Let’s begin by admitting that I have regrettably become one of my biggest pet peeves: someone who always says they’re “busy”. I used to think that there’s no way anyone can be too busy to make time for time with family and friends, self-love, exercise… You know, all the good stuff.
And along came all the things I said yes to in the last couple of months.
Yes to leading two marketing teams — in a volunteer capacity. Yes to a new campaign at the same time many personal changes were taking over. Yes to committing certain days and nights every week to meetings, phone calls and all manner of things to make myself as available as possible.
The thing is, I just couldn’t say no. And at the end of a three-month intense work period, my body was begging me to stop and forced me into hibernation with an awful cold for whole week.
But here’s the thing — how did I get here?
What happened to my rules of…
- Emailing only during business hours?
- Blocking out days in my calendar for no meetings that suddenly got filled up?
- Working out 4 times a week?
- Always keeping in touch with my loved ones?
I mean, c’mon. I thought I had set myself up for success and balance! And as a freelancer, I prided myself on being able to create my own schedule. What happened instead is that because I had no concept of when to stop working, I just… Didn’t.
You (think) you know where this piece is going: I’ve learned from my mistakes. 10/10 will not repeat again. Here are five things I’ve learned from this one experience that I am going to impart.
I’m going to be honest instead. For someone like me, who I will admit is a little bit of a workaholic, doing good work is a hard habit to quit. I love knowing I’m helping make someone’s life easier or better, whether that’s the nonprofit I work with or clients who can’t write copy or just don’t know how to set up a Twitter account.
Regardless of whether I take on a new project or say no to a potential opportunity, I’ve realized that the only consistent element in both situations has been going with my gut feeling. All this burnout? It could have been avoided if I just listened to that nagging feeling that it wasn’t a good fit for me right now. It might be different for you, but I believe that inherently, we’re always too scared to let something go by… And we often look to someone else to validate that we’re making the right or wrong decisions, even if we know deep down what our instincts are telling us.
a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason
So I took a step back to listen to myself.
And by letting my instinct overtake my urge to plunge into every opportunity that came my way, in the last month, I’ve officially stopped taking in new clients until next February — because I’m at capacity! BOOM.
The takeaway here isn’t to say no when you’re like, “eh, I’m not sure” — it’s to take stock of your physical and mental health, assess how it will impact all the parts of your life (like calling your family every week — sorry grandma…) and most importantly: does it feel right and is it worth it? Listen to your body and your mind, and hopefully, you’ll catch yourself before burnout comes for you.