I am so excited to feature this guest post by my friend, Nancy Chen, of Nourish by Nancy! Be sure to check out her bio at the end of this post to find out how you can connect with and follow her!
Hustling and burnout. What’s the difference — and how do you walk the fine line between them?
I’m a person who loves to follow my passions, and that leads me to a ton of different projects (and also to be dubbed as “the girl with a million jobs”). There are times when I feel like I’m in a flow state and can crank through work, and times when I feel overwhelmed by everything and dip into burnout.
In the age of side hustles, passion projects, and the decreasing line between work and life, burnout is all too common. Here are my tips for working hard, doing what you love, and still staying sane.
Step one is knowing how much time you have and where your peaks and valleys of energy are.
If you’re a morning person, your peak energy is going to be in the morning (obviously), so capitalize on that and use it for your deep work (more on that below). If you’re a night owl, do the opposite.
Then, use a planner or your phone to keep track of what your days look like. Have a purpose for each hour, even if that purpose is just resting, sleeping, hanging out with friends. This avoids those time sucks, like browsing aimlessly on your phone, and you’ll find that you have more pockets of time in your schedule for all the things you want to do.
Batch Your Projects
Your brain can only work hard on one task for so long before hitting a wall. (See deep work below — if you’re doing it, it’s around three hours).
Along the same vein, as much as we like to think we’re good at multitasking and as much as it makes us feel productive, that’s counterintuitive. Our brains can’t really multitask and it ends up distracting us and decreasing overall productivity.
An example of batching your projects would be doing deep work for your passion project in the morning (writing, creating content or music), taking a break for breakfast and maybe a workout, then doing deep work for your full-time job. Take a break and work on some admin tasks for your work/personal life/side hustles. Do some less brain-consuming work again. Take a break for food. Work on your next project. Take a break. And so on.
Learn How to Create Effective To-Do Lists
Confession: I love to-do lists. Lists, in general, help me get all my thoughts out.
But there’s an effective and non-effective way to do to-do lists.
Effective: Prioritize them — what needs to get done today.
Not Effective: A random list of literally everything you need to get done.
I usually start with brain dumping everything I need to do into a Notes doc on my phone/Macbook or my Passion Planner, then breaking it up by section (work, my blog/IG, admin tasks, teaching, writing). Then, I take I go further and break it up by day.
There are a couple of different opinions on how many tasks you should include in your to-do list each day (only what fits on a regular sized post-it note, five tasks, etc.) but I think you should be realistic about how much time things will take and plan accordingly. Sometimes that’s one thing, sometimes that’s ten.
Here’s an idea from Beyond the To-Do List (great podcast): “Your daily schedule should feature one very important task, three tasks of medium importance, and five little things.”
Learn to Say No
“No” is a hard word to say. Most of us want to be helpful and feel some sort of obligation.
But think of it this way: the more you say no to things that you’re not 100% passionate about, the more you can say yes to things you love.
Or, put it this way (thanks Mark Manson): “It’s either a f*** yes or a no.”
That can mean meeting for coffee, going out for drinks, a request from a brand for content or partnership, etc.
Ask Yourself What Truly Matters
My friend once made fun of me for reorganizing all my pins in my Pinterest boards. While it was crazy therapeutic and once I started I couldn’t stop, it’s an example of work that does not move the needle. Not at 200 followers, not at 2K+ followers.
Learn the importance of deep work and do it. Cal Newport’s Deep Work was a required onboarding reading for my current company, and it changed the way I view and do work.
Essentially, deep work is the work that moves the needle. It’s the difficult work — maybe that’s thinking of new marketing strategies, maybe that’s writing your novel, maybe that’s creating new email flows. Often, it’s what people do first thing in the morning.
To do this, it’s essential that you remove all distractions. Turn your phone to “do not disturb” (or even better, airplane mode). If you’re writing and don’t need the internet, turn off your wifi. Close all tabs except the ones you’re working on. Write by hand. Lock yourself in a room with just your work.
Oh, and most importantly? Do not check your email as a way of procrastination.
Take Time Off to Recharge
Even if you’ve found a good balance, you still need time off to recharge.
Whether that’s a social media break, a nightly unwind routine (highly recommend), a stay-in weekend without any obligations or work, or a legit tropical vacation, plan these things into your schedule so you’ll actually do them.
We cannot pour from an empty cup, so take the time to fill yours.
Nancy is an email marketing manager, fitness instructor, and a wellness and mental health advocate. You can tell she’s a SoCal native by her love of avocados, sunshine, and acai bowls. When she’s not boxing (or teaching boxing), she’s practicing her handstand, writing poetry, and browsing used bookstores. She’s a firm believer of real food and finding what’s best for your body. Find her on Insta at @nourishbynancy (for food) and @nancylinchen (for fitness) or via her blog Nourish by Nancy.