Schedule for burnout

Not feeling so creative?

Burnout is real. Even if you’ve never had a problem with doing your work, you face a risk of eventually running out of creative steam. The problem is worse if you build your business around a creative pursuit — if you write, design, or otherwise depend on your ability to come up with new ideas every day, feeling blocked or worn out puts your livelihood at risk. Worse, if you aren’t taking steps to avoid creative burnout, the pace most entrepreneurs stick to will push you towards burnout even faster.

You can take steps to minimize burnout, like balancing your workload with relaxation or fun projects. But even if you’re careful about managing your creative endeavors, odds are good that you’ll face a case of burnout eventually. With that in mind, you can plan for a period when you’re feeling burnt out so that you can come back stronger and better than ever.

Pay attention to your own patterns

Sometimes, you can see a spell of creative burnout coming — at least if you’re paying attention to your own work habits. Personally, I’ve noticed that I usually have a seasonal dry spell at the beginning of winter. There’s just something about the days getting shorter that makes my work harder.

We each have different patterns in how we work.

For some people, doing the same sort of project over and over is incredibly draining. For others, burnout is just the final stage of launching a new product. If you can notice these patterns in your work, however, burnout doesn’t have to be so bad. You can schedule time off as the seasons shift or at the end of each launch, so that you don’t have any obligations to deal with when you’re most likely to feel creatively fried. And then you can return, feeling rested.

Build a burnout fund

Just as you might set aside money to cover your expenses if you were to feel physically unwell, make sure you have the money to manage a time when you might feel mentally drained. Having savings gives you a buffer to choose not to take on new work, to hire someone to fill in for you, or to try out something new. This sort of budgeting, by the way, becomes even easier if you know that you can save up for a goal of a vacation during that next time you expect to feel burnt out.

Especially as entrepreneurs, it’s easy to slip into a mindset where you think that you can’t afford to step back — that losing even a day’s worth of work will make your company crumble. And that can be true if you have no savings. But if you can shoot for enough in savings to cover even a few weeks worth of work, you’ll be able to remove one of the sources of stress that can make burnout even worse.

Keep growing your business in sustainable ways

Creative burnout is to be expected, but you don’t want to obsess over it. As long as you’re taking steps so that you’re prepared to step back and recuperate, you’ll be okay. Beyond that, you need to focus on growing your business.

Looking for ways to sustainably build your business — especially in such a way that it keeps operating even if you need to take a few weeks away — is where you should focus the rest of your attention. Of course, doing what you can to structure your business to reduce creative burnout is always good, but even if you just concentrate on being able to take time out of the office, you’ll be ready when you need a break.

Thursday Bram
Thursday Bram writes about the business of creativity, along with small business and freelance topics.