Okay, so welcome to week 12 of the 12 books in 12 months challenge. Right now, we’re nearing the end of December, which means if you started at the same time as I did, you should (on average at least) approaching the end of your third book.
Well, if you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t released a video in two weeks. The first week I announced that I was skipping it because I needed a “me” day. But I got that “me” day, and then I skipped the next week as well. And this time I didn’t really have an excuse for it. I just simply get around to it.
Well my videos were not the only thing that suffered. The first week I only wrote 11,000 words, instead of my goal of 15,000. And the same thing happened this week. I completely missed a full day each week, and that is the first time that I haven’t written on a day that I had been scheduled to write. I’ve taken a few breaks here and there, but those were always planned. This time, I just took a day and didn’t write.
Yep, I’ve been finally experiencing the dreaded burnout.
First of all, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term in the context of authoring, burnout is this state that we often get in when we’re just, essentially, tired of working. Right? We’ve been working on a book for a long time, or several books, and creativity is draining. It really is! And you go for too long and eventually you’ll start having difficulty getting yourself to write, and feeling tired, etc.
Now, I do believe that what we think is burnout is not always burnout. For example, the first time during this challenge that I thought I was experiencing burnout was after I finished my first book and immediately started into my second. And the reason that was kind of a hard transition is because I’m kind of used to taking breaks between books, as a sort of celebration. But I didn’t have that, and so it was kind of jarring. But after a few days of writing and making progress on the next book, I eventually got over that, and realized that it wasn’t true burnout. True burnout is when things get steadily worse and worse if you don’t do anything about it, and that wasn’t the case here.
I’m also pretty sure I know what’s causing my burnout in this instance. It’s near the holidays and I think I have this sort of expectation of a vacation coming up, and that’s sort of zapping my will to work like a crazy person.
Now I work in higher-ed, so I’ve have a week off this week, for the holiday break, and I do plan on taking some of that time to relax, but I’m also taking some of it and basically pretending that I’m a full-time author for those days. That should help me catch up on a few thing, I’m hoping. Because that’s one of the bad things about burnout is that you often get behind, and then by being behind, you get even more overwhelmed, and it becomes a downward spiral. And for me, when I hit burnout, I really hit it bad. Not only do I have trouble with writing, but I have trouble with eating healthy, with keeping track of finances, with productivity at my day job. Like it really gets bad. And I can’t afford that.
So I do believe that one of the best solutions to burnout is to just keep working. And that might sound tough, but I’ve also found that when I take a break, I take a LONG break, and get weeks, sometimes even months behind. And I can’t afford that, and to be honest with myself, I don’t need that either. I can actually get over burnout without that, if I’m being honest with myself.
Now this entire challenge and most of these videos have all been about productivity and softening the effects of burnout, because it can be a huge drain on productivity. And I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on my recommendations to avoid burnout because I’m literally releasing a video each week on that very subject. But here are just some quick tips.
- Take one day off. Now this may seem contradictory to what I just said about not stopping work. But you do want to take at least one day off. And really take it off. Don’t do anything that you normally do. Get away if you can and do nothing. Like literally nothing. Just 100% relax and maybe use the time to reflect on where you are, and what goals you have, and why you have those goals.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness will help you identify what exactly is causing your burnout. Is it stress, is it because you have too many things to do, are you getting the right amount of sleep, are you eating right? These kinds of questions will go a long way to helping you identify what the real problem is (because burnout can be a number of things), so you can better fix those issues. Meditation and prayer, if you believe in it, can be a big help for this.
- Schedule play time. I’ve talked a lot about time management, and I still have an episode to do on calendaring. But a big part of that is scheduling time to just relax. I do this on a daily basis. I schedule breaks throughout my days. And I have at least an hour of relaxation time at the end of the day scheduled. This time is sacred, and I do not let work or anything get in the way of it. I would also recommending taking at least one day off on the weekends, and scheduling in a short vacation, even if it’s like a three-day weekend away from home, at least once a quarter. Schedule buffer time. For example, for this challenge, I made sure I had two week’s worth of buffer time, as well as weekends, to make sure that if I missed a day, there was still an option to finish my goals. I still write on weekends sometimes, but I don’t require it of myself.
- Form habits. Honestly, I think this is the best solution to burnout. There are tons of books about habits, and why they are good for you. But the short of all that is that habits help so that it takes less willpower to get a thing done. When it takes less willpower, you will avoid burnout more often than not. My writing habit has been the only thing getting me through the last two weeks. Because I write at the exact same time every single week day. You don’t actually have to worry about missing weekends as much because we operate on a different schedule on weekends, usually, with different sets of habits. And that goes along with the idea of breaks.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, spend time with loved ones. And if you don’t have anyone you would consider a loved one, spend time with a friend, and if you don’t have one of those, GO FIND ONE! Studies show that our relationships have the most to do with our happiness and with living a long life. And I think we all want both of those. I’ve found that spending time with my future wife has been one of the most important ways to let my mind relax and recharge.
Now I could, and probably will, do a whole episode on each of those. But I wanted to start with that, because I finally hit a bit of burnout myself, and I think I’m starting to get over it, but I’m expecting it to happen again. Though honestly, I thought I would hit it a lot earlier than I did, so I’m actually pretty pleased that it’s taken this long. And I attribute that mostly to the tips I outlined in this video.
So hopefully that helps, and as always I will be back with more tips and tricks on how to stay productive and avoid burnout, as we continue down this 12 books in 12 months challenge.