The topic for this article is something I’ve experienced before, but never to the extent I’ve been experiencing lately. This is the subject of “burnout."
Burnout can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. For me (since I have a bad back), I equate burnout to saying, “My back’s gone out.” Saying that, a back going out can mean a lot of different things. When my back goes out, I literally can't get up. There was a time when it was an hour ordeal just to move from my bed to the restroom and back to the bed again. For other people, when their back goes out, they can move and function, just at a very low level with a lot of pain. Burnout is very much the same, in my opinion. You can get really tired and exhausted and feel like you can't do anything, yet clog through and continue on. You can also, ultimately, simply run into a wall.
I wanted to talk a little bit about burnout because it's a real thing and very real to me. As I mentioned above, I've experienced it before and recently went through it to an extreme as I had never experienced before. I thought I had overcome it, and it still took a month before I finally found some semblance of my normal work routine, my normal desire and drive to move forward. I couldn't even do podcasts during that time even though it was the one thing I wanted to do while everything else felt like a major slog and a big push for myself.
To give a little back story – I've experienced incredible growth this year for my agency. Now, if you are a bigger agency, you would laugh at my growth. However, for a three-person operation, it's growth like I've never seen before. It was a lot of work, and there were times when I had no clue how I was going to keep up. Then I decided to hire and that actually introduced a whole lot more work. So, I felt like I was imploding, and then I hire and have to train, plus continue to take care of clients, and try to be a good father and husband...it all just caught up with me.
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Hitting the Burnout Wall
A few months ago, I hit that wall, and for a three-day period, I couldn’t function. One of those three days I came into the office and did nothing for a few hours then left. The other two days, I didn't even come into the office. I tried to find a remote place to work, something just to change the scenery because I was not able to do anything. When I went home, I wasn't able to be that father or husband I needed to be either.
It was like depression, but I wasn't sad. I just couldn't do anything. I don't know how else to explain it. If you've gone through this type of burnout, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The kind of burnout where I needed to get stuff done, and I wanted to get stuff done – I just couldn't. Fortunately, that part only lasted a few days for me. I didn't get behind on any projects. I was only a little late on a couple of really minor things and was able to catch up and get back in control. However, I spent the next month in a bit of a funk. I love what I do: I love coming into the office; I love working long hours; I love going home to my family. I love all of that. I feel like I've got a really awesome life, but during this month, I didn't love anything, specifically, work-related. I just wasn't motivated, wasn't excited, and felt in a rut. I was still experiencing growth and everything that I’d worked so hard for was starting to come to fruition, and yet, inwardly, I was falling apart.
I'm not even sure how to explain what happened or why it happened, and I honestly don't even know that I could tell you what the fix is. I can only tell you what I started to do and maybe those of you in the same boat can find a takeaway here. I took a look at the two main things I was busy with: Brand Shouter and another business I had invested work in exchange for ownership. I was spending roughly 35% of my time on Brand Shouter, my own business that I care the most about. The majority of the rest of my time was working on this other business that I was excited about because there was a lot of upward potential, but that upward potential took a lot of hard work to get to.
I looked at that situation and realized that after working on it for almost a year (and really working at it hardcore for the last few months of my involvement), it became evident that money wasn't coming back any day soon. Also, in the meantime, my lack of attention to Brand Shouter was causing it to languish a bit. So, after chatting with the client, who’s also a good friend, we agreed to have a mutual break. He's still a client, but I'm no longer working in exchange for a hope and a future with that business. It's amazing the size of the weight that lifted off of me with that decision to step away. Going back to what I cared about the most, taking what amounted to super hard work off my plate, and literally having next to no financial repercussions from it was a huge deal.
Back to the Basics
I've come to see that burnout doesn’t just happen because you've worked too hard. People can work super hard and never burnout because they love what they do. Burnout is a combination of working so hard and not really enjoying what you're doing. If you're reading this and feeling this kind of burnout, I want to make a recommendation to you. Look at what you're doing with your time. What do you love? What are you working hard at that if money wasn't a factor, you would probably not do? Of course, not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to take these things into consideration. I realize I'm really fortunate to be able to do for a living what I love. So, I'm not suggesting that you quit your nine to five job because it's not the most exciting thing in your life. However, if you're working a nine to five job, you're also putting in 20 hours of overtime, and you're not enjoying it; it may be time for new scenery. It may be time to check out something different.
If you're like me and you own your business, then what are you focusing your time on? The reality is as long as you're supporting yourself, your company and any employees, and your family; everything beyond that is gravy. Whether you're making $3000.00 a month or $30,000.00 a month or $300,000.00 a month, as long as you're covering your bases, all of that is just the rat race to make more money. Don’t get me wrong; making money is good. I'm pro making money, but there is a point where making money is not worth it.
One of the things I did to help curb my burnout was to look at what I was doing with my time and to whom I was donating time; then figure out how to get back to just doing what I love. Whether I'm giving the time away or I'm charging for it, it makes a big difference that I'm actually doing something I'm good at and doing something that I love.
In a near-future article, I plan on talking about the idea of specializing in something vs. generalizing in an arena. I highly recommend you read that as it will be almost a part two on this topic of burnout. I will discuss eliminating things that drag you down, which will, in turn, help you with your mental health, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling unable to work due to burnout. The article will also give you something to be an expert in and help you focus your view.