You don’t suck at your job: You’re burnt out
I had always been a hard worker, no matter what job I did. Even back when I was a waitress in college, I would pick up as many double-shifts as possible. I held two jobs every year since I was 16, up until college. There, I worked three jobs outside of school to pay for college, one that required me to take a 1-hour bus ride back and forth to get to. I even taught myself to code while in school so I could pick up freelance work and pay for school.
This being said, I never understood why some of my colleagues could "break the rules" and just lounge at work...I was always deeply committed to the employer I was working for and I respected the fact that they were paying me to do a job, and in return, I needed to do the best job I could. I could never understand why some people didn't have this mentality, and it frustrated me immensely when I began employing people. Why don't the employees just "care to care"? So what if they aren't making a ton of money now, don't they see that the progress they make now will set them up for the future? Why don't they understand that they're still being paid to do the job they're doing, so they should do the best they could?
Now in 2017, I began my own company. This was not with the great ambition of becoming the best digital marketing company in the world, in fact, I just wanted to be able to work from anywhere and have a decent amount of clients so I could transition to London, England. It was a rocky start, to say the least. I was so excited about my first set of clients, that I commit to them for a significantly less amount than I should have. I knew marketing up and down but nothing about running a business.
Don't even get me started on trying to learn business accounting in the midst of all of it...I had to learn from a few classes on Lynda and I had to have my entrepreneurial boyfriend teach me what felt like basic math [didn't I pay thousands of dollars in student debt to learn these things?]. Then, when the business began to grow, it became difficult to manage, since some of my oldest client's weren't paying me enough to allow me to hire someone else to work on their accounts. This meant a lot of manual work and overtime for me, which was fine because I'm a "hard worker".
It's funny because everyone [and when I say, everyone,, I mean largely the Instagram Social Media Accounts that glamorize "BE YOUR OWN BOSS!" and "WORK FROM ANYWHERE"] don't always show the not so fun side of 70 hour weeks and stressing on a Saturday because you COULD be up working on that website, or you COULD be catching up on next week's work. Nope, life is full of beaches and good vibes......[if only]
Another key thing they don't teach you is how to avoid the burnout. I didn't know what burn out was until recently.
Let me start off by saying, I LOVE my job. I work with business owners throughout the U.S. and Europe, and I love marketing and web development, because well I'm a total tech nerd...but lately, I was stressed, had a negative attitude, was losing sleep over deadlines and projects. One morning, I received a wave of criticism from a project I was working on. It was a high powered attorney in New York and an old client of mine, and he wanted me to completely redo a landing page I had done for him. I spent hours on that landing page and at this point, I was just going to be losing money on that project! After reading that at 4AM I just had a break...I thought,"screw this, I just want to quit". I am NOT a quitter, and yes, I was being VERY melodramatic that morning [I was never going to actually quit], but I suddenly realized that I burned myself out.
This was not a normal feeling for me to feel like giving up and it was because I overdid it...burn out was a real thing. I've heard it countless times and I have even read this in Arianna Huffington's recent book "Fearless" but as a typical millennial, I had to have it slap me on the face before I listened.
BALANCE IS CRUCIAL.
Here is how I found my balance, and to all those entrepreneurs out there, I hope you learned a little something for my experiences.
1) When you're out of work you NEED to disconnect.
Unfortunately, with technology these days, we don't have an off switch anymore. We get demanding e-mails to our phones when we're out to dinner. We get notifications of meetings the following day on a Sunday reminding us that work is around the corner. It's so important to disconnect from work when you are away from work, which is even more difficult if you work from home.
How do I do it? I turn off my notifications for my work e-mails and G-chat sometimes when I truly want to be present in the moment. The truth is, there is rarely a time that I've ever turned my notifications back on and saw that I missed some pertinent e-mail that I needed to read instead of enjoying dinner with my friends. I also avoid talking about stressful work situations when I'm outside of work. It just reminds me of all the things I need to be doing, and drives my loved ones CRAZY. (If I tell my boyfriend another one of my brilliant inventions at 5AM in the morning, he's going to go mad).
2) Find something in your day to look forward to.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm a gym nut. Not for aesthetic reasons but because I like training for upcoming races throughout Europe and the U.S. This is also my outlet. It's SO important that you find something that you look forward to doing or that will help relieve your stress. Some people do yoga, meditation, cook dinner etc.
3) Be realistic about expectations for yourself.
You are not perfect. You will make mistakes, especially if you're just starting off in a business. Your clients are supposed to give you feedback- they are paying you to do a job. Sometimes, you will make a mistake, and you will hear about it, and you just need to take it on board without it ruining your day/week/ year. You also can't accomplish everything in a day., and you can't expect yourself to never make any mistakes. There will be mistakes made, and these are meant to be learning experiences. (Next week, I'm going to discuss criticism because that's a HUGE challenge I'm working on atm).
4) Look out for Physical and Attitude Changes
Exhaustion and a negative attitude can indicate burnout.
Physical changes can include neck tightening, headaches, stomach pains.
Attitude changes can include lack of motivation and a more negative outlook.
..... All signs of burnout!
Get some sleep, and take up a new hobby, a new dance class, volunteering or learning new skills can help reduce and distract from this.
5) Second guessing your abilities, disconnecting with clients and colleagues and slowing productivity can also indicate burnout.Some people lose confidence in their ability to do their job and disengage. Turn to your friends, family, co-workers to ask about your performance. Now, constant re-assurance can indicate a bigger self confidence issue, but if it's as of lately, setting reasonable goals can also help regain confidence.
Burn out is a real matter, and I applaud you for being a hard worker, but be sure to create balance in your life. "I wish I could go back and tell myself that not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance. Performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder and giving. That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion" -Arianna Huffington.