Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Avoid Burnout

I’m slowly but surely recovering from a nasty case of burnout. Challenges in my real life are the true catalyst. Unfortunately the effects have spilled over into the business side of things affecting my productivity. Although I have managed to stay pretty busy with current client projects, and even acquire a few new ones, staying focused hasn't been so easy. Operating my business in the midst of personal challenges has resulted in my dropping the ball in other areas of what I do for a living (i.e. personal writing projects). This blog and my social media networking relationships have suffered as a result of these distractions.

Whether burnout is the result of an overwhelming work schedule filled to the brim with client projects, or trying desperately to balance real life, personal challenges with non-stop business obligations, the results end up being pretty much the same: you feel like you’ve reached your limit and can’t possibly do one more thing. Burnout affects productivity which of course affects your bottom line. Prevention is most definitely the best cure in this case:

Try Setting Regular Office Hours

Before I decided to set regular office hours and established a daily work schedule, I felt like I was practically tethered to my computer 24/7 and quickly began resenting working from home. It was my own fault – since I wasn’t regulating my time, I spent a lot of it socializing on forums, and surfing the net while working here and there – it only FELT like I was working around the clock. Not very productive at all.

Everyone is different of course; but what works for me is setting aside a certain amount of time each day that’s strictly for work and setting aside specific times during the day for things like participating in social networking/commenting on blogs/forums and updates with my accountability partner. Personal errands and personal phone calls/visits occur at the end of my designated work day. I’m very easily distracted so I need these parameters in order to get the most out of my day, and these limits help keep me from feeling overwhelmed and becoming burned out.

Take at least One Day Off a Week

I highly suggest taking at least two days off away from work each week, but I know that when you first start building a business, long hours come with the territory. Still, you need to take time to do something you enjoy that’s completely unrelated to your work. Balance will keep you sane and help you avoid burn out. It’s important to have something fun to look forward to when you work hard.

Variety is the Spice of Life

It’s cliché, but true. I enjoy working on various projects – everything from web content, ebooks, resumes, professional bios, magazine articles, print marketing material, etc. The variety keeps things interesting and it’s much easier to come up with fresh ideas.

Don’t Spend Time on Clients/Projects You Don’t Enjoy

Yes, I’m advocating turning down work. Every job won’t be right for you; some clients aren’t on the up and up; as you become more experienced, you’ll find that some clients will no longer be able to afford your services. When I first started freelancing I took any and every job offer that came my way. That wasn’t always a smart move and there have been quite a few instances when the shrewdest business move would have been to politely and confidently decline the offer. When you work for yourself, you have the freedom and the right to work on what you want and work with who you want. Don’t feel guilty about it – I’d say it’s a fair trade for the work you put into becoming profitable.


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Yazz said...

Thanks again Kimberly for such a wonderful blog post, very useful and helpful info for this novice of a blogger! I'm still working on sorting out all the information that I'm getting, though! I'm suffering from a huge case of information overload, HELP!

Lori said...

Great points in every instance, Kim. I operate best under regular hours. I need structure - otherwise, I'm flitting about all the time, working twice as long and accomplishing half.

I take Fridays off when I can. This week is the exception with a vacation coming up, but rare is the Friday that I can't sneak away, even if it's just for half a day.

Kimberly Ben said...

Yazz: Information overload is a real issue - especially when you're just getting started. I remember feeling paralyzed because I didn't know where to start. An experienced freelancer gave me some very good advice. She told me to stop gathering information for a couple of months and just focus on marketing my services and writing. Sounds so simple, but taking action steps yield results.

Lori: I find that when I stray from my schedule I don't accomplish very much. I need that structure too. :)

Rachel said...

I've found the regular office/writing hours to be extremely helpful for me as well. And taking time off (I don't write on the weekends) is crucial for me and my family. I know many writers who don't even take one day off a week, and they are bound to get burnt out sooner or later. It's about creating balance.

Kimberly Ben said...

Rachel, in the early days of setting up my business I absolutely reveled in the freedom of being able to work whenever I felt like it. Trouble is I wasn't focused so I wasted lots of time which usually resulted in my back against the wall sweating to meet a deadline.

Some freelancers seem to manage well without sticking to regular office/writing hours. Since I must constantly divide my time between my business and my family, having set office/work hours works best for me.

Yazz said...

Thanks for all the very good advice, I am taking it all in. I agree Kim, that I definitely should focus more on the writing, while walking away from gathering and collecting more and more information!

Thanks again!


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