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The Startup Journey - Burnout

Posted by Walter Oh   May 19, 2016 8:00:00 AM



I had initially planned this post to be the 6th in the series but decided to bump it up. Reason for doing that was because I find myself feeling crappy all over after 5 months of starting up. Its official, I’m burnt-out.

Good news is the company has been getting quite a number of interests from corporates and advertising seems to be kicking in for the month of January. Things are looking okay, although we are still chasing the elusive goal of having 1000 signups by March.

Bad news is the devil has been messing with my mind while I am in the daily grind of sticking shipping labels and packing stuff into a box. Packing is an absolutely SOUL-CRUSHING exercise. The mess from the boxes lying around the office isn’t helping much either.


Mental Fatigue

I started zoning out some time after 4pm every day and the thought of waking up to work on BoxGreen became more painful each day. I ended up going to bed thinking of the things I have not completed and waking up feeling guilty of not completing my tasks the previous day.


Missing the bigger picture 

Packing has become mundane, repetitive and not exactly sustainable. This is tougher and more time consumer than I thought! The daily grind and operations some how made me lose track of the bigger picture, that we set out to build a company that provided health and happiness to people at home and at the work place.


Feeling of failure

The feeling of failure and the existential question of “why am I doing this” started kicking in more frequently each day. I started to picture myself selling nuts my entire life, and what if I would been better off doing right now. I started missing my corporate job (omg, is this even real?).

The fact is my focus wasn’t on BoxGreen anymore. I am fatigued mentally and physically. This must be related to the superman syndrome – trying to do everything on my own. And it is definitely not working out.


  1. Focus on things that move the needle

I realized there are 1001 things to consider and do every day and I don’t have the luxury to complete them all in a day. I used to tackle whatever comes in and I find myself exhausted by mid day. I needed a plan and a list I could stick to and complete them. The important things to do isn’t about packing, it’s about how to get sales and traction. I started writing down my To-Dos at the back of an envelope and striking them off when I completed them for the day.

  1. Outsource the things that don’t move the needle

The saying goes “To go fast, go alone, to go far, go with a team.” is so true. We got more things done when Andrew’s brother and his 16-year-old cousin came to lend a hand with the packing. This frees up my time to focus on the more important things, getting more sales.

  1. Know that it’s okay and it’s a privilege to be doing what we’re doing

I stopped whatever I’m doing and acknowledge the fact that I am too overworked. I went for a movie, took a day off at the beach, found my balance before coming back to think about the business.

Working on a startup is generally portrayed as a depressing “survival mode” – the work till you drop mentality. But considering the fact that we are all in a privileged position to be chasing our dreams, I think we ought to be happy and grateful that this is not exactly a life threatening affair should my startup fails. Ultimately, if we are too fixated on the goal chasing, aren’t we missing out on the journey and experience itself? This positivity has allowed me to better cherish my time and close potential deals with customers, without worrying about meeting my goals.














Bottom line: It is okay to fill stressed and overworked.

Every entrepreneur I have talked to have his or her moments. The difference is they acknowledged their emotions and charted a course of action that moved things forward. I’m still learning everyday to be a better manager of my day and mental capacity to build a startup. And so I tell myself, the light is at the end of the tunnel!


Walter Oh

Walter is a co-founder of BoxGreen, a discovery/e-commerce food company that actively introduces consumers and offices to better and healthier snacks. He currently lives in Singapore with his fantastic wife. He can usually be found on his blog.