One of the most troublesome realities of being a workaholic is this one: you cannot work indefinitely.
Now, of course, there are things like food and sleep that are necessary to our survival no matter how much we might try to convince ourselves otherwise, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.
Outside basic necessities and unshakeable responsibilities, we can (and frequently do) spend the rest of our time working, especially if you have your own business, and/or you work from home. I’ve been there. Heck, I’m still doing it even though I know I shouldn’t. This is one of those posts that’s as much about reminding me as it is about helping you.
The truth is that we can’t work non-stop. It is physically and mentally impossible. And if you are in a creative career, the most frustrating part of it is the burnout. When you just get overwhelmed and creatively exhausted. The flow isn’t there, the stress is high, and your productivity suffers. And this can last for a few days or it can hinder you for months.
So how do you avoid doing this? The unfortunate truth is that you have to limit how much time you spend working. Trust me, it hurts to even type this. I’m the sort of woman who stays up for hours writing only to start again the moment I get up. It feels constant. Like you’ll never have enough time to finish. Like you have to keep working in order to succeed. You’re running a race, and every time the finish line seems close it moves ahead 100 feet. You don’t want to stop, so you just keep going.
But then we have the unfortunate consequences to deal with. I don’t have any miracle cures to help pull you out of the burnout, but I do have a few suggestions that are a little more proactive, and will hopefully slow it down.
1. Give yourself a Weekend or a Day off
This is the hardest, but probably the most beneficial. You need time to rest, mentally and physically. You need to give yourself a chance to refill the creative well, as they say. Do something fun, with no relation to your work life. Do something social. Connect with friends and family. Remind them you’re still alive (something I really should do more often). The space from your work will give you much needed rest, and usually some time away means you can return to it with more clarity.
2. Give Yourself a Cut off time
It isn’t a good idea to work all day, trust me. Even if the motivation is there, it’s better to go into the next day fresh and with that excitement than it is to keep pushing yourself even after a twelve-hour day. Treat it like the standard 9-5. Give yourself breaks. Make time for a good meal. Don’t work past a certain time, that way you won’t overwork yourself and you can give your mind the time to decompress before going to bed.
3. Use Focus days
Don’t work on the same thing day after day because you will get fed up. Don’t try to do ten different things in a single day either, because that is a lot of work. Writing requires a very different mindset from editing, or photography, or research. Better that you group things together. Take all your photos on one day. Edit them on another. Write your blog posts on one day. Edit them on another. Dedicate a day or a week to creating content or social media images or revising that rough draft and switch it up the next day. Or the next week. I’ve mentioned before that energy is lost when you switch tasks, and you’ll only burn out faster.
4. Get More Rest
The obvious one, I know. But when you stay up late to finish a blog post or a graphic design and you are shattered the next morning – so exhausted you can’t get any work done, you’ve sacrificed an entire day for a couple of hours. It’s a bum trade. Don’t do it. As tempting as it is (and I say this to my future self as much as you, the reader), it’s not worth the effect it has on your mind and your body.
Take breaks. Separate yourself from that working mindset. Think about something else (or nothing at all!). Let your body and mind rest, and most importantly, get enough sleep. Don’t shortchange yourself in this regard. If you do anything for yourself today, give yourself an extra 30 minutes of sleep. Self-care will go a long way in increasing your productivity, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.
I Want YOUR Feedback!
As I have mentioned only 20 times or so in this post, I have a real problem with this, and it’s one I am actively working on. If you have any tips to stave off the creative burnout, or balance any workaholic tendencies, let me know in the comments!