Dealing with Burnout - When Less is More
Burnout can be debilitating to your continued success as a blogger or other content creator. Avoid creation overwhelm and fatigue with these tips.
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Creator burnout is real. Whether it’s just because you get tired of pushing yourself to odd hours every day – without even taking weekends off – or if you reach this breaking point while under a bout of depression, burn out is real.
It’s so easy to think “That won’t be me. I can sustain this.” But we see it time and time again in various industries. I thought I could handle the workload I was putting on myself, but I couldn’t.
Once all that is over, it’s even worse trying to come back to everything you left behind. I feel like I’ve personally disappointed people. That has spiraled out into crippling anxiety that I’m just now starting to pull through.
This post is going to be a little different than what you’d normally see around here because I want to address why I’ve had an eight-month hiatus and what I’m doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
What Caused My Burnout
I’ve noticed three big things happen when I’m headed towards burnout; I have a lot of unfinished projects, I have a hard time focusing, and I see little or no results even though I’m putting in a massive amount of effort.
Too many unfinished ideas
I’m the type of person who has tons and tons of ideas and tries to do them all. Which would be okay, except that I try to do them all at once. Instead of focusing on one or two things, I’m all over the place. It’s ridiculous, really.
- I needed to set up email sequences.
- I had 329483029432 ideas for courses.
- I wanted to create a membership site.
And so on, and so on, and so on.
I have so many outlines of ideas I had. Every time I had one outlined, I’d come up with another. I would even come up with new ideas while in the middle of outlining one.
That brings me to my next hiccup:
Lack of focus
Okay, this one is really hard for me. I had so many “great ideas!” that I never really focused on one single thing, finished it, and then moved to the next. Even when I first started this blog post, I stopped and it took me a week to come back to it.
Rather than try to do EVERYTHING, I really need to focus on doing one thing. Otherwise, I’m stuck with 1 million half-way done projects and nothing to show for it.
Working too hard with no results
Last year and the year before, I was constantly working. I didn’t put aside much time for fun. I worked so much but didn’t really get much done. I focused so much on creating “the ultimate free product!” that I only made about 5 sales of my paid product, and that product I released in December, right before I totally crashed.
This is the thing that always gets me in my work. I push myself too hard and eventually, it’s no longer fun. I can’t stand to even think about creating another hairstyle or writing another blog post. It’s always a feeling that I recognize in advance, but I never do anything about it. That’s where it goes all wrong for me.
Burnout and Depression
The most damaging thing about my burnouts is that for me, it’s a trigger for depression. Once I’ve managed to wipe out, I don’t have the will to do anything. Everything is exaggeratingly difficult, even things I would normally enjoy.
In the end, I completely shut down. My friends and family may not hear or see me for days. I don’t eat well and I lose pride in keeping up my appearance.
I’m overcome with feelings of not being good enough. I feel like the whole universe is stacked against me.
This goes on for weeks, sometimes months. I don’t have access to a therapist so I just have to ride it out and deal with whatever fallout comes my way once I feel like I can return to society.
In a way, being an entrepreneur is a blessing because I have the ability to take an extended mental health break when I need to. I know others are not so fortunate.
I wish I had some solid advice for managing a depression fueled burnout, but honestly, all I can do here is share my story. If you’ve ever experienced this before, know that you’re not alone. I also have several friends who have had similar depressive episodes.
What I Learned by Taking a Step Back
After all of this, I ended up with two similar-but-different websites. One eventually got pushed backstage and I never really updated it again. I’m not really mad that it happened, though.
In moving on from Blogging Butterfly, I was subconsciously shifting focus to something I enjoyed more. I love graphic design. I was so excited to find that it was something bloggers did. I was excited to find and share tutorials and also create my own.
In the same breath (basically) I also found a love for exploring Product Hunt and BetaList, finding various tools and services that I could use in my business. Originally, I meant to post about them here at Blog + Create. After my hiatus, though, I’ve had time to sit back and realize that I really need to niche down even further.
In doing so, I’ll have something focused that I can work on, and I know it’s something that I’ll enjoy. It’ll be much easier to communicate with my target audience, too.
I’m now really excited to get back into the swing of things, but in a way that more sustainable for an extended period of time.
Top Tips to Avoid Creator Burnout
Having experienced burnout several times in my career, I’ve compiled a list of things I do or don’t do so well to combat burnout.
The trick is to be able to identify the warning signs and know how to avoid them. So these are things I’m going to be actively changing from here on out.
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1. Stop doing SO MUCH
Slow down, take a load off, relax. Focus on finishing one thing at a time. I know all your ideas are important but remember you really only need to do one thing really well. Focus on that one thing, then see how you feel about the other things.
2. Schedule your time
Having a schedule isn’t just for releasing content or products. It’s also good in your everyday life. If you were working a 9-5, you’d have a schedule, so why not as a freelancer or entrepreneur?
Schedule the hours you will work and don’t forget to include breaks. I like to take at least 5 minutes per 30 minutes worked.
Also, give yourself deadlines! And stick to them! It’s amazing what you can do when you have a deadline to meet rather than an open-ended release date.
3. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need
I constantly think I know how much time it will take to finish something. And you know, maybe I do. But life happens. Things don’t get done the same as I expect them to.
So instead of planning the exact amount of time you think you can complete something, give yourself some buffer space. Add in a few extra hours, days, or weeks depending on the project just in case.
You can then use any extra time you have left as a much-deserved break or to get a head start on another project.
4. Take breaks
Taking a break is a simple form of self-care you can easily practice. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, a break can really revitalize your mind and prepare you for another productive stretch of work.
Don’t forget that typical 9-5 jobs have weekends off as well. You don’t have to take off two consecutive days, but try to schedule in days where you don’t do any work or you take a half day. RELAX!
5. Reevaluate your goals
This is a big one for me. I either forget to set goals, or I set a ridiculous goal. But I’ve put this on the list because sometimes even the most reasonable-sounding goal can slip through your fingers.
Don’t be afraid to reevaluate a goal if you’re consistently having trouble meeting it! Are you trying to post 3 times per week but are struggling with it? It’s okay to bump it down to 1 post! Can’t manage to post every day on Instagram? Then DON’T. Spend some time commenting on others instead.
It’s better to have something you can actually complete than to keep overwhelming yourself so much that you decide it’s not worth the effort and you’re gonna quit. Of course, you should continue to strive to do better, but don’t feel bad if you need to take a step back first in order to leap forward later.
6. Stop doing everything by yourself
If you can manage to hire others to do things you don’t have time to do yourself, do it! One of the most productive times in my business was when I had other people performing customer service and administrative duties. All I had to worry about was creation, which was exactly what I wanted to do most.
If you can’t afford to hire someone, try swapping skills with someone else in your industry. I think the best place to find people to swap with is in Facebook groups or on other social platforms where you communicate with peers.
Yeah, I know, more work, but working on someone else’s project might give you a new perspective for your own business. It’s also just refreshing to just be able to work on something else for a change.
It also keeps you working on something you already know how to do. Then you’re not stuck spending time trying to figure out how to do something else, which can sometimes take way more time than a skill swap. Yet another thing I know from experience.
7. Create less, promote more
Whaaaaaaaaaat? Less content? Yes!
Constantly creating is exhausting. It’s especially exhausting when you’re new and you don’t have tons of people waiting to consume your creations.
While it’s good practice to keep creating, it’s also important to promote that content. Just because it exists, don’t mean people will see it or even care. You need to get out there, find people who would enjoy what you create, and introduce yourself.
Remember, most expert marketers will agree on spending 20% of your time creating, and 80% promoting. You can adjust that as you need, but make sure your promotion time is more than creation time.
8. Switch it up a bit
Okay, this is a bit tricky to explain since I’ve been saying FOCUS ON SOMETHING this whole time, but I don’t mean to go around flipflopping every hour or something.
What I mean here is to look at what you’re doing and make sure it aligns with your overall goals and your own personal interests. If you find yourself moving in an inauthentic direction, don’t be afraid to realign yourself with your goals.
Over the last two years, I took a huge detour because I was both insecure about my own skills and I *thought* I knew what people wanted. On the other hand, I also discovered new things that I enjoyed along the way. Now that I’m pivoting my goals and shifting back in a direction I wanted to go when I first started blogging, everything feels more like it’s falling into a good place for me.
9. Remember to HAVE FUN!
Yes, this may be a job, but it doesn’t have to feel like one. That’s why we do this, right?
The minute you feel like you’re no longer having fun, identify WHY you’re not having fun. Then ask yourself a few questions:
- Is what you’re doing really necessary for your success?
- How can change your routine so what you’re doing is less draining?
- Is this something you can hire out to someone else?
Of course, there will always be less fun parts of business and you may not be in a position to hire out (yet!). Sometimes you will just have to power through the boring or exhausting bits.
If you can, try listening to music, putting on a rerun of your favorite show, or making a game out of the task. Just be sure you’re not so distracted that you make tons of mistakes while you’re working.
So what am I doing now?
I’ve done a lot of re-evaluating. I’m going to restructure my websites so I can focus on what I’ve discovered I love most. I’m also going to work to get at least 2 blog posts out each month instead of the 2 per week I was trying to push before.
Blog + Create will now become exclusively focused on graphic design for bloggers and small business owners.
Blogging Butterfly will be officially retired, but I’ll keep the site up for the information is still available.
I still want to review and create tutorials for blogging/business apps and services, but I’m going to create a separate website for that. I also really want to turn it into a podcast. More news on that site will be available later.
For now, I want to focus on the courses I’ll be making for Blog + Create. Having a hyper-focused thing to work on will help me better help you; my readers, subscribers, and hopefully future students.
What is Your Experience with Burnout?
- Have you ever experienced burnout?
- How did you manage to work through it?
- How did you manage to get over it?
I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. Feel free to link to a blog post you’ve written about this topic as well.