personal and professional development coach in Pittsburg, PA. Visit her web site at