Agency Life: How to keep going when you’re burning out
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) Working in an advertising agency may be a lot of fun, and the challenges you face may help you develop and advance in your career. Late nights and weekends spent at the office with colleagues, boxes of pizza and cappuccino after cappuccino while you work on a pitch or a huge campaign are inevitable. So are daily tiffs and squabbles. Coping with the everyday pressures of advertising isn’t too difficult with proper stress management. But sometimes, when you have too much stress, you experience burnout.
Unlike stress, burnout is a lot trickier to deal with because it affects you physically, mentally and emotionally. This is why people with burnout feel constantly fatigued, lack motivation, and find it more difficult than usual to do things they normally do with ease. When Friday drinks at the bar turn into ever day drinks at the bar, it’s probably a sign of burnout.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with burnout so you don’t have to start your mornings off with a pounding headache and a toasted sandwich from the cafeteria. Here are a few tips to help you along:
When you have so much to do that you don’t even know where to start, or you don’t have any motivation whatsoever to do it, you need to give yourself a breather and get the inspiration you need to keep going. Go to the theatre, watch comedy clips online, hang out with your friends, or simply switch off your devices and spend some time in nature.
It seems counterintuitive but, when you’re burnt out, doing things you enjoy will give you a more positive attitude, which will help you bounce back and find the drive you need to keep going. The key is to do things you enjoy. That means avoiding overly negative people or situations that add to your stress instead of allowing you some release.
Ask for help
One of the hardest things to do as a creative is letting someone else run with your ideas, or passing by a really good brief. But, when you have a lot on your plate, it’s better to get extra hands or some extra time so you can do the best work you can. Instead of trying to do everything all by yourself, or all at once, see if it’s possible to move out some deadlines so you have time to get through everything you need to. If not, see if there’s anyone whose workload is relatively light, and ask them to help you out with some of your work.
This will help you to not feel overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to get through, and allow you to focus on doing a few things really well instead of spreading yourself too thinly and ending up with a lot of mediocre work. Once you get through the burnout and are back on your A-game, you can start to take on more work. Do it wisely, though, so you don’t end up getting burnt out again.
Look out for no. 1
[No, not JZ — ed-at-large] One of the things that lead to burnout is self-neglect. Make sure that you do the basics right. Eat proper meals, get some exercise and, instead of binge-watching the latest series when you get home, get the sleep you need to have enough energy for the next day. Avoid excessive drinking and smoking. Practice mindfulness, whether it’s by doing yoga, meditating or putting in your earphones and listening to your favourite songs. If you need to vent, call a friend or see a therapist.
All these little things will go a long way in reducing the intense stress levels you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own wellbeing, so take the time to make sure that your star player has everything needed to perform.
When you’re burnt out, you can’t help but feel helpless, and think that there’s no way to get out of it. But there is. It’s a phase that most people go through at one point or another because of the nature of advertising. But the sooner you start doing something about it, the sooner you can get back up and kick ass.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is an award-winning senior copywriter at FCB Africa with several years of experience in the advertising industry. More than a writer, he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things; and he once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs. TJ contributes the regular “Agency Life” column, in which he gives career advice for working within the advertising industry, to MarkLives.