Lesson 08 | What To Do When You Are Burned Out!
Welcome to Lesson 08! We are beginning to wind up the class, but for today let’s talk about what happens when we experience burn-out, and how to avoid it and how to get out of it.
Today is a good day to talk about burnout, because I can freely admit I experience it and am going through it right now! I think I feel almost every week like I could quit, or I don’t feel like being creative, or I am simply tired. You are definitely not alone if you ever feel that way, and I really wanted to include this as part of this class. It frequently is the cause of unfinished albums, it frequently makes us stop photographing life, but it is also something that as creatives we will experience at some point or another. So if you are someone who has never experienced it, it may take you by surprise but know that you can work through it and past it. It will pass eventually.
I think it is incredibly important to pay close attention to signals our bodies send us every day about how we are feeling, how we are getting along. We often get so caught up in routines and schedules that we forget to listen, so self care is really important. I learned about self care in seminary, especially how important it is when ministering to others. We must feed our souls (creative souls included) before we can serve others.
Memory keeping is a ministry of sorts. There is a tendency in our industry for people to think they have to make scrapbooks for other people – for children, for grandchildren, for the lady at church having a baby, or the couple down the street getting married. Those projects are all worthwhile and if they inspire you then you should do them. But it makes me sad when I hear people say they don’t know what to scrap now that their children are all grown. As if they completely forgot that they, too, have a story and a life that wants to be documented!
Telling our stories is a kind of ministry we can do for ourselves, to nurture ourselves and connect with our own beings. Telling our stories and taking photographs and creating meaningful layouts about our lives is a wonderful way to process our journey, so never underestimate your own life. In fact, your life and your story is the one you tell best. I am constantly reminded that I can tell some of the stories for our children, but they also have their own way that they experienced their life and their own way of telling it. So it may be best if I tell the stories I know, as I know them, and then empower each of our children to live and tell their own stories. Finding a balance in that can be tricky, but it is very much possible. I think if we reach the point where we feel like we can only do this craft for others then we have lost that balance.
So in dealing with burnout, I think there are two aspects: avoiding burnout and getting through burnout when it does happen. And to do either of those, we kind have to be aware of how our bodies behave when we are burnt out. What does it look like when you are burnt out? Alan can tell you that my burnout is usually accompanied by tears! Frustration, lack of self worth, disinterest, simply being tired. All of these things tell me when I am burnt out.
I do have several ways of avoiding burnout, and some of them I have talked about in the past. I schedule breaks in the year. Especially in Project Life, which can get heavy in a heartbeat, I automatically schedule the month of November for no layouts, no photos unless I feel like taking them strictly for fun. This means my albums typically end with Halloween and a gratitude layout, and it also means I typically have about 45 layouts per year. And I am absolutely cool with this. Taking a break in November gives me time to prepare for December Daily (also a very intense project) and my albums are still complete.
In the past year or so I have also come to realize that I slow down in July, too. It is hot here, we usually have two kids gone, so I simply don’t take as many photos as usual. This is something I am beginning to recognize and as I recognize it I can also accept that – and find a way to accommodate that in my process. What I may end up doing this year is giving the summer a break in my Project Life album, document the photos I have in some other way, and then begin my B album with Back To School!
But even with scheduled breaks, burnout still happens, and so let’s talk too about what to do when it happens. When you feel it, give yourself a break right then. Put the albums away for a month, if you have to. Maybe do a different craft for a while! I love to do crochet and paint furniture and decorate and all sorts of other creative things that allow me to be busy with my hands, but don’t take the same energy as memory keeping. Stepping away is a great way to recharge, give your brain a creative break, and sometimes you can even find inspiration in those other crafts that can spark a fun idea or story for your memory keeping. Win/win!
I am a big fan of taking breaks as you are able, but I also sometimes have to work through the burnout in order to meet design team deadlines or other goals and deadlines I have set for myself. This is where our album outline comes in really handy! Sticking to that album outline tells me exactly what I need to do next and makes it a tiny bit easier to keep going. Extended burnout can also happen, and when that happens you might have to work through it in order to find your mojo again. Donna Downey likes to quote Picasso by saying “inspiration is everywhere but it has to find you working,” and he is absolutely correct. Remember that not every layout has to be the most creative, earth-shattering layout ever created.
Also along with doing other crafts, I fully support taking classes in other areas. Stretch your creative muscles in other areas too. When this class is finished I have a painting class waiting in my cue. I cannot wait to dive in and practice and stretch myself in another direction for a while! Yay! This also gives me a chance to support other craftspeople who are part of the overall craft industry, and that is also a win/win.
My goal in sharing this class is to share strategies with you on how I get my Project Life albums completed, and scheduled breaks, participating in other crafts, giving my brain creative breaks are a big part of that. Making these albums what I need to make them, by not including certain months, helps me keep the project manageable and means more completed albums. I hope this helps you develop some ways for yourself to keep going and find success! Let’s look at our process videos now!