Dealing With This Thing Called Burnout
You have to know what race you are taking part in.
It is important to acknowledge the balance between your short-term and long-term goals. Mix them up, you become a sprinter when you have been training as a long distance runner.
This article is going to look at the very real case of burnout.
Burnout seems to be something that is pushed to the side when there is a fixation on the end result. In a very loud world, there seems to be a heavier priority on things achieved, successes made and the acknowledgment received.
We have places free to tell everyone the rosy world and the secrets to the quickest results in the shortest amount of time, so why not go for it. Tell everyone that the world that you are part of is better in a Juno filter.
This article is not about an answer (well it gets that way further on), but a way to acknowledge something.
Confession time. I am feeling a bit of burnout.
The You Are The Media project has been a fixture of my life since October 2013. It is an initiative that now works, in terms of building a committed and subscribed audience (that isn’t at the whim of Google and Facebook). If I didn’t have this, I guess I would be scratching around trying to find sporadic ways to capture people’s attention. It is an initiative that asks the question, ‘what can you do really well, that is also really hard?’
Here is how the timeline looks since all this started:
October 2013 I started a weekly email (called You Are The Media)
Since October 2013, I have been writing and emailing every week (with only Christmas ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’17 off)
May 2016 the first You Are The Media Lunch Club happened with Oli Perron (from Lunchd) as the first guest (at Steele Raymond)
November 2017 the first You Are The Media Podcast was recorded and Ian Rhodes (my audio partner for Marketing Homebrew was the first guest)
May 2018 the You Are The Media Conference comes to Bournemouth
The You Are The Media project has worked with momentum and progress.
How The Model Works
Very simply, the model works this way. You build a channel to accumulate an audience (in my case it was the sign up for the blog/email). As the audience grows, this leverages the introduction of new media spaces, so you can be in the places people prefer (in my case it is live, written or audio). The right channel puts you in the right direction.
As a side project and away from the day-to-day content marketing consultancy work, this takes up approximately additional eight hours per week. This mainly consists of writing, the podcast and preparing the weekly email. Over the past few weeks, the conference has taken precedence. This isn’t a team of people working on creating content and publishing, it is me (albeit there is a fantastic team with me for the conference).
The You Are The Media project is a family decision. For instance, Monday and Tuesday after my children are in bed, I write in silence in a separate room. I enjoy it. It makes me feel creative and share what I am thinking in the moment. I am fortunate enough to be healthy and building the You Are The Media community (and it is a genuine community). My ambition is for it to get to a point where it can keep the momentum, with or without me. It has enabled me to forge friendships and have met an abundance of great people, with whom I am now a lot more familiar, rather than treating the world as one big means to collate leads.
I realise this, if you enjoy something so much where you can shape the direction and play a role in its progress, you can’t really stop. To have someone send an email to me on a Thursday morning mentioning an aspect of the weekly email that meant something to them is an absolute privilege.
Defining Burnout For You
I understand the feelings of burnout are natural. By burnout, I don’t mean bereft of ideas to share and a point where I have hit the bottom of an empty barrel. It is not about hitting a wall and struggle to find the function to work. It is about an acknowledgment that things feel different. For instance, my eyes are starting to feel more strained (from too much time in front of a screen) and just the realisation that a bit of a break would realign everything.
I now understand that burnout means two things.
The first is about being hard on yourself where there are continual deadlines to meet ie. an email to send every Thursday before 7 am, to working on a magazine for the conference that will have to reach a printer by a certain date.
The second is that with the high expectations, small businesses do not necessarily have the broad scope of staff to reach out to when the wheels are in motion.
I understand that if I didn’t have a break from the weekly writing, podcast and You Are The Media Lunch Club things would start to regress. This has to be addressed.
This is not about stepping back. It is about reassessing to be stronger. The You Are The Media project does not stop. It is about collating, assessing and taking a break, so we can all be stronger.
What About You
The easiest way I can explain and the lesson to share with you is that I have been training as a long-distance runner when the requirements for a sprinter are becoming more prevalent.
A sprint was not designed over a long distance. I have changed from the discipline of Mo Farah to now becoming Usain Bolt. As the You Are The Media conference gets closer (Thursday 24th May) things are speeding up and the adrenalin is pumping, the arms are moving faster and the legs are pushing out more.
I recognise that whatever you do when it comes to building momentum and a drive to do it, you have to recognise which projects are long and sustainable and which require the shorter bursts. Short term means the increased pace of activity and the longer term means the bigger picture.
Let me explain. The short-term work is predominantly the tactics, it is about the work that is created that is then distributed. There is a sense of urgency to other people, for instance, the final few days in the lead up to the You Are The Media Lunch Club and making sure all is ok and those people who are contributing.
The long-term is when the work you create is consistent enough to build trust. It is when you feel comfortable with the work you produce and the audience you are creating for. It all leads to the ability to create value and not commodity work.
It is the build-up of the short runs that lead to the longer effort. However, what I acknowledge is the increased number of shorter sprints over the past six months. The mentality has switched to many more shorter runs and heightened activity when the focus was always on the long term.
This article is not about dealing with burnout, it is more of an admission.
This isn’t about me telling you that it is important to take some time out, as I clearly haven’t done that, so I can’t comment. This isn’t about being in tune with yourself to step back, as I clearly haven’t.
What I do know is that you have a balance between what is seen as the longer term goals, such as a commitment to be relevant and add value, versus the short term plans, namely delivering the tactics. You have to find that balance between the work and projects that are sustainable and the activity that requires the short bursts.
What I am going to do is after the You Are The Media Conference on May 24th, is to take some time out. It will be around one month and come back refreshed. The activity stays, namely the writing, the events and the audio. It is just a case of stepping out and feeling re-energised. It is important to take stock of everything and look back at what has happened, to where things need to go.
It is time to be thankful for the people who are part of the journey and participate online and offline. It is time to recognise that all this can be done with belief and consistency and not reliant on someone else. We can build spaces we can be proud of and become self-sufficient. The You Are The Media project proves this.
Let’s Round Up
I don’t want to use burnout as a negative word. It is just an acknowledgment that something needs to be addressed to make an initiative stronger and more importantly, have longevity.
When people feel part of something, the whole journey becomes a shared process. It doesn’t mean the wheels come off, or just drifts into the distance. For a project to work, there has to be a structure to it, otherwise, it becomes a headless chicken with nowhere to call home.
The You Are The Media conference becomes a time for celebration and acknowledgment that people have played a part to play to make something stronger.
This becomes a moment to recognise that to build stronger businesses, we cannot operate in isolation. It is the collection of people, of ideas, of different approaches that let us challenge ourselves and feel a part of something. That is why burnout is not about looking down, but looking up. It is just that to get to headier heights, sometimes you need to stop, breath it in and look around.