There are days when I get to the office and I am ready to tackle every project, answer every email, and greet every colleague with a smile and an enthusiastic wave. Then there are those days that are, well, not so much. Starting a project is daunting, each email seems to spawn seven more, and I'd much rather hide under my desk than interact with an overly caffeinated co-worker. I think we've all had those days, which in itself isn't alarming. It is when those days turn into weeks, or even months, that can be troubling and is often an indication of burnout.
Career burnout can happen in any industry and in any role, but I think those of us in creative careers can be a bit more susceptible. Long hours, rejected pitches/ideas, demanding clients, overly edited designs and copy can take their toll on the creative spirit and can send even the thickest-skinned professional spiraling towards burnout. While it may seem hopeless, burnout doesn't have to be permanent and is also quite preventable.
Here are nine ways to help you battle your career ennui and reignite your creative drive.
1. Be a Lifelong Learner
Flipping the tassel on your graduation cap shouldn't be the end of your life as a student. Actually, continuing your education provides a myriad of benefits and can help you stave off career burnout.
With all of the new learning technologies, being a lifelong learner doesn't require a degree program or even a classroom (although, those are still fantastic options). Now you can take a course through platforms like Lynda.com, watch how-to videos on YouTube, learn a new language through an app, or listen to Ted Talks on your morning commute. Intellectual stimulation and creative inspiration are often just a few taps or clicks away.
Here's a great list of online learning providers.
No matter what form of continuing education you choose, the potential effects are the same. You'll learn new skills, connect to new ideas, and gain new perspectives; all of which will enrich your work and your life.
2. Hit the Conference Circuit and Engage Online Communities
Tangential to being a lifelong learner is being a participant in your industry and creative communities. Watching a presentation on how someone has solved a challenge you've faced or doing a deep dive on a niche industry topic can have an invigorating effect. There's something about hearing someone speak passionately about a subject that you spend a large part of your day concerned about that can be incredibly reaffirming and bring back that spark.
It's not just the presentations that make conferences valuable, being around people with similar interests and who "geek out" at the same things can help you feel more connected to your work and why it is important. Joining online communities focused on the areas you care about most can have a similar (and less expensive) effect.
3. Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor
Mentors are an invaluable resource at any stage in your career. Beyond the traditional career advice, a good mentor can offer guidance through rough patches, act as a sounding board, and offer wisdom to help you live your best life. Take look at these "10 Benefits of Having Good Mentors."
While having a strong mentor is important, don't overlook the value you can provide. Mentoring can be an incredible way to gain a new perspective on your career and your accomplishments-to-date. Taking on the role of mentor can also be a positive reminder of a different time in your life and career.
While a mentoring relationship is first and foremost to benefit the mentee, the mentor has just as much to gain in experience, confidence, and knowledge. Mentoring can be equally as beneficial as it is fulfilling, as long as you take the time to reflect on your own life, and consider your own lessons as you take the journey into mentorship.
- Alex Lyman, "Why Mentoring Others Has Helped Me"
4. Work On Something Else!
One of the best ways for me to complete a project is to walk away from it. There have been so many occasions where I've stared blankly at my screen, trying to will a solution into existence, only to have that solution retreat further away from me the more I stressed about it. Defeated, I'd close the laptop, and do something else. Anything else. Within minutes the flood gates would open and what was once so elusive was rushing toward me fast and furious.
Here's a fantastic article on the phenomenon.
That may be all fine and well for a single project, but what if you're whole career seems to be the challenge? In our connected world it is almost impossible to get a break from work.
While it may be a bit more of a challenge, there are plenty of ways to take a step back. If you can't take a year-long sabbatical (and most of us can't) the answer might be volunteering on a community project. If you're performance oriented, maybe you can audition for a community theater production or join a barber-shop quartet. Anything that can help you unplug from work and apply your talents elsewhere could be what you need.
5. Find Time for Inspiration
Visit an art museum. Go to a movie in the middle of the day. Take an early morning walk. Look at work that makes you jealous you didn't create it (for us competitive types). Find time to refill your creative well.
6. Be Mindful of Your Physical Health
There is a strong connection between physical and mental health. It is a bit of a domino effect: how you're feeling physically impacts how you're feeling mentally, which controls how you're feeling about work, which can kill creativity. This can also work in reverse.
Getting active, meditating, taking time to breathe, and being mindful of your sleep and dietary habits will have a positive impact on your physical well-being, which can be both mood and life-changing.
Try these "7 Mind-Body Creativity Hacks" to help you re-engage your work and reignite your creativity.
7. Feel Free to Play
When creativity becomes your livelihood, it is easy to forget that you once enjoyed the craft on a completely different level. When responsibilities get tied to passions, it is easy to lose sight of the joy they once provided. Play can help bring that back.
Dr. Stuart Brown, Head of the National Institute for Play, says:
Play is something done for its own sake. It's voluntary, it's pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome... What you begin to see when there's major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they're not much fun to be around. You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.
Give yourself permission to play.
8. Reconnect to Your Environment - Both Physical and Social
It is easy to develop tunnel vision when you're focused on your work and fall into a routine. Take time to reconnect to your physical environment. Put down your phone on your train ride to work and take in the experience and the sights. If you drive to work, roll down the windows one morning and hear the sounds of your city. If you work from home, schedule a 45 minute meeting with yourself and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Take the time to reimmerse yourself into your environment.
Also, take a minute to explore your work space. Perhaps clean out a drawer or rearrange your desk. Sometimes you need to move things around to get a new perspective.
Your physical environment is important, but reconnect with your social one, too. Once you're in a routine it is easy to lose track of people. Schedule a coffee run with a co-worker, or grab lunch with the friend who works down the street.
Sometimes we just need to look up from our work to remember the rich environment we exist in.
9. Challenge Yourself
If you're feeling burned-out it may be time to find new ways to challenge yourself. It might be attempting 1-8 on this list, it may be working towards a promotion, or it might be finding a new gig or even a new career. Take inventory of what brings you happiness, define the priorities in your life and career, and set goals that align with those priorities. Working towards your happiness is a sure way to reignite your creativity and your career.
Ready to take on a new creative challenge? Visit WunderLand today to see current opportunities, sign up for job alerts, our join our network.