Balancing against Burn-Out

In This Issue: Balancing against Burnout
Potts’ Marketing Guide
the Online Marketing Newsletter
for Professional Photographers and other Creative

Word count for this issue: approx. 720
Approximate time to read: Just about 4 minutes

Creating Balance, Filling the Well, Increasing

I’ve just returned from my annual “start-my-year-off
right-by-sharpening-the-saw ” road trip. “Sharpening
the saw” is a phrase I picked up from author Steven
Covey. In his best-selling “7 Habits of Highly
Effective People” series of inspirational productivity
and management books, he talks about the importance to
keeping your “tools” sharp.

He reminds readers that to operate at your highest and
best levels, you have to remember to keep yourself
sharp- not just in your external career tools (e.g.
using the latest digital gear and software); you have
to keep sharpening your internal tools as well.

Truly effective individuals deliberately take the
necessary time away from their day-to-day career
demands to put time in on maintaining and evolving
their “inner tools.” These tools include: patience;
objectivity; better listening skills; pro-activity;
resourcefulness; and most importantly in our
industry: creativity. All these skills can be renewed
by regular breaks.

Over the course of my career as an artists’ agent, I
found that the greatest danger- and quickest route to
career self-sabotage- was to not take the time away
from the fast-paced, high-stress world of my work. In
advertising photography, that high-stress pace was
constant and never-ending.

During the first 5 years of my career I never took a
vacation. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to take a
break- I just never made the conscious decision TO
take one. The end result of that decision was I became
a crabby victim of job burn-out. It negatively
affected all of my relationships and led to my first
professional “divorce.”

I was completely blind to the toll that living without
a “time out” was taking on me. When you’re in the
middle of something like that, others can see what
kind of stress monkey you’re becoming, but you usually
cannot. Without the awareness of who we’re being and
its toll on our work productivity (and relationships),
it’s unlikely we’ll have the motivation for changing
our circumstances. I was in it so deep, I couldn’t see

Ironically, a few years later (after I started taking
breaks), I was no longer in it- but I could now
clearly see it in others. One of my most successful
photographers started down his own road to burn-out
and self-sabotage. I could see the stress and burn-out
creeping into and eroding his creativity and
problem-solving abilities. The success we had in
shooting lots of assignments was not getting balanced
with any rejuvenating breaks.

Our relationship suffered. He was not producing his
best work and the creative “well” began to run dry. He
wasn’t able to produce the necessary new portfolio
samples I needed to sell him. Only a major recession
in the ad industry provided the necessary break in his
day-to-day unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, that
break was filled with fear and resistance instead of
relief and relaxation. Not a significantly
regenerative experience…

Only after experiencing first hand the net effects of
taking time to “re-fill the well” with the renewing
gifts of relaxation and appreciation, was I able to
notice that the most successful and happy creative
professionals also took regular breaks for renewal. A
break in a well-entrenched routine is one of the
essential ground springs of creativity.

It almost seems counter-intuitive to take a break from
looking for work, but when you do, you often will be
surprised by the seemingly “coincidental” sources of
help and inspiration that come your way. I’ll be
sharing some of those stories from my own life and
others’ in upcoming issues. I hope those stories will
inspire you to actually commit to scheduling one of
those essential re-fueling breaks this year.
Let yourself experience some magic in your life.

Trust me. I know that changing long-standing habits
can be a challenge. However, I’ve found that by
starting small and making it a daily routine, large
changes can be accomplished. In future issues I’ll
also share some of the best resources I’ve found that
make new habits actually ‘stick.’

E.g. how difficult would it be to take a 10-min. break
(today!) to take a brisk walk around the block? Don’t
take your cell phone or iPod with you. Just
consciously observe your neighborhood environment. Try
starting with just one session/day. Notice how much
more energy and focus you have for work when you
return to your computer.

When you’re confident about how these small actions
can yield big productivity results, you can finally
commit to scheduling one of those “refilling-the-well”
vacation breaks and enjoy its rewards.

Time for my 10-minute walk……

All the Best,