I burned out in August. I stayed up until 2AM every night for 3 weeks as I designed and launched the latest version of my brand, The Branding Muse 4.0. For a woman who was in bed at 10:30PM every night weeks prior to this rebrand, this was a huge change and not for the better. You see, we often think that working into the wee hours of the morning means that we are hustling and grinding. We wear our dark circles and under-eye bags with pride like they are badges of honor. We can't wait to humblebrag about how tired we are from passionately pursuing our dreams and building our brands. Oh please. Spare me with the #TeamNoSleep Instagram and Twitter posts. You're tired, and because you're tired, you are less productive, less creative, and less focused.
Life tends to get crazy and the pressure of the world and purpose is on our shoulders, but powering through while neglecting sleep and food isn't a good idea. This became clear as I was dozing off on the train, when I am usually eagerly working on a blog post or answering emails. What had those 2-3 extra hours of work every night cost me? They cost me my inspiration and creative energy. I found I was no longer as productive and as inspired as I usually am. Writing out a post took twice the time and I just stared at the computer when I had deadlines. Yes, an extra 2 hours of work each night is a good chunk of time when accumulated over a week, but the trade off wasn't worth it. You end up doing a lot but, accomplishing little; moving everywhere and nowhere all at once.
[Tweet "The pressure of purpose holds us hostage."]
Being consistently busy, but feeling like you aren't making any progress is common. I am on my way back from vacation in the Middle East feeling more refreshed than ever. Tons of ideas are brewing and I am ready to get back to work. This rejuvenation isn't easy for everyone. Battling burnout can take more than a few days off work. My friend and fellow burnout survivor Emilie (yes, we got cute with our spelling) launched her signature program Bossed Up For Life to combat this problem, and I also read an article in Redbook magazine about stress and burnout last week. I wanted to share some information around what I found that has helped me combat burnout as a working entrepreneur.
There are some staggering stats around this topic. We talk about the pay gap and gender inequity in the workplace, but no one is talking about how women burn out more often and in different ways than men do. I love the Internet, but too many times we miss opportunities to talk about the issues that impact our readers everyday. A style post here, a branding post there, but what about your physical and emotional well-being? I wanted to let you know that it's okay to push back on the pressure of purpose. Get comfortable with telling yourself and others no.
[Tweet "Push back on the pressure of purpose. Get comfortable with telling yourself + others no."]
I got healthier, happier and more productive when I stopped trying to be perfect. The email had a typo? Eff it, at least it got out. I didn't have time to beat my face for the Periscope broadcast? Whatever, the information I gave is more important than how I looked. I fell asleep mid-blogpost? There's plenty of other valuable pieces of content to read on the site until I finish it.
The best entrepreneurs, freelancers and employees are the ones who give. You have to share your way to success. In the same token, they don't give so much that it takes away from their sanity. You have to put yourself first. Women have lost families, friends, jobs and even edges, trying to live up to an unrealistic standard of what success and hard work looks like. This isn't to say disregard deadlines and become lazy, but understand that your body and mind have limits that you shouldn't try to push for the sake of public recognition.
What would you do if nobody was watching? Probably take your ass to sleep. Here are the tips that have helped me overcome burnout.
Become a better project manager and get on a schedule.
When you are exhausted and burnt out, you're in a bad mood and don't have good coping skills. Everything is a tragedy. Don't force yourself to keep your eyes open. If you have a passion project or side hustle like me, carve out time throughout your day to work on those things. Work on it when you are commuting to work, or right after dinner. I get home around 7PM, eat, relax, watch me some Love and Hip Hop if it's a Monday and I'm back online at 9. I assign myself two tasks a night to complete that are essential for the next day.
This is a friendly and self-explanatory reminder that 6-8 hours a night will do wonders for your mind and body. Stop scrolling on the 'gram all night and get some shut eye.
Stop eating lunch at your desk.
You are entitled to a lunch break, take it! Have lunch with your co-workers or go for a walk around the block. Whichever you decide to do make sure to take time away from your daily tasks, you'll find that you've become more productive or focused when you return to it.
Hi my name is Emmelie, and I am a recovering email addict. I am here to tell you to let the emails go. Responding to emails 24/7 sets unrealistic expectations for your clients and colleagues. Technology makes it hard to disconnect, but you are entitled to your time. After you leave the office, stay off email until the next day. Get comfortable with leaving work at work.
Understand that "No" is a complete sentence.
I love y'all, but I'm not taking on projects and clients that don't excite me. It's not worth the money, time or energy to do things you don't want to do, with people you don't want to do them with. Say no with a smile, but don't feel like you have to explain yourself. No is a sentence that needs no justification. Need a template or script for a particular situation? Holla at me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I've become a pro at this.