It’s Thursday afternoon.
You look at your list of things you needed to get done this week, working ON YOUR BUSINESS and well… you’re not there. The work isn’t done and the motivation to get it done has evaporated.
You had ambitious goals, but for some reason the energy to make it happen simply doesn’t exist.
It feels like driving a car with the emergency brake on.
If you can relate to this experience or feeling, then know you’re not alone and creative burnout may be to blame. Now I don’t want you to panic…
You love your work.
You love your business.
But everyone has their limits.
Symptoms of Creative Burnout
Creative burnout is not a death sentence and it happens to everyone from time to time. So before we dive into a few tips that may help you overcome or manage your creative burnout, let’s talk about a few symptoms so you know what to look for.
- Fatigue – this is likely the most obvious. You’ve got the ideas, you may even have a plan on how to get from ideas to execution, but when fatigue hits all you want to do is lay your head on your desk, or go curl up with a good book.
- Avoidance – I know when I’m experiencing creative burnout, one of the first things that happens is I go looking for other things to focus my attention on.
As an example, I had a creative project recently that I knew I was excited about, but still in burnout, I chose to work on my taxes instead!
- Dread – this tends to be a really noticeable sign to those that are usually present to their own energy. Where last week, you were excited to get started with your week, or your day, this week it’s a feeling of dread. You’re not looking forward to diving in…it’s like your mind is preventing you from doing the things you need to do and your heart is missing.
- Unproductivity/Easily Distracted – My sense, and I don’t see a lot written on this topic (future blog post…perhaps!),is that most entrepreneurs are good at being self motivated or self driven.
But when you’re experiencing creative burnout, you’re anything but. It’s these days that I find myself mindlessly scrolling TikTok, or randomly painting a wall in my house.
Navigating Creative Burnout
Now that we’ve covered a few symptoms of burnout, it’s time for a little hope!
Like I mentioned, creative burnout is not a death sentence for you or your business. So here are a few things to be mindful of, to help yourself through this period:
- Focus on the Big Picture – So today wasn’t stellar…maybe the week looks a lot like that. There’s likely a reason for this and when we become laser focused on what’s happening right in front of us, we lose sight of all the amazing things that we’re doing.
Not every day, week or even month is going to be epic and sometimes our frustration with ourselves is simply because we expect to bring our A-game every minute of every day…which by the way is not sustainable.
- Progress Not Perfection – My mentor shared this with me last year because I am apparently hard on myself. If you’re in the thick of creative burnout, consider adjusting the expectations.
Scale back the demand and make a point of celebrating all the wins, even the itty bitty ones. It’s not perfect, it never will be, but it’s highlighting the wins you were capable of at that time.
- Always Be Learning – This is really big! If we allow ourselves to believe there are NO MISTAKES, then this period of burnout is here to teach us something.
Maybe it’s your mind forcing you to stop and pay attention and rest.
Maybe it’s an invitation to make a pivot or change or to reflect further on your next creative endeavor.
Allowing yourself the freedom and space to be learning, even in periods of challenge or resistance is fundamental in truly creating the business of your dreams. There are no mistakes.
- Plan for Ebbs & Flows – What if, instead of being hard on yourself because you’re struggling to be your most creative and productive self all the time, you plan for ebbs and flows in your business and your productivity?
My experience has demonstrated that I will have these amazing bursts of creativity. I’m energized, excited, motivated and even sometimes bummed that I have to stop working because I am enjoying it so much.
And then when that project is completed, there’s almost always a lul, or an ebb. It’s like my mind and body need to take a breath and catch up after all that running I was doing.
If we plan for the ebbs, we’re not nearly as hard on ourselves, but giving room for recovery or rest, which is likely needed to be energized for the next flow.
My last two pointers are things I have used in the past that have helped me when times are tough – first, Eat the Frog…do the hard things first. If you want to know what I mean about this, I wrote about it in a previous blog. You can read that here.
Everyone will experience creative burnout differently. How the symptoms show up, how long it lasts, and what we need to do to work through the challenge is up to us.
But if we believe that we are always giving 100% of our best effort all the time, then it even gives room for creative burnout.
Do you have other thoughts for what has worked best for you in managing your own creative burnout? Share in the comments below.