Let’s Talk About Burnout for a Hot Second
Let’s talk about burnout. Burnout is most commonly known for being a state that creators can find ourselves in when it becomes impossible to well, create. It’s a dirty word and a terrifying prospect. We can find ourselves living in constant fear that tomorrow we might not be able to do it anymore, to create something new.
Let’s first define what we’re talking about when we say burnout. Burnout or “feeling burnt out” refers to the feeling of being uninspired, unmotivated and usually totally unsure what to do next. It usually happens to creators that work in high-volume creative jobs; or creators that work on long-term projects, usually without much challenge or creativity. It can be tough.
I’ve heard of burnout being more serious for some people, for some it can be impossible to move or even get out of bed. Let me be clear, this article is not about that kind of burnout. This is potentially a diagnosable form of burnout or even anxiety that is serious and should be taken seriously. If you’re feeling this bad consult your family doctor or even visit a walk-in clinic,
The kind of burnout I’m talking about is the lack of motivation and/or inspiration to keep creating.
As commercial artists we often find ourselves extremely excited by new projects, then overtime of looking at the same artwork for the same campaign in all the different iterations; or revising the same video more than a few times – it’s part of the job, and more importantly, it’s part of life. If you want to do something properly, it often requires a lot of time, thought and yes, revisions. This burnout usually ends up being overtired from late nights, with far less accomplished than intended. This can go on for days or weeks and it can be extremely disruptive to work, wellbeing and overall productivity. As I said, it can be tough.
So, how do we avoid burnout? Ultimately it comes down to one thing. Taking time for yourself. Of course, there are lots of ways to do this – here are some of our favorites.
Exposing yourself to other art forms, story structures, and perspectives is crucial to keep the inspiration up and the creative juices flowing.
Reading inherently stimulates your imagination and like any muscle group, it’s important to work on the parts you want to keep strong.
It’s important to read something you’re excited about and something that will keep you hooked and engaged. It’s equally as important to read something more complex than a romance novel or a self-help book. Read something that gets your imagination working.
If the language of the author doesn’t speak to you don’t worry, there is 100% an author out there that will speak to you – probably a whole whack of them. Try an author whose work you already know you like – if you’re a Game of Thrones fan maybe George RR Martin is a good bet. Non-fiction is also a great way to gain new perspectives. Also, try a book from someone who already entertains you, or even inspires you like an actor, comedian or politician. If you like the author already, a book is a great way to gain more insight into their motivations, inspirations and a look at their real personalities. I’d recommend Bossypants by Tina Fey.
When I was a freelancer I had to make a rule at one point to leave the house at least once a day, it was really easy to ignore the rest of the world – and it was really easy to lose track of my health.
Go outside and move, or to a gym and lift things, or to a pool where you can move while you hold your breath. I ignored this rule for a long time and I’m by no means the most active person on the planet but even in short bursts when getting overwhelmed it’s extremely refreshing to go for a long walk, bike around the city a bit, maybe lift some weights… maybe not that last one so much.
The fact is regular exercise is not only good for your long-term health (that should make this a total no-brainer by the way) it’s good for your brain. The brain is not only stimulated by the feedback that is seen on pages or screens like words or pictures. It is stimulated by sensations felt all over the body. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins; you have time to think, and you feel great when you’re done.
There is more to life than ingesting content – there is actively experiencing and engaging in life itself.
3. Take Care of Something
We’re lucky enough to pro-dog office, and we love having our furry buds around, but I’m not straight up recommending you go get a dog. That’s a really big commitment that should be taken seriously.
But this tip isn’t about dogs, per-say. It’s about looking after something. It’s as easy to start with as getting a plant, then maybe down the road, when you feel ready, a fish! The point is it can be almost anything that requires a bit of time and a bit of love. A reminder that the universe at large is bigger than marketing and metrics.
If you’re lucky enough to have enough time and love for a doggo they can do a hell of a lot of positive things for the creative mind. They pull you away from work at least a few times a day to hit the bathroom or go for a run. They are delightfully distracting and unignorable with their lovable faces and fuzzy paws. If you can’t tell we’re a pro-doggo office.
Dogs, cats, fish, plants – they need love.
4. See Art
Take time once and a while to actively seek out and view art, preferably at a gallery of sorts – don’t walk into strangers houses to look at their art.
Viewing art is another way to gain a new perspective, another way to gain insight into another person’s creativity. The act of viewing art regularly greatly improves your ability to think creatively. Don’t just view it either, consider it, mentally deconstruct and recreate it; try to feel how the artist felt when he/she was creating it. Even more importantly get in touch with how it makes you feel. Learn from it. If it makes you feel nothing then learn from that.
Art is subjective and can even be abstract – it shows you the interpretation of some part of the world through someone else’s eyes, and maybe gain a new perspective. This is why it’s great stimulation and fuel for the creative mind.
5. Work on your project
Let’s get one thing straight if you work a full-time job I’m not talking about extra/freelance work*. If you’re a small business owner I’m not talking about catching up on work – because this tip is assuming the obvious – like us, you love what you do.
I’m talking about a project that inspires you, that is “just for fun” – maybe it’s a video project, a small business idea that is just a dream at the moment, your personal Instagram photography – just something that’s in your realm of work, but is not ‘work’. Something that you just love doing. Put in a few hours a week into personal project development.
Personal projects will not only keep you inspired they give you a place to experiment and try new ideas. They give you a place to take risks that you might never otherwise be able to take.
If you’re reading this article we hope it’s safe to say you love your job – why else would you be worried about underperforming? It’s easy to get caught up in what we do for a living, especially when we’re passionate about it. That said, to avoid the dreaded burnout state don’t spend all of your time on one thing. A variety of things is recommended for the creative mind. We’re all in this thing called life creating together so it’s important to absorb just as much as it is to create.
New kinds of stimulation are good for you. The human brain requires new stimulation to make new connections, and with each new connection, a bridge is created to make the potential for new ideas possible. So getting outside of the project you’re currently working on and doing something purely for yourself, that is still stimulating, is a great way to keep those inspirational juices flowing.