In 2018, YouTuber Elle Mills posted a video detailing how burnout had impacted her ability to share content with her millions of YouTube subscribers. Since then, it’s become common to see videos, tweets, and posts announcing a break due to burnout.
Burnout is quite severe — 61 percent of creators are facing burnout, according to ConvertKit’s 2022 State of the Creator Economy report. Its effects and consequences vary, but with studies showing that it can take up to three years to recover from burnout, it’s not something anyone should risk.
So whatever your reasons are for creating content, whether to grow a personal brand or build an influencer empire, it’s vital to develop systems for avoiding burnout. How? In this article, we hope to provide an answer to that question. We’ll help you identify signs of burnout and share advice from creators like Jack Appleby and Tori Dunlap on avoiding it entirely.
How can you identify creator burnout?
Burnout manifests in different ways and for various reasons. However, the results are usually the same – you lose the motivation for creative output. To prevent it, you must understand what may be happening in your daily routine that might lead you to burnout. Some reasons you may experience burnout, according to ConvertKit’s report, include:
- Feeling pressure to post consistently and everywhere: There are so many different platforms, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling the need to be everywhere all the time. But that may not be efficient. Experts often refer to niching down to a particular topic, industry, or platform as the best way to make the most of your creative efforts. Of course, leave room for experimentation, but once you know which platforms work best for you and your audience, be confident in your decision to adopt one or stay away.
- Content fatigue: Running out of ideas – and a lack of motivation to find new ones – is one of the clearest signs that you’re burned out. And sticking it out won’t do you or your audience any favors because the perceived value you provide may no longer shine through in your work.
- Comparisons to other creators: It’s commonplace for people to compare themselves to what they see fellow creators doing. But this is never helpful, especially when you only have insights from what they share online. The creative journey is a sprint and rarely has a definite end – growth will happen to everyone even if the paces differ.
- Unable to mentally disengage: The Internet has become omnipresent, making it difficult to disengage even for people who haven’t made it their job to post online. The need to leave your work where it is cannot be overstated – and if you feel like you can’t take a break, you may be on the verge of burnout.
- Physical manifestations: Burnout can exacerbate or lead to anxiety and even depression. If creating and publishing content – or even just the idea – has physical consequences, you may be burned out.
A contributor to this New York Times article about burnout said, “I feel like social media is built to burn people out.” But social media is ultimately just a tool – how you wield it matters more than what it is. Armed with the knowledge of how it can be harmful, you must adopt habits and create systems to avoid or overcome burnout.
Tips from creators on avoiding (or overcoming) burnout
Taking steps to prevent burnout is far more important than fighting burnout when it hits. Here’s what these creators do to avoid burnout.
Set aside time for “life” through boundaries
First and foremost on the journey to avoiding burnout is setting proper boundaries. This helps you find and maintain a balance between what is work and what isn’t. Treat your work like you would a job and create space for separate activities.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Tori Dunlap, founder of HerFirst100k is no stranger to struggling with productivity. As the face of her brand, she often finds herself unable to separate work and life. She says, “I'm [honestly] still working on [avoiding burnout]. I'm navigating it because I care so much [about my work] – it feels like my child that I need to take care of constantly.”
Still, Tori has found ways to disconnect. On how she avoids burnout, Tori says, “I find being present with people that I love is really helpful for me. I love opportunities where I can forget about work because, honestly, they're few and far between.”
Learn to be choosy when it comes to what you create – and where you do it
You can’t be on every platform, and we highlighted the pressure that creators might feel as a potential identifier for burnout. An addendum to that is that you can’t create everything, at least not simultaneously. It’s really difficult – at least without support – to be creating long-form content for YouTube, then chopping it up for TikToks or Instagram Reels and running a blog.
Blogger at Buffalo Sauce Everywhere, Renata Leo, says, “Primarily, you learn to be very choosy with what you create. I would love to take on one million projects at one time, but that’s not realistic and will lead to burnout very quickly. Use self-awareness to recognize which opportunities will bring you joy and not leave you burnt out.”
Take frequent breaks
One of the best parts about being a creator is choosing your hours. This means you decide when to clock in or out and aren’t tied to a nine-to-five schedule. Take advantage of that by disconnecting as frequently as possible.
Jack Appleby, Creator at Morning Brew, in addition to his consistent publishing on Twitter and LinkedIn, shares some timely advice. “Something I am playing around with a lot is when I am doing my work and how I am doing my work. If there's a day where I'm just not feeling creative, or I'm not finding it me to write, I disconnect, turn on a movie in the middle of the day, and then revisit [my work] later at night. Because as long as I deliver my newsletter, they don't care when I write it as long as it's turned in on time.”
Avoid making work for yourself and allow rest so you can always do your best creative work. Matt Parkin, the creator of Mornings with Matt and LinkedIn personality, says, “I used to see empty space in my calendar and strive to fill it with more calendar events. The truth is, you can be even more productive by not filling your entire calendar and taking breaks when you need them. As a creator, there's always more you can be doing, whether it be creating new content, sourcing clients or collaborations, or interacting more with your community. Remember to set boundaries and know that most things can wait until tomorrow, so don't lose sleep trying to get everything done today.”
💡Some practical ways to take a break
- Five-minute meditations you can do at work
- Take a short walk around your office
- Stretch at your desk
- Jot down a gratitude list
- Schedule time to take a break on your calendar
Give yourself wiggle room
Creativity isn’t a tap you can turn on and off – you might have days when you just can’t produce anything. Writer Anna B. Yang has an extensive and impressive track record, published on sites like Webflow in addition to her newsletter. She says, "Because I can't "force" creativity, I give myself some wiggle room. If things don't go as planned, have some time built in to catch up.”
Consider time-blocking for creative work. Anna shares that she already knows how much creative work she can handle on any given day and reserves a block of time (about one and a half to two hours) for her deepest, most focused work. She adds that she also alternates days that require more intensive creative effort with a bit easier work.
“The longer I've been immersed in creative work, the more forgiving I've become. I used to get so frustrated if I couldn't accomplish all the creative work I had planned. Now I realize that if I keep pushing myself too hard, I'll no longer enjoy the work. I've gotten better about pacing myself."
Find a system for productivity that works
Productivity is measured and looks different for everyone. But finding a system that works for you is vital. Consider the factors that might affect your creative output, like your audience, platforms, or content type, and work out a system for producing consistent content.
Shayla Price, the creator of PrimoStats – a searchable database of curated marketing statistics, shared her system for productivity. She says, “I divide my tasks into multiple sub-tasks across several days. This method helps me avoid procrastination and the need to rush through my tasks. So, if I need to write a blog post, I'll draft a paragraph a day or focus on a specific section. It takes me longer to finish the task. However, the consistency ensures that I actually finish the task.”
💡Ways to start creating a system for productivity
- Use popular methods of breaking up your focus like the Pomodoro technique or time blocking
- Try out coworking with other people on platforms like Flow Club and Workfrom for accountability
Automate wherever you can to leave space for creativity
Part of avoiding burnout involves creating systems to manage the work that can happen automatically. Tools like Buffer or Zapier are made specifically to help reduce the need to spread your attention and workload too thin. Invest in tools that help you automate tasks to leave time for other endeavors.