How I Battled A Burnout… And Won

December 10

Earlier this year, I found myself facing a pretty epic case of burnout.  I’d been giving Single Grain my all for more than five years and was struggling to keep up with all the changes that have been happening in the SEO industry recently.  On top of that, I watched another business venture of mine fail and even had to have surgery on my hand.  Ultimately, I reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t catch up – and that’s when the burnout settled in…

After fighting the feeling for a long time, I took a deep breath and decided to go for a long walk to clear my head.  Along the way, I came up with the following ideas to help me move forward in both my business and my personal lives.  They’ve made all the difference in the world to me, and I hope they help you get back on track whenever you find yourself feeling stuck.

Change Your Environment

For years, I worked from my office, day in and day out.  And while it was important for me to connect with my team in this way, doing the same thing every day was getting boring – and it made me feel like I had a job, not a business.

The obvious solution was to change my environment.  Now, I try to work from a different place every day.  I’ve worked from my bed, my couch, my desk, my patio chair, standing up at my kitchen counter, my home office, the patio outside my office, the waiting room at my office, my parent’s house, my favorite coffee shops and more for a total of 53 different working locations this year alone.  Even if I’m doing the same thing every day, the experience is totally different because my environment and the people I run into are different.

Focus on Diet and Exercise

When you get burned out, you feel stressed – and when you feel stressed, you turn to junk food and being lazy (at least, that’s what I do).  Eating crap and sitting around all day just makes you feel more stressed, since you aren’t giving your body the things it needs to run at peak performance, which – in turn – leads to more burnout.

Again, the solution here is obvious – even if it isn’t always easy to put into practice.  You’ve got to stop treating your body poorly and then feeling bad about it if you want to escape the cycle of burnout.  For more on my favorite diet and exercise routines, check out my posts on “The Workout Routine of Greek Warriors” and “What Losing 40lbs Taught Me About Business.”

Find a Hobby and Master It

Whenever I get bored, I try to find a new hobby.  So far, I’ve tried rock climbing, running, biking, racing cars, racing bikes (not professionally, just going to the race track), reading books, playing guitar, surfing and snowboarding.  That might sound like a lot, but for me, hobbies aren’t really about finding deep-down passions that I’ll stick with for the rest of my life.

Whenever I try something new, I try to be the best out there (or at least, the best I can be).  That means that I’m constantly learning and pushing myself – and I get as much out of challenging myself in that way as I do actually taking part in the hobby itself.  As an added bonus, most of my hobbies pump me full of adrenaline, which super-charges my productivity for a while and then gets me a great night’s sleep at the end of the day.  One time, I worked ten hours straight after a 12-hour day at the track.  It was one of the most productive days of my life and it left me feeling rested and replenished for the next day.

Help Someone

Burnout can be such a self-involved struggle.  Really, all you do is sit around and worry about “How am I ever going to get out of this funk?” or “Will I ever be productive again?”  Even if you consider yourself to be a selfless person, burnout makes you stress out over and over again about what it means for you, your goals, your business or your finances.

So if you want a simple solution to burnout, here it is: get out of your own head!  Stop thinking about yourself all the time and find a way to help others.  I spend time mentoring young entrepreneurs through clarity.fm, and I love that their enthusiasm and excitement makes me refocus my own priorities and see past whatever’s causing my burnout.

Whatever cause you care about, find a way to get involved.  I guarantee you’ll feel better as a result.

Read Something

I’m a huge fan of business books.  They’re an easy way to learn new things and get motivated, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised that my burnout set it right about the time when my schedule got too busy for reading.  If you aren’t a big reader, I recommend picking just one book off my list of “100 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read.”  If that doesn’t get you inspired to get back to work, I don’t know what will!

Watch Cartoons

Every morning, I wake up around 6:00am, and while I’m drinking my coffee and responding to emails, I’ve got 90s cartoons like Batman and Duck Tales playing in the background.  Do you remember how excited you were as a kid to wake up on Saturday morning and watch cartoons?  Now, I feel like that every day.  It sounds silly, but hey – we entrepreneurs can’t be serious all the time!

Replace “I Can’t” with “How?”

Burnout warps your mind into thinking that every little struggle you face is an insurmountable challenge.  When you’re already stressed, even the smallest obstacle – even one that’ll help you get out of your funk – seems pretty much impossible to overcome.  But here’s the thing…  That kind of thinking is a trick that your mind is playing on you – and it’s one that you can control by replacing the words “I can’t” with “How?”

Science has my back on this one.  In a 1983 edition of Advances in Behavior Research and Therapy, researcher John Teasdale of the University of Oxford published a study titled, “Negative thinking in depression: Cause, effect, or reciprocal relationship?” which stated:

“There is evidence consistent with the suggestion of the cognitive model of depression that certain negative cognitions can produce and maintain the state of depression.  There is also good evidence that depressed mood affects the relative accessibility of positive and negative conditions.  Thus, negative cognitions appear to produce depression, and, conversely, depression increases the probability of just those cognitions which will cause further depression.”

Basically, when you’re already feeling burned out, thinking negative thoughts only perpetuates the cycle of burnout.  Make a conscious effort to replace these thoughts in your mind if you ever want to be able to move forward productively with your business.

Plan a Trip or Vacation

If you’re still feeling burned out, I want you to take the morning off and map out your dream vacation.  Forget about financial constraints – for this exercise, let your imagination run wild.  Always dreamed of a cruise across the Atlantic?  Pick the cruise liner you’ll take, the suite you’ll stay in and the activities you’ll undertake while aboard.  Fantasizing about a three-month sojourn through Europe?  Choose the cities you’ll hit, the attractions you’ll see and where you’ll stay while doing so.

The point here isn’t to make a realistic vacation plan for the next time you can squeeze out a long weekend away from the office.  It’s to get you excited about what’s ahead and what you’ll be able to enjoy when your company is ultimately successful.

Get in a Groove

One of the last things I figured out on my long walk was that there were certain things I needed to do every day for my company, but because I wasn’t doing them efficiently, they were taking up a huge part of my mental energy.  They used to take me hours to complete, but I started changing my routine so that I could get into a groove with my work day.  Now, I can knock them out much faster, which makes me feel super productive – like I’ve unlocked an achievement for completing my mundane tasks as quickly as possible.

If there are specific tasks you have to perform every day, challenge yourself to find a groove that lets you tackle them quickly and efficiently.  With those to-do items out of the way, you’ll have more energy and time leftover to work on the projects that really matter.

Still feeling burned out?  If you’ve tried all of the different strategies I’ve listed above and still find yourself struggling with burnout, you might need to move up that vacation you planned (or a smaller, more affordable version of it).  Taking a break from your work always helps, but it isn’t the most productive way to deal with burnout.  Use this tip only as a last resort once you’ve exhausted all your other options!

Do you have your own strategy for getting through burnout?  Or have you used any of the same techniques I’ve described above?  Share your own coping mechanisms in the comments below!

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One Comment

  1. Garland William Binns III says:

    Thanks for the tips and cheers to turning negative things into positive ones. :)

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