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What Burnout Feels Like & Why Rules of Thumb Are Not the Gospel Truth

As you’re reading this, I’m trekking all over London with a friend I haven’t seen in five years.

Actually, I’m writing this two weeks in advance, in anticipation of the trip, but I can already tell you it’s awesome.

I’d like to say that I’m on this trip right now because I recognize the importance of work/life balance, that I realized how necessary travel was for my soul during my expat years, and that my business affords me the time and freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want.

But it doesn’t.

And I can’t say those things.

The real reason I’m here is because I burnt out and just couldn’t fucking take it anymore.

I started to hate every single aspect of the city I love & live in. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get excited about my work anymore.

Other burnout symptoms I was experiencing included:

  • Wanting to bite off the head of my best friend when she asked me for an important favor that took a lot of courage for her to ask.
  • Just staring at my computer screen, wanting with everything in me to start working, but I just couldn’t.
  • I was noticeably excited about everything else in your life, except for my work.
  • My monthly revenues were slipping, and I wasn’t doing anything to proactively prevent it or push them in the other direction.
  • I knew you want to be at the “next level” in my business, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom a way to get there.
  • I literally felt a sense of desperation deep within my chest every time I thought about my business.
  • I beat myself up with guilt when I didn’t work for full workdays because I was so burnt out… but I just know it meant more of a grind later in the week.
  • I’d actually perfected my productivity to an impressive degree, but couldn’t muster the energy to do any additional work on your business in the spare time I’d saved.
  • Meditation just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.
  • No matter how hard I exercised, no level of endorphins was strong enough to beat my frustration to a pulp.

So if you notice just one of these in your life, I’m begging you to step back and assess what you can do to improve your situation. (Please, I mean it. Like I said, I’m actually writing this two weeks before said vacation and I’m on the brink of tears for absolutely no particular reason… and no, it’s not PMS.)

And for the record guys, I didn’t ever “hustle”. I didn’t work a bit on the weekends or late at night.

I didn’t use one ounce of brain power towards my business on Saturdays or Sundays.

And thinking about it now, the fact that I wasn’t able to do that (even if I wanted to) is probably also a sign of burn out.

So, I’m taking a vacation.

My contracted work revenue for November is the lowest it’s been in six months, so I blocked of one week—Saturday through Sunday—to fly to London, stay in a hostel, and geek out over all the culture and nerdy things to do there.

Plus, you know, afternoon tea. Pretty sure I’m going to take part in that every. single. day.

But I think the reason this burn out snuck up on me so quickly was because I was following all the “rules” of work/life balance.

Sure, it was easy to see why I burnt out so hard in my corporate career—we were required to work on Saturdays. (The company “gave” us six “vacation” days per month in our contracts—4 Sundays & 2 Saturdays. Total bullshit.)

So when I went out on my own, I made sure I basked in the glory that was not working past dinner time or on weekends.

And for a long time, that rule of thumb seemed to be working.

But the thing is, my goals are anything but rule of thumb.

I have a huge, almost-painful-to-think-about financial goal that I set for myself to achieve by the end of next year… 14 months from now. (I know it’s 100% possible, but it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done, which is what makes it scary.)

I still know it’s possible, but when you’re working with non-rule-of-thumb goals, you can’t really abide by rule-of-thumb rules and expect it to work out.

So I’m changing my perspective.

And I’m inviting you to change your perspective, too.

The rules of thumb no longer working for me are these:

  • Grow your business & revenue gradually, bit by bit.
  • Guest post your ass off and your sanity away until you have the number of email subscribers you want.
  • Work 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.
  • Focus on client work over your own business. Because it’s what makes you money right now.
  • Post every single week on your blog. (My videos are still coming, but their production is on hold for this month.)
  • Sit and wait quietly while for others to take notice of you. Slowly but surely it will happen if you keep plugging away.

I don’t have answers to how I’ll substitute these rules of thumb quite yet, but at least I’ve identified them.

I’m hoping this week of sightseeing with an old friend in London and not actively thinking about the constraints of my current business model will open up the space in my mind for some new ideas.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m super proud of how far my business has come in its 14 months of existence.

I just know that my old way of doing things is my old way of doing things… and that I’m desperate for a new way.

And sometimes, taking a step back and going against the grain of typical, standard advice (read: rules of thumb) is the best thing you can do for your business, your life, and your sanity.

So you tell me… what are some “rules of thumb” that have proven to be total bullshit in your life?

If you’re reading on the blog, tell me in a comment.

If you’re reading via email, hit respond and tell me. (Or click through and leave a comment.)

I’d genuinely love to know.

Let’s create our own community of zero-bullshit entrepreneurs, shall we?

With Love from London,

<3 – Chelsea

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