When I started Taylor Made back in March, Burnout was one of the first topics I wanted to cover after a quick intro. Then, SURPRISE! The world changed in ways we never saw coming. Suddenly everything was survival mode, everything I tried to plan kind of just couldn’t happen. Life became fight or flight. The amount of ups and downs we experienced every day since pushed some of these topics I wanted to talk about to the side because suddenly we were in survival mode. Our business and life took a complete turn from what we thought and I felt inclined to speak on all of that as it was relevant.
Life for the past 6 months has been survival mode
While I do not think that the shit storm of 2020 is by any means over, we personally and as a business are seeing things return to a level of normalcy. Our days no longer consist of sewing masks, applying for business grants or thinking constantly about what we can do to survive. We sit here 6 months since the pandemic started still very on edge about what could happen next. That said, we sit here extremely grateful to be absolutely buried in orders again. Orders for the products we've spent 10 years creating. Damn it feels good to be back.
We're back to a level of normalcy
So! Now that we are semi back to our normal, I wanted to go back to the reason I started this newsletter series from the beginning: To talk about topics that have become not only incredibly relevant in my life as a business owner but very common with others as well. While my perspective is about being a business owner, these topics are also going to be very applicable to any working professional.
Now, to talk about something many of us have experienced or will experience at some point in their career.
I started my working career in HR (It wasn't for me, though great to know)
For starters, many don't know this about me but I got my degree in Human Resources (HR) and spent my first year working in HR before I said: I QUIT.
I always thought everything I was doing was incredibly amazing to know but I knew there was no way I could see myself sitting there 30 years later doing that as my sole career. I was at the point in life where I knew I had a business with an insane amount of potential but there was still a lot of groundwork to get it to be not just my full time career, but Tanner's too. HR is something on many levels that I knew would be good to know as a business owner. From knowing the legality around hiring humans to creatively thinking about how you can empower your team, I knew everything I put my time into here was going to be good to have for my business.
There's something that stuck with me when getting my HR education
One day in one of my HR classes in college, the topic of the day was burnout. At first I thought yeah, people work, they get tired blah blah, they go to Tahiti for a week and they are fine. After hearing more about it and talking to people who actually were burnt out at their job, I realized it went a lot deeper than that. True burnout takes shape in the form of prolonged exhaustion, decreased motivation, physical illness and who knows what else since everyone feels it differently. How do I know? I hit burnout last year.
My energy used to be endless
Back when I was in college and then into my early twenties (I'm 26 now), my energy was endless. I remember thinking all of the time "I'm going to look back in 30 years and think how the hell did I do all of that??"
This level of energy definitely contributed to me getting where I am now but I never learned the importance of pacing myself in those years. I though that I would hit my wall in 20, 30 years, not 3.
Have you ever experienced burnout?
Great, you know exactly what I'm talking about so let's prevent it from happening again. Never experienced it? Great, let's also be mindful of this to prevent it from happening in the future.
My Burnout Story
I never thought I would see it in my own business. Ever since learning about it and having people work for us, I put a huge focus on preventing their burnout in any way I knew I could, but I didn't realize that I was neglecting myself at the same time. I felt for many, many years that because I was so deeply passionate about the hustle of growing our business, the excitement was what was going to continuously fuel me. I never saw burnout as something that would happen to me anytime soon, until one day it just did. As we started to grow, I wanted Tanner to continue to feel creative to create the amazing work I knew he was capable of. I put a big focus on protecting his creativity and at the time, I felt fine doing this. As we built out our schedules through the week, we built that time in for him to keep that sense of creativity going, which I don't regret by any means. But what I didn't realize at the time is that because I put everyone else first and our business was growing faster than we really anticipated, I was working on hyperdrive to keep up.
Remember your oxygen mask
You know when you get on a plane and zone out when the flight attendants go over the same thing every single time before takeoff? One day I decided to actually listen to what they said again. They brought out the oxygen mask and said that you need to put yours on first before you can be capable of helping others. Such a simple concept right? Through the years of protecting others from reaching burnout, I wasn't putting my oxygen mask on first and that was a problem. I used to feel selfish thinking about putting myself first. When I really thought of it this way I realized that it's not at all selfish to put yourself first, it's actually incredibly necessary. My number one priority when this year started was to always remember my oxygen mask.
Extreme growth leads to extreme exhaustion.
Last year our business grew by 60%, after growing by about 30% year after year in the years before. We were pumped, but the reality of 60% growth at the stage we're at is exhausting. It isn't just selling and keeping up with the demand of 60% more product, it's SO MUCH MORE. You suddenly have demand you never had before so you have to quickly adapt to keep up. But to get that demand, the legwork beforehand is extensive. Then you need to shift here, there and everywhere to keep up, to our level of standards that we've set for ourselves.
News flash, working 7 days a week isn't healthy
Through this year, I was so proud but I also found myself working 7 days a week, every week. And not just 9-5, I would work on my feet 9-5 in the production and shipping department managing our team there and then would go home, have a quick meal and work on admin work and customer service until I went to bed. I felt like if I didn't keep up daily, everything would stack and stack and I wouldn't be able to keep up and I couldn't stand to sit there and see everything I've worked for fall to shit. I knew in the back of my head that I needed to start delegating more, and I was in many ways but there was still so much to figure out for me to get my time back that couldn't happen overnight. I'm happy to report that in many ways, I have fixed a lot of this since but it took hitting burnout to get there.
Suddenly I went from always being excited to always feeling burnout
Suddenly in 2019 I wasn't fueled by that excitement to grow our business in the way I always had. My body physically shut down. Every day I felt sick, but didn't have time to feel sick so I kept going. I would wake up and drag myself out of bed which was incredibly rare for me because before then, I always excitedly got up to start the next day. I had a cough that didn't go away for over a month and I didn't understand why. I started vomiting frequently and also didn't understand why. Looking back now, I understand that I was in the heat of my burnout. Thankfully I was able to keep our ship sailing through it but it was so incredibly difficult and I had to make some radical changes to keep going.
I quickly understood why most people quit their business within 5 years
More than anything, I felt disheartened and sad about the fact that I let myself hit burnout like that. I wondered how I was able to put so much energy into preventing others from hitting it to hitting a wall at full force myself. I immediately understood why most businesses fail within 5 years. We were at our 5 year mark, experiencing substantial growth and suddenly I questioned if it was all worth it. I thought "at what point is this all just not worth it?" The one thing I have poured my everything into that I had such a deep passion for became the thing that not only exhausted me, but started to mess with my health. I instantly understood why people say screw it and quit their business.
I just knew we couldn't quit, it's not our time.
I knew I couldn't quit our business, I didn't want to quit our business but everything was becoming really difficult. The potential was clearly nowhere near over but there were days I questioned it. I let myself get to a level of complete extreme of questioning if we should move onto something else that wouldn't be so exhausting. If I had just taken steps back to rest, I wouldn't need to feel that extreme, but I kept pushing and that was a problem.
How'd I get past it?
I knew instantly that I was experiencing burnout and that I needed to make changes if we were going to keep moving forward. We still had the holiday season ahead of us. In years past, the holidays consist of extreme overtime to keep up with which I was always happy to push and do but suddenly that became my entire life and rest felt like it wasn't an option. Now I know now that rest is the key to keeping everything going.
You are your biggest asset
I knew I had to move past doing everything myself, I needed to pace myself and understand that I am one of our biggest assets. If I didn't do all of those things moving forward, I knew that I would, in many ways be self sabotaging myself and our business.
If you have a successful business, the work will always be ongoing, so take time to rest.
I always try to catch up with the work on our plate but I’ve realized that if you have a successful business, there will always be mountains of work. So you need to pace yourself and take time. Delegate and hire, even if it’s minimal to start. More on delegation later!
We live in a stressful society with a lot of pressure
Our society has shaped us to be hard working, hustle focused, capitalistic driven human beings. When you first meet someone, an early question is what do you do? That mentality becomes toxic and that leads you in a fast track to burnout.
As we've traveled, we've spoken to many people from other countries that are so not work focused which made me realize just how intense our society has become.
The assumption for many is that you will go to college right after high school, get your degree and immediately start your career. If you don't do that, many people perceive you as lazy or not having a solid work ethic. It's not really acknowledged that it's okay to take ample time to just be human. We have that pressure but it doesn't mean that is how life needs to be.
My Burnout has lead us to make a pretty drastic life change.
Burnout isn’t just needing a nap, it’s internal exhaustion that effects you mentally and if extreme, will lead you to be withdrawn from the things that are actually healthy for you and very necessary. Things like being with family, laughing with friends, taking time to not think about work etc. You need balance. If you don’t have that regularly right now, stop and figure out how you can make that happen.
I realized that working myself to death isn't how I want to be as continue. We are on a 2 year track to change the way that we operate as a company and as individuals to keep our business crushing it while maintaining a positive work life balance. There is a way to be successful and not work yourself literally to death. We are figuring all of that out but have a pretty exciting plan. I'm not spilling the beans because it's still very much in the works but it's coming and we are SO EXCITED.
Some things I've had to keep reminding myself to prevent Burnout from happening again:
We all have the same amount of hours in a day. This includes the most successful people and the most unsuccessful people. How do you think really successful people do it? They smartly delegate and leverage.
Work smarter, not harder. You don't, and shouldn't be the only one doing everything. As you grow, think about what you can do to delegate in your business and personal life. In our business life, we are working towards personally removing ourselves from production because our bodies can't handle it. In our personal life, I order groceries online because I can't stand spending hours going to the store and now I no longer have to stress about it.
Self care. I can say a lot about this because it's so important. Think about the things you can do to reset your batteries. To me, it's time alone with my dog and a glass of wine. To others, it might be a night out with a bunch of friends (I love that too, don't get me wrong but that's not what resets my batteries)
Prepare. In our business life, I map our our entire week in one hour on a Sunday night. When we get into work every day that week, we know exactly what's up so that things aren't overwhelming all the time. At home, I have begin meal prepping so that lunch and dinner doesn't need to be one more thing to think about and deal with during the week, it's all figured out so that when we are hungry, we have a good meal waiting for us without thought. This prevents us from feeling scattered in both our personal and professional lives.
Balance. Don't make your entire life work. Keep a personal life, set boundaries with how much you work and keep doing things outside of your business that you enjoy doing
Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are successful, there will always be work to get done and a never ending to do list. Sure, if you tackle it faster, maybe you will achieve success faster or whatever but if you have that mentality and burnout, it will not be good for you, your business and everyone in your life. I can't stress how important this is.
Recognizing burnout. If you feel like you're approaching a sense of burnout I encourage you to stop and take a break before moving forward. Rarely do you need to truly push yourself. I get it, there will be times where you need to work more than others, and that's fine. Just do not make working overtime a prolonged pattern. When you start to feel exhausted, pause, think about why and think about what you can do to get back to a better space. Don't cover up the problem, don't push through. Take a damn break.
Life is too short to reach burnout. Prevent it if you can but also know that if you have hit it or are currently experiencing it, there are plenty of ways to climb out and prevent it from happening in the future. My burnout was a wake up call that I needed. It forced me to change a lot about how we grow as business owners, humans and a married couple.
I don't look at my burnout as a failure, but instead an opportunity to look at something that wasn't working and turn it around to create a life where burnout won't exist if I can help it. I'm excited for our next life change that is a direct result of my burnout (seriously can't wait to tell you all). Until then, keep on keepin' on!