burnout

3 Foolproof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

Are you struggling with burnout as we come to the end of the year? I was, until very recently. I think it's pretty common, and probably one reason we look forward to the holidays—we can take a few days off without any guilt.

Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. I also struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I know that as much as I love this time of year, it has other hazards as well.

But I've got a business to run and a job to do, and I know you can relate. I only have the "luxury" of slowing down so much before everything is completely disrupted. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? I don't think so, since most of us arrive on January 2nd's doorstep with that feeling of "needing a vacation from our vacation." 

In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

3 Fool Proof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

REGULAR SELF-CARE PREVENTS BURNOUT

This solution is likely the most obvious answer to you. It's tossed around a lot, especially at the beginning and end of the year. However, in last week's post from my friend, Daron, he points out that self-care is not something to be pursued when you're at the end of your rope. It's to be practiced regularly, throughout the year, so that you don't find yourself a frazzled lump of a person in the fetal position on the floor. (<-- speaking from experience)

I'm certainly not perfect at it, but here's what it looks like for me.

  • Monthly massages. These actually started as a result of some back issues, so it's more of a therapeutic massage, but I get them regularly, even when I'm not having other problems.

  • Travel. I love travel so much. It's life-giving to me. But since I was getting my business off the ground this year, I traveled much less than usual. And boy, did I feel it! I had the opportunity to housesit right before Thanksgiving in the North Georgia mountains for a few days, and just that short time and distance away did wonders for me.

  • Retreats. My goal is to take short, quarterly retreats. For the last two years, I've taken an annual retreat in January, and will be doing so again. But this year, I decided to make them quarterly. I squeezed in two away from home this year (January and March), one in a co-working space (August), and one at home (November). All of these were extremely beneficial, and helped me refocus on work and life.

  • Friends. I have amazing friends, and I'm sure you do too. But with life and work, most of them having kids, and my tendency to be a hermit, I see them far less than I'd like. However, I notice that when I do get together with friends, my days and weeks are better. So, I try and schedule to see friends a few times per month.

  • Walks. I live near a beautiful trail, and I love to get out there and take a walk. Even though I usually listen to business podcasts while I walk, it still does my heart good to be in a natural setting.

These may, or may not, resonate with you. We're all different. They key is to find things you love, and make them a part of your regular schedule. The trick in executing them is to actually put them on your calendar. Good intentions only get you so far, but we often live according to our calendars.

I put my retreat dates on my calendar at the beginning of the year. I schedule my massages a month in advance. My travel is often planned weeks or months ahead too. So, prioritize your self-care throughout the year to avoid burnout at the end.

Accountability partner/peer group

I've had mentors for years, and value them immensely. But this year was the first time I've ever had an accountability partner. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I did for myself and my business this year.

You can do this one-on-one, or with a small group of people. It can be formal, or less so, according to your preferences. I began with a single partner, but we are actually expanding it to a small group of women next year, and are pretty excited about it. 

Depending on your role at your nonprofit or social enterprise, you may already have one or more co-workers that you can confide in, or collude with. That's important, for sure. However, just having someone to gripe and gossip with isn't enough. The accountability piece is vital. You need someone to encourage you, to push you to be better, and to be a sounding board when needed. 

This is especially important for those in leadership positions where there are likely less options for peer-to-peer relationships. So, having someone outside of the organization to be that person is crucial. 

Accountability partners help each other get things done. We motivate one another, and sometimes, we just listen to one another. We all have good days and bad days in lives and in business, and it's a beautiful thing to have someone to help get you through them. Sure, you also have co-workers, roommates, spouses, etc, that can do that as well, but accountability partners relate differently because they should hold a similar position or responsibilities, and have similar goals. They serve a special purpose.

Note: For you introverts out there (my people!), having an accountability partner or peer group is an excellent solution for you too. They're limited in size, so not overwhelming, and we tend to function mostly inside our heads, so we need others to gain more perspective. This solution could be huge for you, so don't skip over it!

Habits/Routines

I'll be honest, this one totally snuck up on me in the past week. I would have never guessed that habits and routines could help fight burnout. And you may be skeptical as well, but hang with me.

Though I am an INFJ (with sometimes some strong emphasis on the J), I still fight the monotony of habits and routines. There are some things I still want to be flexible. In fact, have always liked freelancing for the fact that it changes. I get bored easily, so predictability isn't always my friend.

However, for the past couple of weeks I've been prepping for January. I want to get a strong start, and that means I lay the foundation now. So, I've been participating in some online business challenges to accomplish short-term goals. 

Through the posts, videos, and webinars in these challenges, the hosts have been talking about how successful people have strong morning and nighttime routines, as well as daily habits. The importance of these things is that they will carry you through when the motivation wanes.

We all start the New Year with goals and resolutions, only to wave bye bye to them a few weeks later. And that's often because we didn't build in the habits that would get us to the finish line.

So, I've been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so. When I'm not stressed and in a time crunch, I like to start my day with the Calm meditation app, 5-Minute Journal, and maybe Blinkist. But when I am stressed or feel like I have no time, I skip all of this by waking up and reaching for my phone so that I can check my email. Sound familiar?

I was on several, big deadlines prior to Thanksgiving, and I was stressed. I started feeling burnout creeping in. Luckily, I had that little trip, and that helped, but the beginning of December has been hard again.

So this week, I decided to go back to that slower morning routine that I enjoyed, even though I didn't feel like I had the time. I wasn't waiting for January. I even added in a five-minute yoga video from YouTube. And you know what? It helped my mindset and that has trickled through my day. I also looked at my Calm app, and it showed that I'd skipped all of November. Coincidence? I think not.

These sort of habits and routines also have strong ties to self-care. However, there are many other habits and routines you could choose, such as exercise, eating healthy, taking a nap, focusing on big tasks in the morning, only having meetings after lunch, checking email only twice per day, and many other things. By making any of them a regular part of your life, you are ensuring that you keep functioning and taking care of yourself and your work when times get hard. And this, friends, keeps burnout at bay.

What do you do to combat burnout? I'd love to hear!



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Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat

Continuing along last week's self-care theme of work/life balance being a myth, I wanted to point you to a guest post I wrote recently for the Yellow Conference on "The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat." Now that we're entering the second quarter of 2017, I know I find myself needing to reevaluate my goals for the year, as well as the work I've done so far.

I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people didbut there I found myself.

Depending on the seasons in which your organization operates, you may even already be approaching burnout. Don't let it happen! Please take an opportunity to get away and reflect on the first quarter's progress, your role, and your plans for the next eight months.

Retreats differ from vacations because they have a purpose other than "relaxing." When I plan a retreat, I usually have a couple of large goals in mind that need to be accomplished outside of my normal environment.

And retreats, whether taken by yourself or as a team, can be invaluable for gaining clarity and perspective. 

I believe those who lead cause-focused organizations can easily reach burnout or become bogged down by the mission because of the nature of the work. True, this can happen to anyone, anywhere, but when your nonprofit or business exists to solve a social problem, the work feels more urgent. And often, you know the faces of those in need. Therefore, it's difficult to take a step back, no matter how necessary it may seem.

However, it's often when you bravely set aside the time for yourself, you can actually recharge and come back to the immediate pressures more equipped and able to tackle the tasks at hand. That is something you won't regret.

Learn more about my experience with a personal retreat, as well as a few tips for planning your own:

THE IMPACT OF PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT.

And, funny enough, I wrote along the same theme for a different color. Here are some more tips on how to make retreats a priority as well as how to actually fit them into your schedule in this guest post for Orange Leaders.

PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT

Or, if you prefer to watch a video with tips and advice, check out this Facebook Live from me:

IT’S TIME TO CONSIDER A BUSINESS OR PERSONAL RETREAT



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I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people did—but there I found myself.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Work/Life Balance is a Myth

Let me say it again: Work/Life balance is a myth.

Can I get an amen?

Whether you're a solopreneur, a small business owner or employee, a full-time volunteer, or the head of a multi-national corporation, you've been in search of this "white whale" for too long. And, friends, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't exist.

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed.

You've known this truth in your heart, but for so long, you dreamed of finding it—maybe at the end of the rainbow. It's kept you awake at night. You could even swear that you once met someone who said their cousin found it for a short-time, but then lost it. You've listened to podcasts, read books, joined groups, and prayed really hard, but that elusive work/life balance has continued to evade you.

Is there no hope?

Fear not. There is another . . .

 

Introducing: RHYTHM

I was introduced to this concept several years ago at a conference. I wish I could remember who taught it, because he/she has improved my life immensely with this idea, but sadly, I do not know who to credit.

The crux of the matter is that we can never achieve work/life balance. One will always be in conflict with the other. Despite our best efforts, it's a constant see-saw effect, and many of us tend to dip to the work side, even with our intense desire for the opposite. 

Then comes along the notion of rhythm. According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, rhythm is "movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements." 

I love the mental images this definition projects. I picture ocean waves. I find it relaxing, and that in itself is enough to make me chase this notion.

Think about it. When you consider the idea of "work/life rhythm," you are allowing for what is actually possible. And this means there is hope! 

The most basic approach is one you're probably already familiar with, and that is thinking about life in the form of seasons. By reframing your time this way, you intuitively understand that there is a beginning and end to the periods of stress and madness.

Rhythm in Work

These are the seasons we're probably more familiar with. And I'm in one of those right now. I've been up late most nights and on the weekends trying to catch up on client and personal work because I was down with the flu for a couple of weeks. So, I've been working my tail off to keep my head above water, and feel like I'm back up to speed on what I need to be doing. It's an effort to become more proactive than reactive. I'm not finished with this season yet, but I think I will be soon.

Obviously, some of these seasons last longer than others. Maybe you're in event planning mode. Maybe you have a launch right around the corner. Maybe you just had a staffer leave. Or maybe it's just one of the crazy times of year for your business. Inevitably, it happens.

The point is to hunker down, work hard, and make the best of it. No, it probably won't be fun. But it also won't last forever. The wave is crashing on the shore all around you right now, but there will come a time when it rolls back off the sand. You can do this!

 

Rhythm in Life

These are the seasons when we have more time for friends and family. We take vacations. We leave the office a little early. We go to the movies. We're having a lot more fun. And honestly, these are the times we wish could last a lot longer than they do.

But, alas, it's only a season. Before we know it, our calendars and To Do lists will be full, and our attention will be pulled in a million directions. The tide turns once again. I'm not trying to be a downer, but I am offering some perspective.

The point of this season is to, first and foremost, appreciate it! Whatever you do to show thankfulness, now's the time! Be grateful, and enjoy every minute of it. Next, consider what things you can do during this period of time to get ahead. Put systems in place, work ahead, sharpen your skills, develop your team, etc. There are numerous ways to utilize this time so that the hard seasons are a little bit easier. Use the margin in your schedule to your advantage. 

 

Applications

You may be wondering what this post is doing on a blog about marketing and communications for cause-focused organizations. Fair question. 

I think this post points to self-care, which I think is essential for everyone, but especially those who lead in, and serve at, nonprofits and purpose-drive for-profits. When we are led by a strong, social mission, it's easy to drive ourselves into the ground. After all, the work is never done. The champion of a cause can always do more. But the champion is also of little use to the cause if he/she is suffering from burnout.

I'm here to help you look and sound better to those who support, purchase from, or donate to your organization. I want you to get noticed and grow. And to do that, you need to make whatever season you're in right now work for you, not against you.

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed. 

If you redefine this concept in your mind, you'll be more equipped for your current season, better prepared for the next, and happier overall. 

Stop chasing the white whale, and instead, find your rhythm.

If you're reading this post, it likely means you're at a point where you're feeling overwhelmed. If so, I have more good news! I've outlined five things you can stop doing today to jumpstart your organization's marketing and communications. That's right—five things you can cut out this week to free up your time, energy and focus. What are you waiting for?



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Work/Life balance is a myth. Work/Life rhythm is a guarantee.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.