How to Avoid Burnout

how to avoid burnout

Burnout can be super terrifying for a creative person or a small business owner. Things are getting a little stressful at the moment (particularly if you're a student!) I've got some tips of my own to help you avoid burnout and keep things moving!

Set Yourself a number of 'Pages'

One tip I have picked up from being in tutorials with other illustration students is setting yourself a certain number of pages to do each day. Recently lots of people took on a brief to design a cover and illustrations for the book War Horse. So many people were panicking about how on earth they were going to learn to draw a horse in time to submit the design to a competition. Achieving something like this can seem super daunting and the kind of thing that is simply 'endless'. However, my tutor pointed out that if you can simply do a certain number of pages a day, you start to collate a pretty impressive volume of work fairly quickly.

This is often helpful to avoid burnout because instead of labouring for hours and hours over something, you can simply set your number of pages, complete them, and then move on to what else you have to do. I find that this prevents you from wasting time half heartedly staring at a project that never feels like it is going to finish, and allows you to chip away at a few different projects at the same time.

Timetable Your Week

Okay so I'm not talking setting yourself double maths and a break for lunch, but dividing up my weekday into 'ceramics day' and project 1 day' has allowed me to make progress on a lot of different projects all at once (I'm currently juggling 4!) and I find it is helpful to eliminate that feeling of overwhelm - there is nothing worse than reaching the end of the week and realising that you have only made progress on one project, and there are still three others in the background that are at a complete standstill. It gives me a much greater sense of achievement at the end of the week, and definitely stops me from running myself into the ground.

Switch Off

This feels like the most obvious one, but it's probably one of the most important ways to avoid burnout - it is so important to take a break from your work and switch off. It doesn't have to be a long time, but it's important to watch an episode of something or do some knitting, etc.

Write yourself a To Do List at the end of your 'shift'

So we all know that every blog post about burnout out there is likely to recommend getting a 'cut off' point and getting a good night's sleep. We all know we should, but when the panic of feeling like there is so much still to do is rising, it can be hard to do what you know you should do. One thing I have found helpful when bedtime rolls around and I am reluctant to actually stop working and head to bed, is to write myself tomorrow's to-do list. It makes it feel less like you are abandoning all of your work to give into such silly things as sleep, and instead makes me feel like I have my shit together, and know exactly what I am going to tackle tomorrow. Obviously, you still have to wear down the to-do list. but it can really help with the stress and stop you from feeling so overwhelmed.

Divide up your To-Do lists

Speaking of To-Do lists, I think we can all identify with the concept of an enormous 7 page to-do list. Probably a load of the things on there are a load of stuff that you know you need to do, but can't do, but don't want to forget about. Or, you know the ones where you need to do one of the other things before you can cross off some of the other stuff. It creates a ridiculously list that never gets shorter and just keeps getting added to. When I was feeling particularly overwhelmed the other week, I decided to tackle my to-do lists by splitting it up into different areas. I wrote myself a 'project 1' to-do list, a 'dissertation to-do list' a 'house' to-do list, etc.I pinned them all up onto my wall, and then simply selected the most urgent things (or the things that needed to be done before I could do the other things) and organised them onto today's to-do list. I found that this was really useful for preventing that overwhelming feeling of flicking through several pages of to-do list and wondering where the hell to even start. In much the same ways as splitting up your week into 'days' and setting yourselff a number of pages, this method helps to prevent overwhelm by giving you that feeling that you are chipping away at your various projects/commitments regularly.

Break Your Tasks Down

Okay so even more terrifying than the biggest to-do list in the world, is, to me, a huge to-do list that never seems to get done. The most frustrating thing is getting half way through tasks, not being able to complete them for whatever reason and therefore not being able to tick them off. It has a way of making you feel like you have achieved nothing. So, I find that simply breaking down these tasks can be hugely helpful in avoiding burnout. Instead of giving myself a task like 'finish sketches for project 1' I might break this task down into 'finish sketch 1 for project 1, finish sketch 2 for project 1, finish sketch 3 for project 1' etc, or a more bloggy example would be 'take photo for blog post, write words  for blog post, schedule blog post, schedule tweets for blog post'. etc. It does tend to make my list huge, but it allows me to tick off those satisfying check boxes a lot more often, which creates a feeling of accomplishment, and allows me tofeel happier taking a break.

 Write your To-Do list on a Post-It Note

I read this one in a book recently, and I thought it was a neat idea. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed simply by giving ourself more than is humanly possible to do.  I really dislike when people say 'tasks fill the amount of time you give it' because I completely diagree. Yes, if you give yourself all day to do something, it will probably take you all day. But sometimes you just can't photograph, write and schedule a blog post in half an hour if you want it to be any good, and you most definitely can't give yourself a time frame to complete an illustration in. It always takes longer than expected.

I am excellent at completely underestimating how long things will take to do (even making mood boards!) and therefore adding far too much to the day's to do list and expecting to get it all done. I have since taken to sticking a post-it note inside my diary, and prioritising my to-do list onto the 5-or-so things I can actually fit on a to-do list. Being able to tick off an entire to-do list is the most satisfying thing, and helps to prevent me from flicking through  a several page to-do list dejectedly.