Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.
Growth Is Good for Business But Is Burning Me Out!
Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been a content marketer at an agency for the past year and a half. Within the year I’ve been there, the agency has gained a lot of traction, and we’ve added several new clients to our portfolio. That’s great for business, but not so great for my personal life. I love the work I do, but I feel like I’m about to burn out soon. I know I need a break, but with an influx of clients and a small team, it’s very hard for me to take off fully. I need to slow down a bit. What can I do to recharge my energy and avoid burnout so that I can get back to what I love? — THE NEARING BURNOUT MARKETER
Paul Chaney: The answer is simple, although the execution may be less so. You know what you need to do — slow down and take some time for yourself to regain your energy. It sounds like the problem is that you just won’t give yourself permission to do it. On the one hand, that’s admirable. It shows you take your work seriously. On the other hand, you’re likely headed for burnout — been there, done that, have the scars to prove it — and the only way to remedy that is by taking the time that you are due.
Years ago, I recall my father, a truck driver, telling me with regard to deliveries, “Son, if they want it today, they will be happy to get it tomorrow.” While that may sound folksy, there was wisdom in his words. The truth was, they were happy to get it the next day, and Dad didn’t wear himself out worrying about it.
Let me ask you a question. Which is better: Working yourself to the bone to meet client deadlines or taking a break, coming back the next day (or after the weekend) rested, fresh and full of energy ready to tackle projects head-on?
I find that, as I get physically drained, it’s not long before emotional and mental fatigue follows. My clients don’t get my best work. Conversely, when I take some time off, I come back with more to offer, which is what the client deserves. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, either: A bike ride, stepping out for lunch, a walk in the park, or a mid-afternoon nap often suffices. Mini-breaks can help, too. Incorporate short breaks throughout the day to detach from work and do something you enjoy, even if it’s just for five minutes.
So, my advice is to give yourself a break, take some time for rest and relaxation, and hit the ground running the next day or week. The world won’t come to an end, the sun will still rise, and you and your clients will be the better for it.
Help! False Advertising Trapped Me in This New Job!
Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been catfished. I’ve been a senior content marketer at this tech startup for the past six months. When I initially interviewed for the role, I was shown the list of responsibilities that came with my role and what was expected of me. I was excited and ready to share my expertise. But two weeks into the role, things started to go left. No one knows what’s going on; people are doing work that they aren’t qualified for or even experienced in, and it seems impossible to find a minute to connect with our direct supervisor. I was unemployed for seven months before I landed this role, and now I’m afraid that I’ll have to go back. Should I cut my losses and leave, or should I try and make it work? — UNPLEASANTLY SURPRISED MARKETER
Paul Chaney: As much as I hate to say it, yours is an all-too-common occurrence. The promise of the job opportunity doesn’t always match the reality. As a wise person once told me, the anticipation of a thing is much greater than its realization.
So, what do you do? Two thoughts come to mind.
You Can Only Be Responsible for You
Do the best job you can, and to the degree possible, let others be responsible for themselves. Now, if you’re in charge of the “others,” then you have to start making changes, including personnel, if necessary.
Regarding connecting with your direct supervisor, find that minute. Schedule a meeting days in advance if you have to, invite the supervisor to lunch, or catch them early morning (or late evening, but morning is best).
Make Up Your Mind About Whether You Want to Stay or Go
The second thought is that you need to make a decision about this job. I understand the fear you feel about being unemployed for an extended period, but if you can’t commit yourself wholeheartedly to staying above the fray, leaving may be your only option.
There’s no such thing as a perfect job. Even the best situations come with problems. If it were me, I’d hang in there, do the best work I could, make changes where possible, and accept those you can’t. (Sounds like something St. Francis of Assisi once said, doesn’t it?)
In addition, take time for activities that you enjoy, whether that’s a hobby, time with friends and family, or something else that provides you with a sense of fulfillment. Balance the frustration you feel at work with the happiness that comes from non-work-related activities. It’s called setting boundaries, something from which you’ll definitely benefit. There’s much more to life than work, so make the most of it.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.