Are you feeling unmotivated or exhausted to pursue your creative projects? Most people struggle with varying degrees of burnout at some point in their lives – a state of mental, emotional or physical exhaustion. It feels like a looming ominous thundercloud that at any moment could burst into a storm. Or like a treadmill that you can never get off. But no matter how daunting burnout may seem, it’s reassuring to know that many of us will experience it at some point. Here are some tips to avoid burnout or get out of a burnout slump.
If you are in a rush, here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Make your list of self-care commandments
- The concept of investment yield
- If it’s not a ‘HELL YES!”, it’s a NO
- Work creates work
For all the juicy stories that Tom and Mike have never shared before, click on the topics above or keep scrolling.
Tom & Mike’s Burnout Experience
While there’s no great mystery to why we burn out, it’s easy to slip into it without realising. After years of entrepreneurial experience, Tom and Mike often face burnout. Here’s their story:
Mike is constantly creating new content and engaging with his community – posting at least three to five times a week. Ever since his Instagram push in April 2020, he receives thousands of DMs and comments, most of which he replies to. However, when he goes to bed, his community from India and Indonesia write to him. He then wakes up to find a new pile of DMs waiting for him. This perpetual cycle often leaves him feeling burnt out.
Tom considers himself to be an ambivert and enjoys mingling with people in a social setting, but he also needs alone time to reset and recharge. Not having that time for himself can cause him to burn out. He believes social media to be a double-edged sword. While he is grateful for the amount of engagement he gets from his community, it can be hard to respond to every single person. The messages, emails and DMs don’t stop coming even if he is tired or burnt out.
4 Actionable Ways to Beat Burnout
Make your list of self-care commandments
On a piece of paper, list down the things you must do to avoid a burnout, and abide by them strictly. While it’s human to slip occasionally, the list will hold you accountable for your actions.
Some of Tom’s rules include getting eight hours of sleep everyday, keeping hydrated and not working more than 12 – 14 hours a day. To counter the burnout feeling and keep his stress levels in check, he also started meditating again. This allowed him to quiet his mind, which is difficult to do otherwise, with so many thoughts running through your head everyday.
For Mike, exercise ranks number one on his list of commandments and eating healthy ranks second. It helps him keep his energy up and breaks down his daily stressors. When he stops working out, he begins to feel sluggish and starts neglecting his physical and mental health.
The concept of investment yield
The idea of investment yield is at the heart of burnout. If you are investing energy into something that is not yielding a return, be it financial or otherwise, you’re on the road to burning out. You will start to question why you’re spending time on it, and why it isn’t yielding your desired result. This may lead to burnout, and you will eventually quit.
For example: If you work 80-hour weeks for two years and invest $300,000 of your life savings into a business but get no customers upon launch, you are setting yourself up for a massive burnout because there’s no yield for the investment you’re putting in.
Mike’s experience: After selling his agency, Mike suffered from PTSD. The stress and anxiety of running an agency of his own was giving him sleepless nights. So, after six months of suffering, he decided to get help from a counselor, following his financial advisor’s recommendation. His counselor shared with him the idea of investment yield, which was very valuable to him. According to this theory, burnout isn’t about the number of hours you spend working. It has much to do with the amount of effort you’re investing into something and its returns.
For example: Let’s say you spent five hours making a carousel post and believe that it is a great piece of content. After you post it, it reaches 20 people and you get two likes. If you do that three or four times and don’t see improvement, you will burn out on Instagram posting and probably drop off. This results in an inverted yield – you don’t get a return on your investment.
Burnout isn’t about the number of hours spent working, instead it’s about the the amount of effort spent and the return on investment.
Tom’s experience: When Tom first started his company, he was working for more than a hundred hours per week. He was young, fueled by adrenaline and excitement. He did so because the yield was beyond his wildest dreams – his company grew to a 7-figure business in a year and his Instagram followers started growing by thousands every week. He believes that your mindset can imbue you with additional energy and stamina to keep going. But slowly he burned out in the worst way imaginable. When the yield is big, it can delay the burnout for years, even decades, but you tend to burnout nevertheless.
For example: In the past year, Mike put a lot of effort into building an audience and connecting with people. While there has been a significant emotional yield, going from 123,000 followers to 133,000 followers is not as thrilling as going from 5,000 followers to 15,000 followers.
In conclusion, if you’re spending a lot of time investing in something that is not yielding a desirable return, consider reducing the investment to match the yield or tweaking the dials on it so that the yield goes up. However, understand that loving what you do is a completely legitimate reason to do something even if it doesn’t yield many returns. In this case, the enjoyment of your task becomes your primary yield.
If it’s not a ‘HELL YES!”, it’s a NO
Do you ever stop to think that if you weren’t spending hours every week doing community management, you could get a lot more done? Write more books, launch more courses, create more content on new platforms, expand your reach etc. While the long-term impact of engagement and building relationships is significant, it can feel like a never ending cycle. Here, the important lesson of saying ‘no’ comes in handy.
Pro tip: Scotty Russell, who runs the Perspective Collective and is also a side-hustle coach, wrote about creative decision-making in one of his chapters. He writes about how ‘if it isn’t a hell yes, it’s a no.’
When you say ‘yes’ to something, you say ‘no’ to some other aspect in your life because you have only a finite amount of time. So, it is important to say ‘no’ especially when you don’t have time on your hands or can’t sacrifice another important element in your life.
How Tom implements this in his life: Being the CEO of a company, it becomes impossible for Tom to say yes to everything, however tempting it might be. A situation arose where one of his newsletter subscribers emailed him to ask if he would be open to an interview about AI. When Tom said yes, he came back with a ton of questions. But since Tom had already committed to sharing his thoughts, he went on to answer them via email. Upon receiving the email, the interviewer told him that email answers weren’t allowed for his thesis and requested him to jump on a call for 30-45 minutes. If Tom says yes to something like this, he would be sacrificing not just his company and personal brand, but also his health and sanity.
The Biz Buds Podcast is a great example of a ‘hell yes’ scenario for both, Tom & Mike. Not only has it been rewarding for them professionally, it has also built a deeper relationship between them. They believe that although the show hasn’t blown up yet, it shows great promise as it has the potential to impact people positively.
Work creates work
More action leads to more reaction. Therefore, the more you work, the more work it creates. For instance, when Tom’s company started to grow, he was determined to make it better. And the better it did, the harder he worked. Eventually, it became an infinite loop. As amazing as this is, it can also lead to burnout.
After 13 years of the grind, Mike realised that it is not worth his sanity anymore. He had to make a change and therefore decided to sell his agency and move on to a new phase in his career.
If you’re feeling burnt out, dial back on the amount of work you’re putting in so that the reactive work doesn’t start to manifest itself. It’s crucial to take your foot off the gas every once in a while and let the car coast. This will allow you to get your bearings and put your foot back on the gas when you’re ready to race again.
For example: If you are responding to emails, DMs or comments in real-time, more people will begin to actively respond to you, like in a chat room with hundreds of people chatting back and forth at the same time. Conversely, when you go on vacation and ignore your DMs for a week you will have fewer people to respond to because you are not engaging with them in real-time.
Lastly, never feel guilty for taking a break
In conclusion, echoing a simple but effective tweet by Tom – don’t ever feel guilty about taking a break. Make it a part of your list of commandments.