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How to overcome burnout and stay motivated

Whether you’re building a startup or living the freelancer life, the expectation to remain continuously motivated and moving forward can at times become exhausting. As all entrepreneurs know, productivity and efficient use of resources is crucial to success, especially early on.

Between working on the core business, marketing, and operational activities plus networking and trying to maintain a personal life, opportunities to breathe and take a step back can be scarce. This can quickly lead to burnout and difficulty in moving towards your bigger goals and vision.

Burnout is defined by feelings of exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm, motivation and ineffectiveness. It can be a result of external stressors such as a difficult client, impending deadline or the sense that you are being pulled in too many directions.

It’s natural for people to experience burnout. Developing the ability to recognise the warning signs, as well as developing strategies to deal with burnout, will result in increased long term productivity.

Taylor Bradford, Podcaster and Creative Entrepreneur Coach at Boss Girl Creative, says her journey in online business hasn’t been without periods of experiencing burnout.

“There have been many times within my online business journey where I’ve quite literally hit a wall with creating new content and being productive. Especially within the content creation for my Life-Inspired Blog, Pink Heels Pink Truck,” Ms Bradford said.

“The online business is a side hustle for me. By day, I run our family business and by night, I’m full on blogger, podcaster, coach/mentor, online biz guru. I have the flexibility to work on some of it during the day, but most of it is created at night.

“But if you can imagine, that means I’m working non-stop every single day. A person can hit the burnout factor real quick working that way.”

Having the ability to know when it’s time to step back and refresh your perspective is often more beneficial for your long term productivity than continuing to push through road blocks.

“It’s happened to me a few times,” Ms Bradford said. “And I know it will happen to me in the future. I just have to prepare myself for those times and give myself some grace to take a step back and regroup.”

Apart from hitting burnout as a result of overworking, solving a challenging creative problem can also prove difficult when you are trying to move ahead and work on the rest of your endless to-do list.

Brisbane’s own Stephen Phillips, CEO of Mawson Robotics says he uses a few techniques to avoid creative roadblocks when he is solving a problem.

“I always work on several problems at once. Creative ideas come from seeing old problems in new ways,” said Mr Phillips.

“If a problem feels blocked, I let it go for a while. Nothing good comes from pushing against a problem that feels like a wall.”

“I try to always break big problems into several smaller problems. Likewise, aggregate smaller problems into a bigger problem. Each method will present new questions and lines of research.”

With the increased awareness of everyone’s achievements and current projects provided through social media channels, it can also be confronting to see another startup or professional in your network kicking goals when you’re feeling unmotivated at the time.

Giving yourself a break, looking for inspiration and finding effective strategies to overcome this while managing your external reputation is key. Ms Bradford says taking a step back and doing something she loves helps her recharge.

“For me, regrouping means falling back in love with the hobbies that I have. Getting lost in a book, spending time outside in my gardens, hanging out with friends and family,” she said.

“It usually doesn’t take long before I’m wanting to get back to moving my online business forward again.”

“To the outsider, you would never know I’ve hit that wall. While I give myself grace to just be me in the moment, I do not let my lack of creativity/productivity get in the way of championing my community forward. Because even in doing so, it feeds my own soul and helps me recharge too.”

While it can be difficult to take a step back initially and see things from a new perspective when you are experiencing burnout, including the strategies below in your daily routine will keep you motivated and prepared for new opportunities.

Top tips to give time back to yourself:

  1. “What I’ve come to conclude in my own business walk is that I need to schedule in time for myself. And by scheduling time, I’m referring to appointments in my calendar. Things that I can schedule in that I can’t overlook, no matter the circumstances,”- Taylor Bradford.
  1. “I try and read every single night for at least an hour. Knowing that I want to do that allows me to finish up work sooner so that I can have that time to myself,”- Taylor Bradford.
  1. “My conscious mind is good for self-review and direction, while my sub-conscious is much better at creativity. I will now often just use my conscious mind to absorb and learn as much as I can about a problem, without judgement or analysis, and then leave it to stew a while in my sub-conscious. Sometime later my sub-conscious will present me with a new approach to the problem”- Stephen Phillips.
  1. “Above all, doing anything is better than nothing. Just keep busy and ideas will present themselves when they are ready. The best solution to your problem is nearly always simple, yet hiding in plain sight. You just need to look away for a while and look at it again later with fresh eyes”- Stephen Phillips.

Image credit: Leeroy/StockSnap

About Nicola Smith

Nicola Smith is a research and policy analyst with experience in the property and technology industries. She also founded NSConsulting to ensure her clients' professional branding is effectively articulated through cover letter and resume writing services. With a strong corporate grounding, Nicola’s interest in Brisbane start-ups was sparked through her work in the technology industry and creative arts background. In her spare time, Nicola attends ballet class and dreams of her next travel destinations.