Are you so over everything to do with your business?
You think everyone else has it all figured out and you’re silently suffering.
You’re “living the dream” of running your own business and you’re hating it.
Maybe you’ve got plenty of clients and you’re making money – but you’re just not inspired anymore. Or maybe you’re spending endless days behind your computer feeling like you’re never going to make any progress – but you feel obligated to sit in that chair because you have to “hustle.”
But you’re mentally fried.
You’re burned out (or on the way to burnout town).
Signs you’re burned out
- Every day feels like groundhog day – there’s nothing new or exciting to look forward to
- You dread starting up your computer
- You’re not excited to try (or learn) new things
- More and more work piles up as you procrastinate (hello facebook groups, reddit, pinterest, twitter, instagram, cnn, repeat…)
- You find yourself staying up later and later (and compromising sleep) to get work done
- You start missing deadlines because you’re overwhelmed with all the work you’re avoiding
- Clients start sending terse emails about deadlines
- You’re resenting any emails from clients (see above)
- You put off sending proposals or contracts
- Getting that first deposit fills you with dread instead of excitement
- You’re not excited to pursue new work or opportunities
- You feel guilty for working out or taking care of yourself – because you should be “working” instead
- You start really resenting all those “inspirational” instagram / facebook posts about “living the fantasy biz dream” with the uninspired stock photos of clean white desks, golden office supplies and endless lame quotes about drinking wine
- If you read one more article about why you have to do “x” in your industry to succeed you’re going to lose it
How to get out of the funk
I’ve pulled sage advice from some of my favorite people – they’re photographers, yogis, coaches, designers, creatives and entrepreneurs – who’ve all faced the burnout monster. You’ll see a lot of recurring themes – setting personal boundaries, how to unplug, working in focused time blocks and how to get inspired again.
Commit to your schedule
• Make a commitment to take one vacation a year where you do NOT check email and you do not do any work. It will change everything and make you feel so refreshed. You will have fun and not feel distracted. If my surgeon can go on vacation and not check emails, so can entrepreneurs. You need the reset.
• Schedule time for things on your calendar. Adhere to the work that your calendar allows. Schedule your day within those parameters and consciously step away at the end of the day.
Licia Morelli – Author of The Lemonade Hurricane
Change your environment
Work at a co-working space so that “home” and “work” are two different places and you get to be around other creatives every day. Saying “no” to projects that don’t feel right so you can make room to say “yes” to projects you’re excited about.
Micah James – Web Designer – micahjmurray.com
I enjoy travel and have been able to do so much more frequently thanks to LoveHomeSwap.com. However, even changing up your environment for a lunch or full work day is helpful. Self-care is important… so treat yourself as good (if not better than) any project you’re working on!
Tony Howell – Designer and Strategist – tonyhowell.com
Set internal and external boundaries
• Set office hours and stick to them. If you find yourself working until late in the evening only to wake up feeling exhausted, consider shortening or limiting the number of late nights in your work week. Same goes for weekends.
• Schedule breaks.I like to start my day/week with a list of what I need to do. Then I am clear on my deliverables and can schedule in time to keep me energized – creating with work, a walk around the block listening to this month’s favorite podcast, an hour to read, etc.
• Hire a coach or mentor. Accountability is a great way to avoid burnout – especially when you have an objective party who can see your patterns and help you identify where you have opportunities to leverage or strengthen them.
Gina Gomez – Business Coach and Mastermind Leader – ginagomez.com
On a very basic level, I get burnt out when I stare at my laptop for 10+ hours a day – and let’s be honest, it’s hard not to when you’re in the middle of a project. I have to FORCE myself to take breaks, but I’m so much more productive and less exhausted when I do. It’s a much more sustainable way to work. Building an online business is marathon, not a sprint, after all! I use the “strict workflow” Chrome extension to help me implement the Pomodoro method (as a bonus, it blocks all social media during your 25 minute work time).
My weekends are sacred. I’ve just started protecting that time (even if it means longer weekdays) and it’s made a huge difference.
Cami Farey – Web Designer – camillefarey.com
I work in 90 minute cycles – 80 minutes with a 10 minute break. I have a hard stop at 5 so I am eating supper at a decent hour and if I really need to go back to work after, then I am recharged a bit. But my favorite is taking a walk through the HomeSense decorating store after my networking meeting every Tuesday – it is completely relaxing and recharges me because I love decorating my home and creating a beautiful haven where I can inspire my own creativity.
Crystal O’Connell – Web Designer
• I used to think routine was a bad word, but by scheduling certain activities I am way more productive and get less scattered. For instance, Every morning I walk (great for mental focus) to my local internet Cafe and do admin tasks early.
• I am mentally my sharpest between 10 and 2pm so work that requires focus is done here when possible. I try to schedule shoots to start between 10 and noon.
• Have down time, turn off devices – we need to get removed from things regularly and not remain in projects so long we lose our perspective.
• And the most important, I protect my sleep, regular sleep is CRITICAL to good performance and mental clarity.
Ron Clifford – Photographer – ronclifford.com
Choose yourself first
Don’t wait until you’re dying of thirst, starving or falling asleep at the wheel to practice self care. Make sure that you take care of the most basic ways you can nourish your body. Stay hydrated throughout the day, eat healthy meals and snacks no more than 4 hours apart, and make sure you’re sleeping at least 7 hours straight per night, preferably 8 or 9 depending on your body. Neglecting these basics will put your body into a state of stress and put you on the road to burn out quicker than you can say “I need a nap.”
Danielle Diamond – Yoga teacher & nutritional expert – xenstrength.com
Push your edges to stay inspired
• To ride that creative edge and keep innovating with each new client job, make sure to do something different and personally challenging to you at some point during your process with every project. Throw yourself a big curve ball, and execute with 70% of what you know works and what they’re hiring you for, but include about 30% of completely new unexpected experimental genius. This will keep your juices flowing.
• We don’t all have the luxury of saying no to every job, client and task that burn us out. But we can explore different ways of doing things that can eliminate the specific thing that drains us. Get really specific. Ask yourself: exactly what about this job/task/process makes my creative soul shrink? Get creative and see if you can remove or alter this aspect to make it completely new different and fun.
• Look outside your industry for inspiration. Inspo is everywhere these days. Collect ideas that you’re attracted to and start incorporating them in your own way into your personal or professional work.
• Make an inner child playdate with yourself. Walk out the door with no wallet, phone or keys and play in nature. Nature always inspires. Walk to a gallery or museum. Daydream in the grass. Slow down and watch the clouds go by.
• Set the intention before you go to bed to have your dreams show you what’s in your inner heart to create. Keep a log. It’s amazing what your subconscious mind comes up with.
Christa Meola – Photographer and Teacher – christameola.com
I’ve personally faced the burnout monster more than a few times. It’s not something a lot of creatives openly talk about because it can feel like we’re admitting failure. But you have to address it in order to get excited about your work again.
Here are a few things I do to curb burnout feelings
- Schedule weekly workouts with other entrepreneurs (booking workout dates with friends makes me accountable so I’ll show up and not blow it off for work!)
- Don’t allow clients to text you (keep a separate number for business)
- Take a quickie museum break (no need to make it a day long event – a simple 30-45 minute visit can spark inspiration)
- Afternoon cat naps. There’s a reason I can never work in a real office again. Sleep is SO vital to the creative process.
- Plan a trend trek – I’m married to a package designer, so we’re always sharing innovative ideas with each other. We plan trips to other cities to look at trends and see how they can inspire our own work.
- Choose projects outside your comfort zone. It’s one thing to get known in a niche area – but it’s easy to get burned out when you’re designing the same type of project over and over. Pick a project that slightly terrifies you – and expands what you’re known for.
- Take an in-person class – so many of us are tethered to our screens that we forget how much fun it is to create with our hands. Take a class where you actually make something you can touch (3-D printing, screen-printing, glass blowing, culinary, jewelry, pottery, painting, etc.) There’s something so refreshing about creating something tangible that we can see and feel right away. (Quick tip: many of these classes are super-cheap – look for visual arts centers or stores like Paper Source near you that host weekend workshops).
Got your own burnout tips? Share them below!
Love how you brought all the pros into this article. Ron’s advice is bang-on for me. I’m sharpest between 2:30 PM and 7:00 PM. I’m going to rejig my schedule now!
Michelle Martello says
Yes! It’s amazing when we start to really see what works for us on an individual level 😉
Ron Clifford says
I’m s glad you found the advice helpful!!
Ron Clifford says
Love this post! I have just returned from a family holiday, one of the non-negotiables to feeling sharp, connected and avoiding burnout. Great job of pooling the collective resources of your friends and peers!!
Michelle Martello says
So glad you enjoyed it!
Anthony Tran says
Great article! This definitely hit home as I definitely got “burnt-out” towards the end of this year. Taking some much needed time off this holiday season to recharge and hit the ground running in 2018. One of my goals for next year is to be more stricter with my schedule and not working weekends as much.