Six months. That’s how long it’s been since I left my first dream job as a fourth grade teacher to pursue my second dream job of being a full-time food blogger, spending my days working on that one little hobby food blog that I started almost five years ago when I had no idea that blogging was even a real thing.
LIFE why you be so crazy?
As you might have picked up on, I’ve really loved blogging and setting my own schedule and working on projects that I value and that I can get lost in for hours. I can’t say it enough – I am just so thankful for this weirdly awesome “job” that is basically me working on things I love (OH HAYYY CHOCOLATE) all day every day.
The flip side of that is pretty predictable – I’ve also really, really missed teaching. And my teaching people. No matter how much I love my yoga pants and baking gingerbread muffins at 11am on a Tuesday, I still frequently get the compulsion to drive back over to school and just hang out on the playground with the kids. I’m sure I wouldn’t get arrested or anything.
Blogging has been a weird and completely unexpected journey for me – I started as a part-timer with nothing more than a little heart that loved all things FOOD and now I am a full-time blogger and business owner. Through those almost five years of blogging I’ve had lots of ups and downs. <– understatement of my life.
Last year around this wintery-holiday time, I wrote a soppy post about how tired I was and how much I wanted to live a more restful and peaceful life. I was burned out. To a crispity crisp. Like, charred.
Today, as I look back on that post, I am amazed at how far I’ve come. I’m reading books. Getting outside. Dating my husband. Listening to podcasts. Exercising and sleeping. I have learned a lot in the last four and half years – and in the last year as I’ve attempted to bounce back from a major low point of exhaustion – about developing habits that help keep my mind a healthy little machine, clicking along up there, creating, dreaming, thriving, and freeing me from those nagging Blogging Blues.
If you’re not familiar with the Blogging Blues, they would be the constant self-doubt, the workaholic mentality, the feeling like nothing is ever ever ever enough, the piercing competitive streaks, the fresh anxiety before hitting publish, and the general ickyness that comes focusing on your own work all the time, putting it out there, on the internet, to strangers, day after day. Yeah. That stuff is real.
So here’s a list of fifteen things that have helped me avoid blogger burnout over the last five years, both as a full-time blogger and as a nights-and-weekends blogger. Not surprisingly, these are also things that I see in the bloggers that I respect and admire the most for their ability to stay not only sane but creative and thriving in the big blog world.
Boom! Have at it, you healthy bloggers of the world.
1. Study inspiring work outside your niche.
It can be really hard for some types of people (ahem, hi self) to get too super close to work that is similar to theirs. My experience over the last five years has been that when I start shopping around on other food blogs in my internet circle for food, photography, or writing inspiration, I often come away with “inspiration” that is basically just a competitive, discouraged, frustrated self-doubting feeling. It’s NO GOOD. If anything, it’s anti-inspiring because it just makes me feel like I could never be like that person and so I should probably just quit my blog and go live under a rock and eat field grass forever.
I’m being a little tiny bit dramatic. But still a lot real.
For me, I find it best to study work from people that I am disconnected from. That’s not to say that I don’t read and look at and love my other food blog friends’ stuff. Hello, I LOVE THEM, and it’s impossible to just take a passing glance at some of the stuff out there and not be inspired by it. But when I really need to branch out creatively, I am able to get the most true inspiration minus the weird feelings when I study people who are in a different niche or internet sphere.
For example, lately I’ve been trying to get some writing inspiration from books. Like, real, actual books, not about food or blogging or anything even remotely close to what I’m doing. I try to determine what it is I like about the author’s style and then think creatively about how I could transfer those stylistic elements over to what I’m doing with food blogging and food writing.
2. Say no to almost everything.
Just try it. Say no. Say no again. Say no again and again and again.
When I was just starting with my blog, I said yes to a lot more interviews, barely paid projects, free product reviews, and all that new blogger jazz. That’s sort of okay and I’m glad I did those things at that time. Different seasons require different mindsets.
But if you want to get your most important work done as your blog grows, you will need to start saying no to things that don’t matter or won’t help you get where you’re trying to go.
This is true both in blog life and personal life.
I’m ravenous, and life looks to me so sparkly and beautiful, waiting to be devoured like a perfect apple. So I say yes, yes to everything, to that meal and that event and that trip and that person. It’s so delicious, and I don’t want to miss out on even one moment of it. And that’s the point: I miss all sorts of sacred and significant moments, because of my frantic insistence that I can do it all. – Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
I highly recommend this practice which is another brain-child of Shauna’s. Make two lists – one list will be your “Things I Do” list, and on this list you write down things that you have the capacity and the desire to do, both on a business and personal level. And one will be your “Things I Don’t Do” list, where you list out the things that you are deciding to say no to in order to maintain your YES list. Like this –>
THINGS I DO: write three weekly blog posts for POY. develop our businesses and products. weekly date night with Bjork. go to church. spend Sundays with family and friends. learn and practice photography. make the bed every day (why does this make me so happy? it just does.). respond to blog comments. respond to emails. work out.
THINGS I DON’T DO: schedule POY social media. browse Pinterest. paint my nails. make my own chicken stock and/or raise chickens. manage POY’s sponsored content. blow dry my hair every day. deep clean our house. garden.
Say yes sometimes, and say no most of the time. One person can’t do everything.
3. Log out of everything. Do it now.
EMAIL! Alllll the day long. I would never get a blasted thing done if it weren’t for this little hack: I log out of everything. Like, fully log out erase any pre-saved passwords.
I can’t tell you how many times every day I type in www.facebook.com only to be reminded that I need to log in in order to creep on my friends’ lives. DANG. But for whatever reason, that one little extra step of logging in is always enough to stop me.
All bloggers will have to figure out what works for them with email, but I try to limit myself to checking email once a day, and when I check it, I clear it out all the way to the bottom of my inbox. Like, zero. Nothing left. This is so good for my mental health. I have a rule that I am not allowed to read an email and save it in my inbox for later, which is a rule that I might be currently breaking, but something I really do strive for because holding on to those little tasks creates drag that messes with my most efficient workflow.
Reducing my email to zero every day helps me feel less mentally cluttered, and keeping my email logged out all day helps me not to randomly pop in and waste time writing novels to people who really only need a few lines of a response. If I did not keep my email logged out, seriously, a steady stream of email combined with my weird enjoyment of small task completion would be the demise of my blog.
4. Use Text Expander.
I might get dramatic on you for a second here, but I would say that one little app called TextExpander changed my internet life.
I can clear out all my emails in 45 minutes each day – and by clear out, I mean actually respond to them with a cohesive, well-written message that I feel good about.
And if I’ve emailed you in the past with tons of typos and errors, now’s not the time to bring that up.
This is all possible with app called TextExpander – it allows you to template some of your most frequently sent emails so you just type in a code word and POP! the email auto-fills with your message which you can then personalize to whatever the situation calls for. More on that and our other favorite sneaky little internet tools on this super helpful post from Bjork!
ONE PERSON CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. If you only take one thing away from this word pile, take that. A single person cannot do it all forever.
Keep a notebook by your desk and record any time you spend doing something you don’t like – how long it took you and what you didn’t like about it. After a month or so, look over your notes and see if you can outsource that work to someone.
We recently hired an intern who is taking on some of the social media scheduling for Pinch of Yum, which is such a major relief for my brain. I never liked doing that and now my mind can be free and clear from having to think about that day in and day out – AND I can think about other projects that I would otherwise not have the capacity for. We heart you, Abby!
Obviously, if you’re just starting, you’re probably not in a place where you can pay someone to do some of these tasks for you. We were there for a few years – I get it. Just keep hustling and keep notes about what you will eventually hire someone for when you get to that point.
6. Channel competition and jealousy.
Competition and jealousy are mean, icky, and very real in the online life. I recently heard Glennon of Momastery *squeal* speak at the Storyline conference, and she said something that really resonated with me: that competition or jealousy with our online work is often just a feeling of strong admiration in disguise.
Glennon recommended that if you are feeling jealous or competitive about something or someone, write them a note and tell them how much you appreciate their work. Share their post on social media with a nice shout out. Befriend them. I KNOW. Believe me, I know. But doing that crushes the cold, isolating lies (and they are lies) that keep us from bravely and creatively moving forward.
Break that wall down. To know people is to love them, so channel that jealousy into appreciation, admiration, and love. If you want to avoid blogger burnout, you have to have to have to HAVE TO turn those feelings of comparison and jealousy into something positive or they will eat you alive.
This is hard one, but we can do it. I really think we can do it. ♡
7. Get an office. Outside your living room.
You guys, it used to be that Bjork and I were both at home all day. The clock would strike 6pm and we’d be like, sweet, here we are, in the same spot on the couch where we will now watch our nightly TV show. Gag.
We rented an office for Bjork and all the Food Blogger Pro thangs, and as of last month I have a membership at a co-working space, which is a large hipster-like studio office dedicated to work-from-homers who want to get out and work at a real place other than Starbucks. Depending on what you’re blogging about, this may or may not be possible. Like, for me, with cooking, most of my time needs to be at home. But on the days that I am writing or working on a project, the co-working space is a great place for me to go.
And now the clock strikes 6pm and we get to DRIVE HOME to see each other and hang out and have a party involving reruns of the Office and leftover red lentil curry. It’s a treat, friends.
8. Set strict rules for social media and comments.
For better or worse, I can be really emotionally affected by how people perceive or respond to my blog. I wish I had that toughness factor, but what I have is more like Sensitivity with a capital S. So I set rules for myself when it comes to reading and processing my social media content and blog comments. Here are two of my rules:
Rule #1: I don’t look at likes or pins on a recent blog post, Instagram photo, whatever. Like, I literally cover them with my finger on Instagram every time I log in. I’M WEIRD. I do this because, uhmm, it’s embarrassing, really embarrassing, but I would always get kind of a tiny bit sad if I didn’t get as many likes or pins as I was hoping on a post. And it would affect how I would feel in my real life. It was so silly and it needed to stop. Why should I let a number of likes on something affect my real life happiness? For me, the solution was just to stop looking and checking compulsively. I only read blog or Instgram comments now instead of checking likes, and then once in a blue moon I’ll go back and look through older posts to see which ones got the most love – by that point I’m usually detached enough from it that I don’t care how many likes or pins there were. And it has worked! I’m free of the chains of likes. PARTY ON!
Rule #2: I don’t read blog comments in the morning. The unfortunate truth is that even with a flood of positive, friendly comments, one grinchy comment can start me on the downward spiral of the Blogger Blues. So I no longer allow myself to read them in the morning because I find that they will affect how I feel all throughout the day. I only read them at the end of the day when I’m ready to shut down and I am less likely to be affected by the boo-hiss-unfriendly comments.
Bottom line: be selective about what voices you let speak in to your life.
9. Spend time with people who don’t really care about your blog.
It’s so nice to have friends who appreciate what you’re doing with your blog. It’s a gift, and you should definitely spend time with those people, too.
But for me, it’s also just so very refreshing to be around people who don’t read my blog and/or could care less what I posted about today or how many times it was pinned. Maybe they don’t even know what Pinterest is. EVEN BETTER.
Cherish those people and spend time around them – they will refresh your overly-internet-saturated world.
10. Singles, not home runs.
It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that every individual thing that you do as a blogger needs to be 200% awesome, absolutely incredible, a knock-it-out-of-the-park home run. And then when you work really hard on something and it’s not really like a home run as much as just, like, a regular post? It can start to feel blah. Depressing.
Is that ridiculous or what?
Home runs are important, but it is not realistic to think that all of your creative works are going to be a home runs. The people I see being successful, being dedicated to doing their best work and also living their best Real Life, are the people who know that some of their work will be home runs and a lot of their work will be singles or doubles. Or maybe even, umm, strike outs.
Free yourself from the mindset that every single thing you do has to be over the fence awesome. Awesome is awesome, but in certain seasons of life, the most awesome thing you can do is just show up and write another post. Again. And again.
Be kind to yourself. Accept and understand the value of singles.
11. Have no-phone times.
We recently set a new rule: no phones in our bedroom.
Bjork and I are notorious for getting in bed and settling in with our phones to read the latest Buzzfeed (hers) and CNN (his) articles until all hours of the night. And, like a truly obsessed blogger, I have been known to wake up and start checking my phone – social media, blog, email – before I even get out of bed. GROSS.
Now, when we start winding down to go to bed, we leave our phones out in the kitchen or living room to charge up for a full days’ work tomorrow. This is not the first time we’ve tried something like this, but it IS the first time we’ve actually successfully implemented some kind of phone boundaries. No phones for a good six, eight, maybe even ten or twelve hours of the day and it’s been awesome. I sleep better and I just feel like less of an addicted phone-loving robot.
I know it’s not huge, but baby steps, people. Tippy toe baby steps.
12. Get a supporter – someone who really understands you and blogging.
I am so thankful (hey! Thanksgiving! extra thankful!) that my Personal + Professional Supporter is also my husband. We do this together, so so so together, that he understands my thoughts and experiences and struggles with the blog better than anyone else.
Having a single person — literally just ONE, although more friends = more party — to talk to when things are spinning into that downward spiral is so important to your ability to bounce back. I guess that’s just true in life, right? and it’s especially true for me in blogging. I would have quit four and half years ago if it weren’t for the space and time that Bjork gives me to talk my way out of the Blogging Blues.
Find someone who really understands and can relate in some tiny way or another why it’s frustrating when people scrape your content, or what it feels like to deal with that rude comment, or how challenging Facebook’s news feed changes have been lately.
It is one thing to talk about this stuff, but it’s another thing to talk about it with someone who really understands blogging and understands you.
13. Take one day off. Completely off.
Heyyyy creepy/cool picture of Bjork. Mwah.
Starting this year, we’ve been taking Sundays completely off. No work, no blog, nada.
To be totally transparent, I couldn’t and definitely didn’t do this when I was teaching-by-day and blogging-by-nights-and-weekends. There was a distinct period of time (like, years) when I was working every day of the week. There was just no other way during that season of my life — or at least it seemed like there was no other way. I have mixed feelings about that time because the consistent hard work of the early days is what has brought Pinch of Yum to where it is today, but there is also a layer of regret about how much I was working and things that I missed out on because of that.
As I’ve been more intentional about pulling back for ONE day of the week, I’ve become a more peaceful and restful and intentional person and, as a result, a better blogger. The work-all-the-time model is not sustainable in the long run – hence me leaving my teaching job and moving as close as possible to a place of balance.
Work-life balance is, in a lot of ways, a myth for entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeking out. Do your best to constantly be moving closer and closer to that balance.
14. Stick to an organizational system.
And my organizational system is breakfast. Half-kidding.
This year I’ve been using the Day Designer by Whitney English in addition to my very high-tech fancy Google calendar.
I put events into the Google calendar as they come up, and then each week I go to my Day Designer and manually write in the events for the week so that I have them in two places. Then, for each day, I define the three main things that I’m trying to get done and at the end of the day I reflect on one thing I loved or was thankful for from that day. I also take time for a monthly overview each month where I set goals to align with each of my three main values, which I determined at the start of the year with the help of the guides in the planner.
That’s my system. I don’t have a regular daily schedule – I try, but it changes all the time. So at the very least, I find it super helpful to have a reliable organizational and task-management system that will work no matter what kind of crazy the day brings.
Bjork uses a task management app called Things and another one called Clear – there’s a little description of how Clear works in this post.
15. Re-write the definition of success.
When I’m feeling really bleh about the blog, I often just stop and ask myself: but what are you actually trying to do?
Is it to have the biggest Pinterest following? No.
Is it to have every person in the world love my blog? Nope.
Is it to make the most money ever? Negative.
What I AM trying to do is to do my life / food / photography / blog thing — with great love — right now.
That’s another piece of genius from Shauna – and yes, the other thing I am trying to do is be her prodigy.
And then when I really step back and see the big picture, I go, WOW. I am already doing the thing I am trying to do. I’m already doing it! And suddenly the details that have me all in a tizzy (I’m giving Facebook the stink eye right now) become a lot less important and I’m able to re-align based on my true definition of success.
So what are you actually trying to do?
Peel back the layers and re-define what success actually means to you.
You guys, this post is a beast. I sort of can’t believe I had all those WORDS to say about blogger burnout, but apparently five years of get-up-and-try-again will do that to a person. I would absolutely love to hear from you on this, especially if you have things that have helped you in your own personal battle against the Big B: burnout.
Friends? It’s the start of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Take good care of yourself and your people on these few days together.
And if you still don’t know what you’re bringing to Thanksgiving, we might be the same person. I’ve got you covered with those 10 Last Minute Thanksgiving Side Dishes. Bring on the mashed potatoes and gray-veeee!