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How to Find Inspiration During the Post-Quarantine Burnout

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I remember finding myself completely collapsed after another missed deadline right before my favorite day of the year — my birthday. In October last year, I worked as a content writer at Lemon.io (and I still do). Aside from that, I was picking up some freelance projects from time to time. Also, I was attending different marketing and business conferences to keep my mind sharp and to keep up to date on new marketing trends. I know, it is totally unfair that project deadlines and awesome events are always happening simultaneously.

Pfew, it was a busy month. At first, I took great pride in my productivity, marveling at how much I could squeeze into 24 hours. But after a few weeks of running on less than 4 hours of sleep and working 12 hour days, I fell, quite suddenly and spectacularly, into a procrastination loop.

To my horror and my employer’s consternation, I realized I couldn’t do anything. I would create a new Word Document then proceed to stare at that white screen for hours, quite unable to get past the article’s title.

For a few days, I repeated the same cycle: waking up, opening the laptop, closing the laptop, feeling bad about myself, opening the laptop, closing the laptop, feeling sorry for myself, and so on ad infinitum. That’s when I realized — it was burnout.

Given all that’s happening worldwide right now with the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine, I bet many people felt the same as me a year ago. It certainly isn’t easy to switch to a work-from-home routine, let alone worry about your health.

Perhaps in telling my story of escaping and overcoming burnout, you can find some tips to help you during the coronavirus quarantine times.

How to get out of the burnout?

To answer the question above, I decided to look for the answers in books. I’ve read Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’ and Hal Elrod’s ‘The Miracle Morning.’

Yes, I know, many of you might think that reading such literature is a waste of time. But for me, it was quite useful. Of course, the ‘miracle’ didn’t happen after I finished the books, but they showed me a way out of the burnout.

Improve your daily agenda

‘The Miracle Morning’ suggests a few important things, which worked for me perfectly:

  • Wake up together with the rise of the sun (or at least earlier than you are used to);
  • Spend at least 10 minutes for yourself in the mornings.

I decided not to try all the author’s tips (not like I think they are unhelpful), but rather to create my morning routine. (30 minutes every morning for breakfast while blasting my favorite music, then practice my yoga).

I’d suggest designing your own routine, but be sure to include:

  • good 8-hour sleep
  • regular workouts
  • time spent with family and/or friends
  • hobbies
  • education or self-improvement
  • taking time off and unwinding

The most important thing which ‘The Power of Habit’ taught me was — never try to change all your habits at once. Do it step by step, implementing changes slowly and gradually. Try different things for 10-15 minutes per day, search for other tips, experiment and enjoy it.

Learn how to deal with negative feedback

As negative feedback is the most significant source of self-deprecating thoughts, you have to manage it. Working with different clients all the time has taught me one thing — you can’t satisfy everyone. There will always be that person who will leave a one-star review with a comment, “This company sucks!”

Even if part of you says, “C’mon, you did a great job. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” another part is always hesitating, “What if he’s right? What if my job truly sucks?”

Well, this mindset isn’t helpful. Negative feedback should encourage you to improve but not to spread self-destroying thoughts. My strategy of dealing with it is easy and consists of a few essential points:

  1. If you are as sensitive to critics as I am, you should better focus on positive references for the work done instead of concentrating on negative ones. Give yourself a high five every time you hear something nice about your job. Good words are always a great motivation boost.
  2. Don’t take negative feedback too personally. Always remember it’s only offered to improve your performance, not to offend your personality. If vice versa, maybe you are working with the wrong people.
  3. Think of negative feedback as another source of knowledge necessary for professional growth. It is impossible to progress without working on your weak spots. Don’t get obsessed with occasional little mistakes. But in case you see a pattern, that’s when you have to take negative feedback seriously.

Reconsider your work strategy

Unfortunately, bad reviews are not the only source of anxiety at work. If your job is not valued and fairly paid, if your brain thinks about work 24/7, if you feel too much pressure on your shoulders and don’t have support, any bad word might be the last straw.

Here are some simple rules to avoid this:

Respect your time and never work for free

Very often, people who work for a startup tend to undervalue themselves, their skills, and their time. If you don’t have years of experience working for a big corporation, you are ready to do anything to impress the colleagues: to work all night on the article, to give up on your favorite hobby, to work extra hours without being paid for it.

Honestly, I was exactly the same. But the truth is that at some point, you will lose motivation to go the extra mile if nobody values it. That’s when the burnout knocks on the door. Don’t let this happen to you.

Avoid overloading yourself by setting priorities.

If you see that your workload is growing faster than you can handle it, maybe you should give up some of them or hire an assistant. You can’t do all the work by yourself, even if you think you can do it better than anyone else.

To help your future self, you should only be working on the highest priority tasks, leaving all others for later.

Optimize the working process

After prioritizing your tasks, you’re ready for the next step – doing the actual work. Easier said than done. Distractions are everywhere. One notification from Facebook, and you are back in the infinity pool.

To help yourself, turn off all the social media notifications and download Pomodoro browser extensions. This program will help you to track your working time according to the 25 to 5 work-rest cycle.

Find out what you want from your job.

Be honest with yourself and your colleagues. If you are unsatisfied with your work conditions, salary, job duties, you should talk it out.

Worst case scenario, you will find another job which will match your desires perfectly. What’s the point of wasting your time on something you don’t enjoy doing?

Have a break from work

No matter how important you are to your company, you need to have some rest. The longer, the better. If you can’t manage a proper extended vacation, take at least a couple of days off.

The one thing which helps me the most is going on a short trip. It can be anywhere you want a visit to your family, a hike through the woods, or a bike ride to the neighboring city.

A change of scenery will do you a world of good. Amidst new surroundings, your brain will hit the refresh button, and you will come back to work charged up and completely reinvigorated.

Get out of the procrastination cycle.

You have to accept the fact that nobody but you can break the loop. If you think that your boss, your partner, or your therapist can do it for you, you’re dead wrong. The sooner you realize this, the faster you’ll escape:

  1. Get rid of a toxic you-can-do-better attitude and respect yourself.
  2. Analyze what and then address the causes of the burnout.
  3. Define the things your job lacks and search for the ways to get them.
  4. Set up your priorities and follow them.
  5. Consider hiring some extra help (here are some advice about hiring freelancers (lemon.io/best-freelance-websites), independent contractors, and extra tips on how to outsource in general).
  6. Have a nice vacation!

Make sure this never happens to you again!

While working on this article, which I was supposed to finish more than a week ago, I was reminded how easily one can fall back into the procrastination cycle. But this time, I knew how to deal with it right at the beginning, not letting the problem get any worse.

If you face the same issue, I can assure you that the recipe above works. If it helped me (more than once!), it’s definitely going to help you too. The main thing is to start slowly, taking baby steps. Take care of yourself!

The post How to Find Inspiration During the Post-Quarantine Burnout appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Behind the Scenes: Insight into Large Scale Organizations to Apply to Small Businesses

apply to small business

During the past two decades, I quietly sat at the back behind the scenes, learning from large organizations, watching, listening, and trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how they became so successful. Here is an insight into large scale organizations to apply to small businesses.

You have to listen.

Listening to the voices of the unheard when no one else could or would actually hear them, I watched as some people succeeded and others did not.

No matter how some companies worked and tried to communicate — some companies became triumphant, and others were bought out with half the employees, then made redundant.

Finding the most essential part of any business.

What’s the most crucial part of any business? You may have the smartest minds in the business, with consultants lining the corridors. There may be many, many amounts of resources with an SOP for everything from visitors entering the building to how to use a printer.

None of these resources and persons matter unless you have everyone singing from the same piece of music — connected — believing something they all believe in.

What keeps your team engaged in your company?

I have seen employees become so disengaged from what is happening in their company that they become uninterested and bored, ultimately causing a loss of revenue from sick leave or general poor performance.

I have seen companies have the best directors and general managers, but senior and middle management let everything fall to the ground. What is strange is that these incidences are mostly unnoticed by upper management.

The main reason these companies fail is a lack of communication, or their key messages are getting lost in dialogue over semantics.

Lack of communication is especially true in these uncertain times.  Teams can evaporate due to competition, changes in structure, targets, sales, and the lack of communication about these issues. Some teams keep trying to fix something that is not broken.

Pressure and stress from ensuring targets are met and innovations are created.

Everyone wants to be the best of the best and have the largest market share because they have the best technologies and creations. They want to be the ‘go-to’ company for what they’re selling. They are right, of course.

The thought process is exactly right. Except they lose themselves and their employees while they are clamoring for the top spot. However, we didn’t need COVID to learn these lessons. I have learned these same lessons from my two decades of work in tech.

Lesson 1: Keep it Simple

The larger the company, the more money that leaks through the cracks. Large enterprises often have too many cooks.

My advice:

Keep processes and protocols as simple as possible.

Keep management teams small. Communicate with your employees and gain trust. Not for the sake of it, but to develop a true connection.

Delegate where possible, and do not be afraid to outsource if you do not have the skills in house. Don’t leave your company in the hands of someone who may NOT be capable.

Pay for expertise. Alternatively, teach those who might benefit from new skills, and you will have someone with that skill the next time you need it — in house.

Lesson 2: Invest, but do it wisely.

The worst decision you can make is refusing to spend money on a project, even when your business needs it.

My advice:

Always remember, it can be expensive to buy cheap! Don’t be afraid to invest…. but do it wisely and on good advice. 

Engage in lean processing to cut down on costs and maximize profit where possible. Recognize the value of profitability and road map the process of improvements and growth in this area.

Spend on digital marketing tools and techniques to increase the customer base and brand awareness and reputation to demonstrate reliability and the strength of a local business.

Spend on engagement and networking to ensure strong relationships are encouraged and developed to promote your business.

The amount of money I have seen wasted on events, campaigns, sponsorship, or unnecessary positions is nuts!! Yes, I know some of those spends are controversial, mainly because this is the way the world works — but it is simply not sustainable.

While the sentiment behind such events, especially team-building exercises, is somewhat understandable — I don’t know one person I’ve interviewed who wouldn’t prefer the money to be handed to them directly. But a quick get together for lunch works almost as well.

Lesson 3: Employees

The most essential part of any building is its foundation. What it’s built on and the materials they are made from. Your business is something you’ve worked long and hard to create. You may have started it from the ground up.

My advice:

Make sure that what you put inside your business represents a long-term outlook and strategy. Understand that your long-term strategy doesn’t just mean product.

I have seen many managers make the mistake of choosing the person with the most extended list of qualifications. Some businesses want to make sure they have a necessary degree and the exact skills to meet with the job spec.

Yes, everyone may require a degree at some point or another. But they also need experience. Often you don’t get one without the other, so it’s a chicken or the egg scenario.

I could go on at length here about how to choose the right people. However, your very gut instinct will never lead you wrong. Think, run through the people, and go with your first instinct. That is your gut.

With employees — make sure you ‘click.’ Make sure they are hungry for the job. Not cocky, not overly clever with their words. Don’t be afraid to choose the underdog.

My very first “grown-up” job — I was in no way qualified. I knew the day they gave me the job I was a little bit in over my head (nothing new there!). However, I got the job, and I never forgot that. I was so thankful that I worked harder and longer to get to where I needed to go. I will never forget my first opportunity.

Sometimes hunger and drive for a position will show up as your best employee. Give that someone you have a “feeling” about a chance. You never know — but I believe that person will end up being one of your best decisions.

Lesson 4: Expectations

My advice:

As an owner and manager of a business, don’t expect the moon out of your people.

Take time to get them vested in your vision. Most people don’t care about your business as you do, especially at first. Why would they? They don’t own it.

It is often forgotten that those working as part of a team or an employee need to feel valued. Feeling appreciated makes me work harder, and it helps me to enjoy my job more when I know that I am doing a good job.

Customers will always know that they are getting the best from you and your company when engaging with happy employees. They want to feel appreciated and given a handshake or appreciation for a job well done. A thank you doesn’t have to be for every little thing, but never underestimate the value of a simple ‘thank you and well done.’ It goes a very long way to ensuring engaged employees.

Lesson 5: Rewards

My advice:

Pay people fairly and above-average rates if possible. I have had many conversations about unfair pay than I care to admit across various organizations.

While it is not the “done thing” to speak about who gets paid what — the talk happens and can make for some difficult conversations and bad feelings.

Finding out that I was being paid 20k less than a male colleague for the same job was like getting an actual punch to the gut. Gender inequality is something that I have witnessed first-hand, and I am not the only one. Get ahead of the game and pay every employee fairly.

Reward good work where possible. Have an employee of the month, Best Sales Person of the Year, Best Innovator, Best New Idea, Most Customer-Centric. Awards in some industries may be past their sell-by date, but when asked, it is highly likely that anyone chosen for an award is very proud of the accomplishment.

Others may disagree and tell you that it is archaic and not adding any value what so ever. Ask your employee’s/team what they think if you are not already doing something similar. Awards can make a team thrive, add to productivity, and help people feel part of something bigger.

Lesson 6: Involvement

Engage with your stakeholders, especially your employees. Ask your team’s opinion on the business. What they think is highly valuable as they are working every day in the center of the operation and may see things that you have not.

My advice:

Your employees know your customers and have long-standing relationships. Involve them right from the start of any changes.

You might get some pushback, depending on the idea. However, it is better to keep your team involved than to present changes unexpectedly. Don’t ask for opinions just for the sake of involvement.

People will see right through you. The culture in which you work is very important and can have an impact on employee productivity and satisfaction. 

Lesson 7: Comfort Zones

You decided to open a business. You know what it’s like to get out of your comfort zone, make a huge decision, and work for yourself. You don’t need any lessons here.

That said, we can all find our comfortable areas and unpack there in our comfort zones. However, these no longer exist if you want to build a business. Forget they did.

My advice:

If you are not feeling like you are a little in over your head you are not doing it right. Say yes to something you don’t know how to do yet.

Agree to a task even though you’ve never done it before. Learn to do it after. It might mean some late nights filled with YouTube tutorials for an app or a tool you’ve never used before. Nevertheless, once you find your feet being uncomfortable, great things will happen.

Lesson 8: Business Sustainability

My advice:

Don’t spend more than you need to on anything. Spend some time thinking through whether you need anything that you feel like purchasing.

Is the item,  something you could learn to do yourself? Before you decide on expenditures, you need to figure out if you have both the time and people resources to take on the task. Can you build your website and manage it? Do you have the time it takes to build a marketing campaign? Or do you need to hire someone for this?

If money is tight and you are a small business, you might consider hiring a marketing intern. I have taken lessons here from previous companies where hiring a marketing intern is a very common practice.

You may also need some help in terms of a personal assistant but you may not want this person full time or in an office location. Remote work is becoming more common in today’s workplace with many customer service representatives working from their home office.

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