Before we even start with this blog, I want you to know that the irony of my writing a blog on recovering from entrepreneurial burnout as a person who does frequently burn out … is not [at all] lost on me.
But [and this is a big “but”] I need to let you know that I’m neurodivergent [a nice little hybrid combo of Autism meets ADHD], and so I’m genuinely more inclined to burn out throughout my entrepreneurial lifetime … and it’s even been statistically proven that I [as a neurodivergent human] will be more predisposed to burnout.
Mine is a “ferrari brain” that can take on a lot, and wants to take on a lot, and struggles with capacity management [not because my brain is self-punishing, but because it’s interest-led … and I am interested in a lot]. These are all incredible entrepreneurial things, and I attribute them to many of the successes I’ve enjoyed as an entrepreneur … but if you think about a “fast brain”, and an interest-led brain that can take on a lot [and wants to take on a lot], and a brain that struggles to recognise capacity? We can all collectively fake shock when we recognise that I’m a person who’s going to burn out. Frequently. #lol.
For this reason, my burnout recovery plan doesn’t [at all] promise to spare me from burnout … but instead focuses on acknowledging in an incredibly honest way that it’s something that will continue to feature in my business owning life, and so I instead focus on reducing its severity and most importantly? Its impact on others that are important to me: my husband, my children, and my team.
Disclaimers out of the way by promising you all that this blog post will not walk you through how to avoid burnout completely for the remainder of your business owning days? I will say that this is a neurodivergent-friendly [and celebratory] blog post that doesn’t aim [like, at all] to shame you for how frequently you might burn out, and it certainly won’t peg you against your neurotypical entrepreneurial peers who can’t understand why you burnout at all … and will instead talk about how I recover from burnout, and try to minimise the severity [and subsequent impact] of my burnout[s].
I build a burnout roadmap for myself.
And I can’t take credit for this one, because it’s a concept I was introduced to by my life coach, Megan Luscombe.
Thanks to Megan’s advice, my burnout roadmap is like a flow that I take myself through to better recognise signs of impending burnout … and ultimately lead me on a roadmap away from burnout completely, or – at the very least – significantly lessening the impacts of severe burnout [because as I mentioned above, the folx in my life who feel that the most would be my husband, my children, my friends, and my team].
The idea of my burnout roadmap is to help me to recognise the signs of burnout before I hit full burnout, and I’d implore you to consider making a roadmap for yourself [I’d give you mine, but burnout is individual … and mine won’t benefit you, just like yours likely wouldn’t benefit me].
I recognise the cause of my burnout.
I wasn’t lying when I said above that my burnout’ll look different to yours, and vice-versa … and so therefore, I couldn’t give you my burnout roadmap, because it likely wouldn’t benefit you [and nor would yours benefit me].
That’s the thing about burnout: it’s individual.
For me? It’s been the recognition that burnout for me has nothing to do with hours worked [it never has, and likely never will], and is moreso related to heading into a working week with a feeling of defeat [usually associated with an unachievable workload, which is usually something that’s paired back with my personal weakness being around capacity management. In other words, and as they say on TikTok? I’ve likely “girlboss’d too close to the sun”].
Another big cause of my burnout is usually a lack of feedback. I love feedback, good or constructive. I don’t mind. I just need feedback. I can not stand sitting in invisible silence. And the thing is, as a business grows, and as I’ve scaled my company … I’ve reached a regular semi-dangerous [for me, and to me] point where the only feedback I hear is: profit, loss, and internal complaints.
Reason being? I didn’t put myself in the right spot within our organisational structure … and the immediate impact for me personally was that I stopped hearing most [or all, if I’m being real] feedback. Because it stopped being “my job” to be in some of the conversations where most TDP feedback is given, and I certainly didn’t want to step on the toes of those whose roles became what mine used to be [because I’m a respectful soul].
But sitting in “invisible” silence is torture for me, and to me.
But here’s the powerful thing about knowing what causes burnout for you individually: you can change the stuff that leads to your burnout, and so I feel incredibly empowered knowing what my causes are [because as TDP’s CEO, I can tweak what’s not working for me personally].
For me? It’s ensuring that I track my personal capacity, or have folx within TDP whose responsibility it is to ensure I’m not working beyond capacity [these are TDP’s Project Manage’y folk. #HiKatie] … and then it’s finding new and innovative ways to find my way back into a feedback loop [but from a CEO perspective].
… more on that another time, tho.
I set up a system for success.
Now here’s where it gets really neurodivergent, but also: Autism is a spectrum, so I might be about to highlight my system for success … which could be an utter-bluddy-disaster for another neurodivergent [ha!].
I’m a systems and processes kinda Autistic [not the systems and processes you’re likely thinking, tho. As in, if we didn’t have TDP’s Operations team working alongside me? TDP would be heckin’ chaos. #lol]. But when it comes to carving out my life as a CEO, and a wife, and a Mother, and a [pretty disappointing, ha!] friend? … I need legitimate systems and processes, and as I’m doing this CEO thing more? I’ve realised I need systems and processes worked into my life that honour my propensity for burnout, and do their very best to reduce the harm.
Now because my executive functioning sucks? … well, uh, *40+ daily alarms set within my personal iPhone has entered the room* [lol].
I’m not exaggerating, folx. I genuinely have 40+ daily alarms set within my iPhone [none of them scream at me, I pick deliberately relaxing tunes to remind me that I need to wake up, and shower, and apply skincare, and have a smoothie, and medicate my son, and walk, and listen to a poddy, and take some time before my work day to roll out some epic breathwork … you get the gist].
We’re over ‘ere with 40+ daily alarms within my phone that are all centred around what makes me happy. And seen. And celebrated. And honoured. As the unique little individual that I am, and who needs really particular things to happen [daily] to feel like I’m healthy, and well, and happy, and am tending to all o’ the daily needs that ultimately reduce my risk of burnout.
I did a video on my “alarm system” over at my personal account here: you’ll see them saved in my IG highlights called “ND hacks”, which stands for neurodivergent hacks. But honestly, neurotypical or neurodistinct? … I can’t see anyone not benefiting from some kinda system like this?
… feel free to get around it [when I shared it online? I clocked 700+ DM’s from folx raving about how good-a-system this was: who knew?!].
I invest in sale, so I can subsequently invest in my entrepreneurial health & wellbeing.
You’d only need to have followed TDP on Instagram for the last 6-12 months to have recognised that I absolutely landed in full entrepreneurial [and Autistic] burnout as the severity of the pandemic came to an “end” [yes, I know the pandemic isn’t over … but for Melbournians who spent what felt like 2+ years in lockdown? Well, it’s hitting different now. As in, better].
The most dangerous thing about burnout is that you become so burnt out, you’re almost unable to “see the light” … and you’re absolutely not the right person to make big [good] decisions, but what happens if you’re CEO’ing a company that relies on a CEO not being burnt out, and being that perpetual entrepreneurial optimist [and risk taker, and leap taker et. al].
Well, yea, you wouldn’t wanna be hangin’ around in the depths of entrepreneurial burnout for too long … because your company is gon’ feel that.
And TDP did [for a little but]: as in, I rolled onto a Zoom call in December 2021 and cried. To our Managing Director. And this is pretty significant, because 1) I’m not a crier, and 2) I especially don’t find myself crying to people [particularly people that I employ]. And through my tears I said, “I think we need to replace me. I no longer bring any value to this company”.
… and I believed that [🥺].
And it still breaks my freakin’ heart that burnout got me so good that I reached the point where I no longer backed my entrepreneurial spirit, or my creativity, or my strategy, or my dedication to innovation, or the way I really have fostered a genuinely beautiful humanistic and encouraging workplace [that’s gone on to be the psychological safety we’re regularly recognised for having cultivated here in TDP-land].
I can’t believe I told our Managing Director to “replace me”, when what I needed to be saying was “we need 2-3, maybe even 4 more of me”.
… and that’s what we did, i.e we created a content department. And we took the $700,000AUD that our accounting firm has recognised as my pulling into the business each year, and we instead turned that into a content department [as opposed to what x1 individual was generating].
… no wonder I was burnt out [but that pandemic really gaslights, and has you unable to see that the revenue you’re generating is the equivalent of 2-3, or even 4 people].
F*ck you, COVID [lol].
And then I’ll go and finish with the most obvious [and easy, and achievable] stuff like…
Getting enough sleep: I absolutely need 8+ hours per night, and I won’t settle for anything less.
Delegating what doesn’t bring me joy [or hiring it out]: because my company is approaching 8 years old, and I’m not working on what doesn’t bring me joy within my 8th year of business [what a diva, ha!].
Reconnecting with my passion[s]: I can’t lie to you. I’m not here yet. I’ve forgotten what they are outside of business ownership … and this is a semi-embarrassing truth to admit, but an important one. All I can say is that I’m currently sitting in this discomfort, and, uh, I’ll get back to you.
Spending more time with friends and family: easy for me. I’ve always prioritised this, because my family brings me so much joy.
Spending time in nature: I’m reconnecting with my “Blue Mountains childhood” and trying to remember just how much I loved nature as a kid … and how much I’ve seemingly forgotten that as a Melbournian/Naarm-based woman who lives 6 kms from the CBD of Naarm.
Connecting with other entrepreneurs: I’ve just joined the CEO Institute, and I’m currently working on building a mastermind with other agency-owners.
Strengthening my social relationships: I admittedly don’t do this well. I’m Autistic, and incredibly introverted. I love my own company. But I also recognise that if I don’t do better at cultivating social relationships? … I die a little inside. So I do social relationships on my terms, and very-much-so introvert style [quiet venues with good acoustics that don’t push me into sensory overwhelm. Late night drives for a hot choccy with my bestie, and hanging out in car parks having 2+ hour D&M’s. You get the gist, yea?].
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