Here’s the thing. Burnout is inefficient. And there’s literally nothing I hate more than inefficiency. It’s my archnemesis. It slows me down, makes me angry and ragey, and mildly violent… (toward my keyboard)1
But worse, if you’re anything like me, you’re completely incapable of realizing you’re tired, let alone reaching the brink of total burnout. I’m blind to burnout. It’s like fighting a custom built invisible demon while blindfolded and strapped into a straight jacket. Suffice to say, I’ve probably gone through at least six months of piss poor writing performance, chronic exhaustion, a terrible mindset and insomnia. Because I know what’s useful when you’re tired, NOT SLEEPING.
Okay, I’ll wind my neck in because I like to be a sparkling ray of positivity here.
We all know I’m a scathingly cynical, intensely sarcastic rage-beast from the depths of your nightmares. But that slight tangent aside, I do like to be helpful.
So here’s me being helpful:
Look, the only real way to get around burn out is to rest. And I mean really rest. The feet up, Game of Thrones binge watch type rest. But when was rest ever fun? If like me, you’d rather stick a fork in your eye than slow down, then here are some suggestions to help you re-focus and produce more.
THE ZEN OF ONE
I’ve talked at lengths about focus and productivity. There’s no one size fits all method for mastering productivity.
Except there actually is.
Forget the plague of ‘multitaskers’ and ‘plate spinners’ it’s all an illusion baby. They’re not really being productive, they’re giving themselves a one-way ticket to a fractured and overwhelmed mind and a severe case of cortisol-induced heart failure.
One task at a time people.
It’s the only way to be truly productive. Science and Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) says so. I’ve written about how narrowing your focus and just working on one task is better for your brain, for your productivity, and for your output
Newport’s point is that we’re plagued by notifications and distractions and minutia. It floods our tiny brains and nukes our ability to focus. No focus, no output. The point is, you need to purge yourself from being switched on all the time. Grasp the silence like the holy grail it is. It’s okay not to reply to comments or check every Facebook notification. The only thing you’re missing is Aunt Bessy’s missing cat and the shit replica of Jamie Oliver’s latest recipe that your long forgotten school friend attempted.
Silence is golden. So is one task.
When you’re burned out, chances are, even a to-do list of three things is going to feel like an anvil to the head. It does for me. As soon as I’m tired (which is all the time), I slip into MUST DO ALL OF THE THINGS mode… Every tiny detail gets slapped on an obscene sized to do list and I stress and worry about all of them. Until I take a breath and remind myself that no one is going to die if an Instagram photo isn’t taken, or if I haven’t tweeted, or set up a new AMS ad.
What’s the big picture here?
No books, no sales. No sales, no full-time writing.
Words are always the priority. Everything else can wait.
Ask yourself what are the things only you can do? Realistically its anything that involves your creativity i.e. your books, your podcast, speaking gigs etc. Everything else can be done by others. If you’re on the brink of burn out, then seriously, it’s time to ask for help. Get a cleaner, find a Virtual Assistant, splurge on scheduling software, get an accountant. Whatever, but it’s time to accept you’re not a superhero and you need help.
Collaboration is efficient. You’ll do more in less time.
It’s okay to ask for help.
PUT THE BIG GIRL PANTS AWAY
You know what else is okay?
Not to be okay.
I mean it. Writers are so hard on themselves. We’re expected to churn out words, market like a machine, hold down day jobs, mom like a master and still be a sane spouse. We’re just one person. We can’t do everything, we can’t run houses and full-time jobs and author businesses and still be resolutely positive. And if you can, take your candyfloss colored cheer pants over to the corner and face the wall.
It’s okay not to wear your big girl pants. Accept that you’re not okay, let the feelings exist, and then, when you’re ready, pick yourself up and soldier on.
Oh, and try meditation.
Who else has suffered from burnout? Let me know in the comments – what top tips do you have for recovery?
- No keyboards have been harmed… although they may have been sworn at, smeared in coffee and had sugar crumbs smushed into their crevasses.
If you want awesome writing tips, you can grab a copy of my book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and tap the logo of your reading device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.