OOPS I Did it Again... Burnout and 8 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t!
Back in October I burned myself real good. And I’m not talking about sunburn (although, with me that is a high probability so I would understand the confusion :P )
Now that I work for myself there is no 9 - 5 constraint, no physical space to “get away from” and I find myself working 10 - 12 hours a day just because my desk - aka my computer - is always right there.
As soon as I open my laptop (even if I have a super lazy indulgent intention) something ALWAYS ends up coming to mind that I tell myself I will quickly take care of... and a few more things. Wait and then one more...
Running a business solo, there is a never ending list of things to do, things to learn, more things to do, oh and then redo the things you did before because it can be way better with all the new things you have learned since then.
There is nothing but my puppy, Mr. Cakes, and my grumbling stomach to distract me when I get laser focused on something. Before I know it 4 hours have gone by and there are still so many “in progress” and “backlog” items waiting for me on my Trello board. (Sorry Cakes, dinner will have to wait a little longer.)
After 2 solid months on over drive (and a lot of nights where I accidentally stayed up till 3am down some rabbit hole) I burned out hard.
As someone who has been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life, this has always been the biggest deterrent for me to go down this path.
Growing up my parents ran a business for independent musicians out of my house - with their 7 employees. I watched both of my grandfathers run businesses with little time away from the office; my brother shoot to e-commerce fame in a short 8 years by ignoring basically all other aspects of life. All of them putting in hard work and long hours, all of them doing what I told myself I would never do.
I knew I didn’t want this for MY life and when I decided to quit corporate and work for myself I vowed that I would avoid falling into that pattern. I made a Gantt chart, prioritized my backlog. Like any good Project Manager, I know my timelines, my budget, and my resources.
There was one factor I didn't account for - the drive that having passion for my work and being my own boss would give me.
The last time I felt this was when I worked at my first job out of college at The American Red Cross International Services. But I was young and in a space where I wanted to devote all my time to my job and "the cause".
Now, I work with entrepreneurs and professionals to make sure they are incorporating balance into their lives... I need to do the same no matter how much I enjoy my work.
Thankfully, my body reminded me this pace was not going to fly. At the beginning of October, my brain was shot, just completely fried and I had no motivation. Thankfully, my unborn niece knew that I needed some reviving so she decided to grace us with her presence and as soon as I got the call my sister-in-law was in labor I hopped on a plane to Puerto Rico to go introduce myself to the newest member of my family.
Initially I told myself I would work from Puerto Rico but as soon as I sat down to work the first morning I knew that I needed to acknowledge what my brain was telling me and chill the fuck out; treat this as a vacation. Thankfully between my niece, my brother’s two adorable miniature dachshunds and a week chilling in the clear waters of the Caribbean I was refreshed and ready to get back to action.
I know now that I need to slow down and be realistic about taking care of what I need to be doing and not everything that I can be doing.
So, here are some tricks of the trade to help ensure you never get burned again:
1. Know what you actually need to get done - There are always things that you can be doing but knowing what you actually need to accomplish will help you know when to stop for the day.
2. Schedule in Breaks - set up time where you are not working. Absolutely do not work during this time. I promise you, you will get more work done if you do this than if you just keep pushing yourself to work straight through the day.
Side Note: Back in the day my cousin was staying with us while she attended college. I distinctly remember she would use a variation of the "pomodoro technique" while studying or writing a paper where she would set a timer for 45 minutes work straight through and then break for 15 minutes. She would continue this until her work was completed.
Charles Dickens would write from 9am-2pm every day and then take a 3 hour walk because he knew his writing would be shit if he tried to push straight through.
What is important is you find what works for you. Are you more productive in larger chunks or in smaller, discrete time slots?
3. Work out Regularly- having a personal trainer is my version of visiting a dom. - I’m no longer in control and I just have to take what they throw my way.
No matter how much I hate it, I really love it and I walk away high on endorphins. For fun I supplement with pilates classes :)
4. Mindfulness and Presence - detach and truly be present when you are away from work (that means no checking emails, no getting lost in your head about a presentation you have to give while eating dinner with your family, or all the shit you still have to get done while you are grabbing a drink with your friend).
If you are finding it difficult to get these nagging thoughts off your mind? Write them down so you don't have to worry about it falling off your radar and address them at the appropriate time.
5. Find a hobby you immerse yourself in a few times a week - this helps you recharge and when its time you can get back to work with a clear head and maybe even some inspiration.
6. Meet up with a friend / Go on a date / Have quality family time - generally when we spend a lot of time at work we end up sacrificing relationships in our lives. Spending time with others scientifically increases our levels of happiness. We are social creatures and in the world we live in today where we can be “social” without being present, it is easy to forget that.
7. Incorporate a Morning Routine - instead of shooting out of bed after you hit “snooze” multiple times and rushing off to work feeling hectic and already behind your day, wake up early and make your morning about you. Focusing on yourself and getting your mind right at the start of your day helps you feel in control and centered. Check out my post on creating a morning routine to read more about this.
8. Go to bed and wake up the same time every day - this will help with those late night research rabbit holes.
Try to incorporate the suggestions above to keep burnout at bay. If you have other strategies you use to avoid getting burned, shout them out in the comments!