As an independent creative professional, and because of the number of hours per day I work, I face the very real potential for burning out. The secret isn't luck; it's a deliberate decision to keep the fire burning.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of mind that not only effects you emotionally, but also physically. It happens when you work yourself too hard. It also happens as a result of being stressed out for long periods of time.
Burnout is a feeling of total exhaustion. It's evaporates any motivation you may have inside. It doesn't matter whether you're working from home or as the creative director of a big agency. To put it simply, burnout sucks the life out of you!
An in-depth look
Stress might very well be unavoidable. There are times when our careers and our personals lives crash in such a way that we feel stressed. For example, your boss or client is expecting the project you've been working on to be done this weekend; your sister is celebrating her 50th birthday, and the family is expecting you to not only be there, but to help organize her party. What do you do?
Maybe you're lucky. Maybe this is a rare thing. But imagine if you're faced with demanding work deadlines and demanding family responsibility all of the time. If left unchecked, this stress can lead to burnout.
But it doesn't have to be family vs. work. Work vs. work is a thing too! Dealing with tight deadlines and heavy workloads, time and time again, can lead to burnout. Taking on new responsibilities at work can be a good thing; taking on too much, can lead to burnout.
Over the years, and after a few burnouts of my own, I've come up with some techniques to keep myself in check. So far, so good.
01. Take breaks
Weather permitting, I try to walk a least two hours a day. That may seem excessive, but I work long hours and this is a relatively small amount of time in the scheme of things. For me, those two hours (which sometimes are not always consecutive) allow me to recharge my batteries.
Are you interested in joining me on my walks? Follow me on Instagram.
02. Be social
This one seems kind of obvious, right? Humans are meant to have connections; without them, bad things have a tendency to happen. If you don't have time to be social, adjust your schedule. Build in enough free time that you can spend it with your friends and family.
03. Don't be a jerk (to yourself)
Be nice to yourself. Sometimes you can't always do as much as you need/want/think you can do in one day. It's okay. It doesn't mean you're a failure. It may, however, mean you've agreed to do to much. It can also mean that you didn't manage your time properly. If that's the case, find out how to fix that problem; don't waste your energy on beating yourself up.
04. Learn to say no
A friend and co-organizer of Indie DevStock, Angela Scott, recently told me that 'No' is complete sentence, and 'Hell no' is a full paragraph. This advice couldn't be more spot on. Limiting your responsibilities is an important part of avoiding burnout. The bottom line: don't take on more than you can handle.
You can listen to more of Angela's words of wisdom on our show, Invisible Red.
05. Be mindful of your health
Okay. I won't lie. This next one feels a bit hypocritical for me since I don't necessarily practice what I preach here; that being said, it's important to eat right, sleep right and exercise. Like a well oiled machine, the human body runs a lot better when its owner takes care of it. At least that's what my mom keeps telling me.
Stress, heavy workloads and daily responsibilities cannot always be avoided, but protecting yourself from burnout isn't impossible. Small changes might be all it takes to keep that fire burning.