Burnout is a slow process.
It doesn’t happen overnight; it happens one blog post, one stressful day, one hurtful comment, one moment at a time.
It happens to writers and creatives and entrepreneurs.
And it can kill a blog, a business, even a family.
Honestly, the formula for avoiding burnout is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: you have to stay filled.
Let me show you what I mean:
My parents recently moved to South Florida, where they have an outdoor swimming pool they can enjoy year-round. But they have to keep the pool filled, which requires a careful dance. You see, the water level has to stay above the filters in order for them to work properly, but they don’t want to waste water by overflowing the pool just to have the water go down the drains in the patio. Thankfully, there are a few inches of leeway to allow for the natural evaporation and rain cycle.
Sometimes — during the heat of the summer or when certain grandchildren are splashing in the pool several times a day — the water level gets low enough that they have to fill it with the hose, which can get expensive. So as it starts to get low, they start watching the forecast: Will it rain? How long can they hold out before they have to fill it? On the other hand, sometimes they get monsoon-like storms that cause the pool to overflow. That’s great news…except when it happens the day after they’ve spent the money to fill the pool from the hose!
So they look for ways to strike a balance, to keep it full enough so that everything works as it should without wasting money on filling it with too much water.
Similarly, in order to keep creating, running a blog, writing, etc., you need to stay filled — emotionally, spiritually, physically. That means spending time with your family, reading a good book, listening to music that feeds your soul, exercising your body, appreciating the beauty around you. It doesn’t mean you spend all your time consuming, but it does mean making room to breathe and think and dream, to let your heart and mind form connections and fill you up.
That’s why the best ideas often happen in the shower, where you’re relaxed and alone, if only for five minutes. Or why inspiration strikes when you’re not at your computer but out hiking with your family or sipping coffee with a friend.
In the five years since I started blogging professionally, I’ve taken four significant blogging breaks (most recently as part of my maternity leave), and the result is always the same: a few days in, inspiration strikes. My vision and dreams for the future become clearer, unclouded by the stress of daily pressures. The post ideas begin to flow as I focus on living my life rather than writing about it. And by the end, I’m usually itching to dive back in and start creating once more.
We tend to think that we don’t have time to take a break, that it’s too hard to work ahead or that our readers will simply disappear if we stop writing. But a week or two away (or even a month) really won’t kill your blog, and it’s worth preparing a few posts in advance if posting regular content is important for you.
To be honest, at the beginning of every break my fear isn’t that my blog won’t survive but that I’ll never want to return. And it’s true: I love not having to-do lists and projects and just being able to read and spend time with my kids and go do things…for a few days. But I also really enjoy working, and it doesn’t take long before I’m itching to jump back in.
If you haven’t taken a blog break in the last year — or ever — now’s the time to get one on the calendar for 2014. It’s worth it. I promise!
Ways to prepare for a break:
- Schedule reposts of your most popular posts for while you’re gone. Be sure to include a day or two on each end of the break, especially if you’ll be traveling, so that you have time to get in the mindset of your break and ease back into work.
- Collect guest posts from other bloggers you respect and schedule those ahead of time.
- If you prefer to post fresh content from yourself, write a few posts ahead of time.
- Or, simply announce that you’re taking a break and don’t worry about scheduling posts ahead of time.
While on your break, be sure to have a notebook handy. Don’t try to force the ideas to flow (that defeats the purpose of a break), but you’ll want to be ready to write them down once they start to flow!
And in between your regular breaks, look for ways to unplug every day:
- Make time for a daily cup of coffee or cup of tea away from the computer
- Read a book
- Read a magazine
- Go for a walk with your family
- Listen to a podcast
- Put music on while you clean/cook/whatever
- Play a game
- Commit to unplugging for a certain period of time every day
While the idea of making time away from the computer can cause its own kind of stress, the benefits of making it happen outweigh the stress every time!
How often do you intentionally unplug? When was the last time you took a blogging break?