Dealing with burnout
Recently I had a friend and fellow social media manager reach out to me and asked me how I deal with burnout. She has mentioned that she gets so many emails and has so much to do that she does not have time to be creative or explore new things. I totally get this. Burnout is a very real thing that many of us deal with, and as a professional who works in a field that requires a LOT of your time and a lot of creativity, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with asap. So today I am going to chat with you about ways to combat burnout. First and foremost I want to invite you to go back and listen to my episode from last week where I talked about how I finish off my year. The things I talked about in that episode truly help me to stay grounded and avoid end of year burnout before the new year craziness hits. (No Time Like the Present) In that episode.
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So before I really dive in I have a bit of a confession to make. This podcast episode started as a practical guide to overcoming burnout. But in the end, it became so much more. It is a love letter to anyone who has ever felt afraid of what the future holds. It is my cheer for you. So, no matter how you take this episode, I do hope you listen to the end, because it may just be the push you need to do something crazy and beautiful for yourself and your future.
Okay, let’s dive in and discuss ways to combat burnout.
As I mentioned, one of my friends biggest complaints is a feeling of overwhelm from all the emails. Like most people who have an inbox (hello this is 2017 that is pretty much everyone) I too get way too much email. Some of the emails are unavoidable, like emails from clients or colleagues. Other emails are just noise like subscriptions you no longer are interested in (or have time to read) or plain old spam. The key to email overwhelm is to clean, organize and set expectations. This will take some time (I would say a couple of hours should do the trick) but the investment in time you put in now will save you TONS of time and sanity going forward.
Go through and archive or delete any emails that are older than 2 weeks. If you find to do items that have not been accomplished yet you need to put them on a to-do list (see organize) and set a due date. Unsubscribe to all emails you no longer need or have time to read. You can do this individually or you can use a tool like unroll.me to speed up the process.
Set up folders and filters to organize your inbox. Set up priorities so you know you will always see important emails first. Also, decide on a todo or productivity tool to take todo tasks from your inbox to your action list. I personally have used Trello, Asana, Todoist, and good old Google to-do list to get this done. You need to find a tool you will actually use so that is for you to figure out. This way as soon as an email comes in with a task you can add it to your to-do list with the info from the email then archive the email and get it out of your inbox.
The next thing you need to seriously consider doing is to go through and assess what most of your emails are about. Is there a common theme? If I get emails that ask the same question I will create a resource I can quickly send back or I create a saved canned message to send back (P.S. Google Gmail has a built-in canned message tool that is very useful for this).
If emails are becoming their own ecosystem of back and forth, maybe it is time to set up a meeting. Sometimes taking 30-60 minutes with someone to meet and deal with an issue or brainstorm is far more productive than back and forth emails.
Also with setting expectations, I would make sure you are not answering emails outside of work hours. I often will work at 10 PM at night or 6 AM in the morning but instead of sending emails at that hour I always use a tool called Boomerang and have them sent during traditional work hours. I think it is important that you set boundaries and expectations with people. I also know people who check email once or twice per day at set times. I know this works so if you feel like you are constantly shooting at the hip or dropping everything for an email, it is time to seriously set up an email system that only has you checking your emails in the morning, in the afternoon and right before you leave for work and no more. Set expectations with people to let them know when you check your email so they don’t abuse your time.
Lack of Inspiration and Boredom
So now your email inbox is sorted out, but that does not mean you are feeling any more inspired these days, now does it. So how do we address your boredom? How do we address your burnout? Well, burnout can be caused by a number of things. For me, it was always that I was unhappy or uninspired with my work. Here is a fun fact about me. Although I have owned my own business for 8 years this month (YAY anniversary month!), I had never held a traditional job prior for more than 2 years. NEVER. I always got bored, got frustrated or was uninspired. Some people are just like that. I know I am. I need to have fluidity in what I do. I need to LOVE what I do. As an entrepreneur, I am able to control my destiny. If I am bored I go and learn something new or I try something new or I create something new (all of which you can do without being an entrepreneur). For example, back in 2015, I was getting bored of just managing social media so I set a plan to teach more in 2016. In 2016 I launched a signature course about Facebook Live, I taught weekly webinars and I did live broadcast several times per week. This stretched me and put me in a new element. It was lots of fun and it also helped me be a better social media manager for my clients. I change it up every year, or every month if I need to. If I am unhappy with what I am doing today, I will set a plan to change my course for tomorrow.
Is it time to move on?
Now I realize that some of you (including my friend who asked the original question) are not entrepreneurs. Many of you may work for someone and that can give you less flexibility. So you need to decide how burnt out you are. Are you just burnt out enough that some organizing, rearranging and perhaps a new project can help or are you simply unhappy and you are just afraid to move on? If it is the later, I can tell you from experience that you do not have to stay where you are at. Too many times I stayed in a company that I was unhappy with because I was afraid. I used to work for one specific company where I wore many hats, I did so much for them for so little. Very little pay, no recognition and to be honest there was some serious issues within management and HR. I was honestly not only burnt out, I was straight up miserable. It stayed a year too long. A year of hating my job. It caused me to be depressed and actually made me sick. I was so sad and so unhappy. But I was afraid to leave. It is hard to know what the future holds, but I can tell you one thing I have learned over the years when you take leaps of faith the worst thing that can happen is you fall down…But you know what, you also can get back up. I have fallen down a lot. I have leaped a lot. But every time I leap higher and I reach farther, I learn from my falls and my mistakes and my wins, and I get happier and I gain more success and I am now achieving my dreams. But it would never have happened if I stayed in fear. So what is the worst that can happen if you leave that job you hate? Now, what is the best that can happen? Chances are you will be happier. You will breathe better. You will sleep better. You will be more creative and the burnout will fall off you like ice on a hot day.
What if you want to stay?
BUT if you want to stay in your current position the next thing you may need to consider, is what will help you crawl out of the hole? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you not paid enough? You need to assess the situation and then write out what can solve each issue that is causing burnout. We already addressed the solution for email overwhelm, but what if you have too many tasks and not enough time in the day. What if you feel like you are running around with your hair on fire all the damn time? Then you probably need some support in the form of help from an assistant or from software and tools that can streamline your work, and you may need to ask for more money for your efforts. Because truth be told, nothing will make someone feel burnt out like not getting paid enough or not getting recognized for their hard work. Have that talk with your employer and be clear and show proof about your work and why having these assets will help you succeed, thus helping the company to succeed. If the company can’t or won’t give you what you need then you either need to cut out projects (aka do less for them) or you need to start looking for another job.
Listen when I was 27 years old I was afraid. I was living in Colorado Springs, CO, I was working at an unfulfilling job being underpaid and overworked and I was bored out of my mind. If I knew the path I would be taking in life would lead me to be here, where I am today I would never have been afraid. I would have made the change and I would have taken the leap. But isn’t that what all of us should do in life? Isn’t life too short to be so unhappy? There are better ways to live and there are better ways to make money. Whether you work for a company or for yourself. There is always another chapter in your book yet to write. Don’t be afraid to write a happily ever after in there while you are at it…Take the leap. Change it up. Be happy. Make 2018 the year you are going to go forward in spite of fear.
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As always I want to thank you for tuning in and have a stellar day!
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