biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: how to avoid burnout

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Selfactivator.com blogger Sinclair. Sinclair has coached NASA, Disney, Bitch Media and many other creative entrepreneurs on how to become successful and unstoppable. Today she shares her helpful advice on how to stay focused and avoid burnout. Thanks Sinclair for these fantastic steps to keeping our eyes on the prize! — Stephanie

*P.S.: The Design*Sponge Advertising Team blog has a new post today all about targeting techniques (example: geo-targeting) and when to use them for your ads.

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

How to Avoid Burnout as a Creative Entrepreneur

Creative entrepreneurs like you, dear Biz Ladies, have a unique set of challenges. To start and grow your business, you need:

Inspiration + creativity + biz know how + production + systems + a million other things.

Whew. That’s a lot to keep up with. No wonder so many creatives hit burnout in their businesses. I see a lot of them come through my client roster, and many more afraid of totally going after their thing because they’re afraid of snuffing their creative spark with Burnout.

And once you’re in the big B, it feels huge, mysterious and overwhelming. But you never reach Burnout in one fell swoop. It happens bit by bit, until all of a sudden, you are in it.

Here are seven steps to avoid hitting that “oh-no” point:

1. Feed your creativity. No, really. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum — if your creative medium was your hobby, chances are you naturally fed it with books, classes, friends and trips to galleries. Now as a busy biz-lady, the temptation is to let that inspiration stuff slide when you go into production mode. But you actually need more inspiration, not less, when you make your creative thing your business. What inspires you about your creative heroes? What are your peers doing? What textures, colors, patterns and places light you up? Make no mistake, that stuff changes over time. Keep feeding the creative spirit so you don’t hit a wall later.

2. Respect your resources. You can be business warrior-woman for only so many hours a day. Warrior-mode is a temporary state, but today we’re living as if it can go on and on. No matter how passionate you are about business, you’ve still got a finite amount of physical, mental and emotional resources. If you need to push to get a line to market or hit a big deadline, that’s fine.  Just schedule downtime afterwards. We are not automatons! Creative people have productivity cycles, big time. Which means you may have really productive periods, followed by quiet ones. Nothing’s wrong with you, I promise! We’re built to recover from big bursts of energy, and planning for that can minimize frustration later. Which leads us to . . .

3. Know your creative cycles. From Inspiration to Completion, you’ve got your own favorite grooves in the creative process, and other parts that don’t feel so hot. For myself, I love the Idea-generating phase (the Completion part, not so much). My friend John Unger, a welder, loves the editing process, while a designer client of mine is just thrilled to sleep 10 hours a day, because she knows how easily her commissions will go if she hibernates a bit first. Get extra support during your least favorite part of the process, and celebrate when you’re rocking out the part that’s easiest for you.

4. Have an off switch. Raise your hand if you’ve ever caught yourself thinking about your business when you’re supposed to be having fun, or spending time with your family. Yeah. Many creative people become entrepreneurs to have a better quality of life, then find themselves totally stressed and unable to set work aside. The antidote is to learn what you can get done in a day, and set goals accordingly. Review what you’ve accomplished at the end of each workday, especially if you work from home. You need an off switch, a confirmation that you’ve been productive. Doing this will give you permission to really relax, and set your business aside.

5. Instead of being a resource, have a resource. There’s a widespread phenomenon that still makes me laugh — people assume that entrepreneurs are more available to help, be flexible and support others when usually the opposite is true. If you’re a giver and a generous, lovely soul, you’ve gotta find a way to set clear boundaries. There’s no boss to hide behind, you are accountable to yourself, so practice restraint with your generosity. Sure, you could help run that craft fair, PTA or networking group, but only after you’ve met your business goals for the month, and scheduled serious down-time, too. If you’re in business for the long haul, you’ve got to care about how you’ll feel at the end of each day, month and year.  Share resources carefully, or direct others to resources that don’t come from you.  The goal is more freedom, not less!

    6. Remember the big stuff. When we get overwhelmed, the brain tends to focus on small details and attach large emotions to them. Oh my God, the laundry! It’s killing me! And that client email is sucking my soul! If you find yourself having large responses to small things, STEP BACK. Remember the big stuff — why you’re in business in the first place, what’s awesome about your work, your clients and list of things you have control over. Remember your personal bumper sticker, whatever it is — your positive motivation to be in business. (This is the best use of 60 seconds I’ve ever found to avoid burnout.)

    7. Keep up with your new dreams. When you started your business, you probably got really clear on your creative vision.  Fabulous! Good work. There’s just one teensy problem — you’ll keep adding to those dreams as you go. The most-traveled onramp to burnout is ignoring these dreams as they change and grow. It’s so easy to have Something Greater calling your name and find yourself saying, “Shut up, Something Greater. I’ve got emails to write.” It takes courage to keep amending your dreams and keep up with them, but hey. You’re a biz-lady. You can rock the socks off any dream you’ve got.

      What else do you do to avoid burnout or recover from it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, and I’ll talk to you soon!  You can find me at selfactivator.com for more creative entrepreneurial goodness. xo, Sinclair

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      • This is really great information, thank you. Burnout is so real, so thanks for focusing on it during this series.

      • Thank you. I really needed to hear this. I burnt out so badly after earning my degree in fashion school, i didnt sew for at least a year. Now i’m finally back in the swing of it and loving it again. Its nice to know I’m not the only one having gotten burnt out on what you love to do!

      • This is great stuff! Whenever I have a great idea I write it down, no matter what. Even if I’m asleep and something comes to me I write it in my notepad, on my side table. Then when i’m stuck in a rut i just pull out the notepad and start going through it. The ideas trigger my dream and it’s like an “oh yeah” moment! Then i’m back at it again!

      • Thanks for the great post. I’m guilty of a lot of these-especially getting sucked into the small stuff. I find it helps to get back in the kitchen-i’m a chef-alone, no radio, no friends and reconnect with why I love my job. An hour spent reading magazines helps too ; )

      • This was a great post! Every point you made felt like it was meant for me! Thank you so much! (I use magazine’s & Websites for inspiration/motivation..I’m a mixed media artist & my favorite magazine is “Cloth, Paper, Scissors” …and I’m totally addicted to Design Sponge!!!!

      • I can’t believe how timely this article is.

        What does one do when one is not only burned out, but going through a very long, very dry creative spell??


      • I like to drive around different neighbors and see what other people have done with the outside of their homes and then imagine what they have done with the inside. This helps me focus on what I love and to see things for what they really are, in all their glory. At the same time, it allows me to focus on what others love and how they see things as they believe those things should be. It helps me maintain balance and perspective. Creativity can be dangerous if allowed to be so personally gratifying that others are incapable of appreciating it.

      • I think if your suffering from burnout it help to just go somewhere for the day that you’ve never been before, take a break from your routine so you can get a fresh perspective, also allow yourself breaks

      • This post is so on point! Everything rings so true. I could relate on every point. Having it laid out has allowed me to make mental notes of the warning signs. Thanks!

      • Thanks. As an addition: I find going outside and having a walk around the block really helpful for refocussing and unblocking. Especially in bad weather.

      • perfect timing! feeling it big time. I also think burnout comes when you’ve worked so hard on something and it’s time to turn the corner on to something else and you’re not exactly sure what to do.

        I agree a walk can do wonders to put the brain in gear

      • So glad to hear it was helpful, ladies!

        To Christina – Absolutely, a walk does wonders for feeling refreshed (the brain resets with bipedal movement – how neat is that?)

        Carla – Getting away for the day can be great way to gain fresh perspective about your business… although it’s nice to go away for relaxation, and not wait until you have “fix” how you feel. ;)

        Kristen – me too – Design Sponge helps me feed that inspiration – it’s so important to keep the juices going!

        Amanda – So glad to hear it. When you can take of yourself ahead of time, it saves you and your business a lot of grief later!

        Nicodermus – focus on number 5 and number 6 right away, and give yourself a chance to “reset.” That could be taking a walk right this minute, allowing for extra sleep, lots of water, going to see a play, whatever helps you 1) rest and 2) step back and see the bigger picture again.
        Hope that helps. Best of luck!


      • Gina – Not to worry, you are one of many amazing people to get burned out doing exactly what they love. So glad to hear you’re doing your work again – hopefully more on your own terms! Pay close attention that “off-switch,” and to keep the inspiration coming in.
        Best of luck,

      • Wow thank you! My favorite biz lady post yet – thanks so much for addressing the tough stuff. As a graphic designer, I have definitely hit burnout multiple times. Thanks for the help so it doesn’t happen again.

      • This was a really valuable touch point as I look to developing the next phase of my business. I ended up starting to resent what had once been a dream. I got so focused on production and output that the creativity started to dry up… and when that happens you get scared that you don’t have it any more… all a result of burn out. I’m thinking about how I will go about working smarter this time round. Thanks so much for this – not unlike so many others here… at just the right moment.

      • when i find myself wishing that there was time to do 1/10 of my work in a day i know its time to take off to the lake or the forest and just bum around with the family. then…ah…ready to take it easy with the work load and have fu because i’m feeling more productive and inspired.

        thank you so much for reminding me that its time to take a break.

      • Amazing insights! This was great information. I’ve been doing the art biz for decades. My advice: hire help even if it’s a high school kid. Hire the best help and pay the most you possibly can. Great people are your implementers and allow you to be the creative leader.

      • Your article came at a great time, Sinclair. We are approaching the holiday season, believe it or not. If you are like me you have been preparing all year and still don’t feel prepared! Did someone mention burnout? :)

      • Yes, thank you Sinclair for all of the sage advice- I have been seeing burnout on the horizon and am scrambling to keep it at bay. I try and trust my natural cycles of creativity (and unnatural too…a sick baby, unexpected house guests) and go with it. I have found that pushing against the tide only keeps me out of the studio longer. Thank you again for all this wonderful wisdom! With the holidays coming up (EEEK!) I might need to print out this post and look at it everyday. :)

      • # 3 is really important for me to keep in mind, especially since I have a day job and am sometimes just too exhausted to think about making jewelry when I get home after a long day. I’ll feel completely useless if I go a few days (or even a whole week!) without making any new products, but then I’ll have a day off from my day job and no social commitments, and I find myself churning stuff out like you wouldn’t believe! I get regular time off from my day job, but sometimes it’s hard to have that mindset with my own business – it’s easy to feel like it’s something I should be working on 7 days/week.

      • I so look forward to all the biz ladies posts, and this no exception. I love to have my toast and coffee and soak in the great info! Sometimes you just need to remember to breathe……ok now off to my studio!

      • This is fabulous. As I’m transitioning from a crafter/biz-lady to a writer/artist, this advice still holds. Lately I’ve been taking quiet time for myself every morning and evening just to check in and see how I’m feeling. I meditate, do yoga, take a long shower, or just pet the cats. It’s worked wonders. And #1 above is what Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) calls artist dates — and they’re necessary! Thank you for this great article!