Dealing with Creative burnout is something that both Allie and I experience quite a lot. It’s a challenge that many of us face, and can be especially hard when your job requires you to be creative every day! These artistic careers can be highly rewarding, but also require high amounts of energy. If you have lost the energy to do your creative work, and find yourself procrastinating, this may be a sign of burnout. Learning how to manage your creative burnout is key to any successful creative entrepreneur. Finding exactly what works for you can take a little trial and error, so I’ve put together a few techniques that I use that are a good place for you to start.
Just like resting any overworked muscle, you can rest your creative muscle by participating in other activities that don’t require their use. Watch that movie, binge a new TV show, spend time on Pinterest building your dream house board or searching for great recipes — recharge your creative brain by looking outwards. Take a moment to away from your work environment, enjoy some nature and of course put away your phone. Our culture of non-stop work often undermines the importance of taking breaks.
Understanding when you’re the most creative (and when you’re not) can be key to avoiding burnout. I know that personally I’m super creative between 6am and 11am. Allie’s creative spark is from 9am to noon. We both treat those times as sacred for the creative portion of our workdays. I turn my phone on silent, close my email and put on my favorite playlist. While Allie makes some tea, and listens to her favorite podcasts. That usually gets our creative juices flowing. But that’s just us. Some people hit their creative stride early in the day, while others may hit it later in the day. There is no universal “right” time. It all depends on your internal schedule.
Okay so this one is a big struggle for all of us!!! When was the last time you said no to a request from a client, coworker, business partner or even to a friend or family member? If you want to maintain your creativity, it’s important to draw boundaries around your own needs. If you have trouble saying no, at least start by suggesting an alternative when someone tries to add to your already busy workload.
Sit down once a day and do something creative — just for fun. When it’s your job to be creative, the pressure can really build up. Find a completely unrelated creative outlet, or work on personal projects to remind yourself how much fun creating can be. I love making live terrariums and sketching non-work related art on my Ipad. Allie loves to try out new recipes and sparks her joy with creating youtube videos. Find a hobby that you can focus on to clear your mind of work related stresses.
Recognizing when you are reaching creative burnout is important for avoiding it. We all have limitations. Whether that’s the kind of work we can do, the number of hours we can put in, or the number of days we can work before having a complete breakdown. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we’re not working at least 40 hours per week, we’re lazy. But creative work can’t be done in the same way. We have the ability to do roughly four hours of creative work per day. Trying to force yourself to do eight or more hours, day in and day out, will lead to burnout.
Knowing the kind of work that leaves you feeling fulfilled and energized versus the kind of work that drains you can be an important limitation to recognize. You can take on more of the first kind of work than the second without burning out. Finding the right balance between the two can be key. If you know that you’re most productive with a four-day creative workweek, then don’t take on more work than that
Dealing with creative burnout isn’t something you can avoid, but as long as you acknowledge it and make some changes to your routine, you’ll be able to overcome it.