I honestly had no bloody idea just how much my sharing about burnout would resonate.
I thought the pebble would fall into the lake with nary a ripple or acknowledgment.
Instead, I got a tsunami of:
Yes, me too.
Sometimes I think it’s just me.
And then I write and share about it… because that’s what I have to do… it’s in my DNA and it’s how I’ve always lived my life and was first writing poems like this:
My name is Leonie
I live in the country
I ride on a pony.
And while that poem has a fairly clearly defined target market of one… I forget that I’m not alone in the universe… I forget that what might be happening to me could be happening to others too.
And of course, it makes sense. Life gets faster, so much to do, so much to keep pace with, no downtime, no detachment… no quiet place. We care for so many, and our own needs are subjugated, both by others and ourselves. Of course we’re fucking burnt out.
I wanted to give you an update.
On how I am, how things have shifted, what I’m doing to heal.
And of course, as soon as I wrote that post… as soon as I wrote out the journey I was on… as soon as I voiced it… as soon as I said:
… things changed.
In divine timing, my team were on a US-based work retreat together… consequently I suddenly had a week of relative quiet and few meetings.
It was just the quiet and stillness I needed.
I started recovery in ways that didn’t look like recovery.
I cleaned my office.
I sorted through a year’s worth of papers in my neglected inbox.
I started a thrilling obsession with a label maker.
I put my financial papers into order in beautifully labelled folders.
I organised my bookcase.
Finally, in my most magnificent triumphant act, I organised all of my journals and papers into chronological order spanning 20 years.
I marvelled over my journals from my teenage years… in exactly the same blank paged A4 journal I use now… same handwriting… same art… same musings.
And I remembered:
This has been me all along.
I found my school report cards and I cried over how kind my teachers were to me, how much they believed in me even then.
I sent a package of my books to my favourite Year 4 teacher to tell him that even if he didn’t remember me, I needed him to know his work mattered and he was such a source of kindness and inspiration for me.
He wrote me back:
Of course I remember you. You were filled with joy and positivity and art even back then.
I started remembering that even though I’ve had some seriously shitty things happen to me this year… where I’d been treated horrifically by someone in my inner circle… that all along my life… now and back then… I have also been surrounded by angels too.
As I took stock, wrote letters, rearranged my life and personal history, soaked in the quiet…
the insights started flying fast and quick.
Within a few days, the exact prescription I needed had failed upon my mind. The prescription I would give myself to heal from burnout, and what I needed to do to create sustainable creativity going forward.
Because here’s the thing – I didn’t just want to take 3 months off and go on sabbatical.
I didn’t want to move away from the work.
I didn’t want to not be creating and sharing…
because those two things ARE the remedy for me.
I intensely wanted to find a way I could do this work for the rest of my life.
(That’s not to say this prescription may not need amending and adding to from time to time. It’s just the right script for me for right now.)
I started applying the prescription right away.
A Julia Cameron protocol of daily morning pages and weekly artist dates.
I’d done The Artist’s Way about ten years ago, but had long fallen out of morning page habit.
I didn’t want to set myself up for failure, so I gave myself gentle guidelines:
My morning pages do NOT happen in the morning. They usually happen for me at night after the kids are in bed. If I can manage it in the day, great. Otherwise, no sweat.
I also do not use an A4 book to write them. I’m using a slightly smaller book than that. So I’m writing less than Julia’s specifications, but I am getting it DONE. Which is the most important thing.
The morning pages are incredibly therapeutic… they are the centrepin of this whole recovery process, and a lot of the other prescription pieces came from this.
As for weekly artist dates, I don’t do them every week. I’m gentle with myself. I just keep the intention of searching these things out without overwhelming myself.
Given my natural proclivities, I would sign myself up for too much, and then crash and burn within 3 weeks, needing months in my hermit shell to recover from that.
So for now it’s little visits to the shop for smoothies and keeping the local bookstore in business.
Added into the daily prescription is gratitude journaling.
I write down a minimum of three things I’m grateful for that day.
I do it at night just before going to bed to remind myself of everything that is working, and all there is to be grateful for.
It helps me re-centre and remember all the good things that are happening, instead of focussing on the things that aren’t working.
I also reduced my work hours.
I’ve always only worked part time as a CEO.
My hours have crept up from 10-12 hours a week to 25 hours a week.
Which still isn’t a full time load, but it just wasn’t working for me or my family.
I felt more disconnected from my family and I missed my kids.
I usually worked from 1pm-6pm each day. My kids go to bed at 6:30pm so I felt like I was barely glimpsing them in the afternoons.
Again, I realise I’m remarkably privileged to even work part time hours, and that not everyone gets to make the same choices.
But I’m in a position where I can… so why wouldn’t I adjust my hours in a way that sings to my heart, and to the heart of my family?
I’m also a big believer that a fully, happy life outside of work is important to creativity.
In order to be able to reduce my hours, I’ve had to re-evaluate all my tasks and decide:
- do I delegate this to someone who already knows how to?
- do I train someone up to know how to do this?
- do I hire someone who already knows this?
- do I automate?
- do I delete it all together?
My staff already have access to tens of thousands of dollars worth of training in our training library.
I’ve also started creating LDI-specific training.
- I invite my team to a team-only webinar on a date
- I have to get the training complete by that date (deadlined tasks… the only way things get done! Ha!)
- I record it with slides
- We make it into a video that gets popped into our training library for future staff to use.
Examples of LDI-specific training we have made or will make:
- Customer Service
- Company history.
I also made time in my schedule to have monthly meetings with some of our team to give them really clear feedback, guidance and direction about the future of the company and where I want to take various parts of it (i.e. design and copywriting). This has made a huge difference!
What’s more it’s a win-win-win for everyone… all my staff love it… the results are instant… and it reduces the workload on me! YAY!
I had some parameters set for how many meetings and calls and interviews I would do each week.. but invariably I would get overbooked anyway.
Instead, what I did was just block out time in my calendar as unavailable, so nobody could book me in for shit even if they wanted to. Ha!
Now, three afternoons a week, I have scheduled UNavailability. It’s time just to work, reflect and create.
It’s already revolutionary.
This is taking my scheduled unavailability to the NEXT LEVEL.
I got the idea from someone at my women’s circle, who shared they were having their yearly GOLDEN WEEK.
It was the week of the year they had off work while their kids were still at school. She would basically have a week long TREAT YO SELF:
Massages, movies, champagne at 10am, shopping.
And I loved the idea of Golden Week SO MUCH.
And I decided I wanted one. Not just one… but one… OFTEN.
So I booked out my calendar for the next 18 months.
Three weeks on, one week off.
My week off will be totally free of any appointments, meetings and tasks. I will work with my team to make sure we forward plan enough that no “work emergencies” or “urgent tasks” come up during that week. They either get it from me beforehand, wait until afterwards, or develop the skills to execute themselves. It’s enforced training! Ha!
They will be my little creative sanctuary… where I learn and read and reflect and journal and dream and strategise and make art.
I need to build in these buffers so I have the space to do the truly important work that both builds the company and delights my heart…
not just the work that is reactionary.
I cancelled all live events for the rest of the year.
The only one I’ll be doing in the future is our annual Shining Biz and Life Academy conference/retreat (only for Academy members) here in Canberra in February 2017.
As I shared in the last post, my public profile has risen quite a lot, and speaking at events can become fairly intense. While I love meeting peeps face to face, the sheer numbers end up being overwhelming. I love giving and being fully present with people… and it also comes at an energetic cost. Live events can leave me on the couch for days/weeks/months to recover.
I’m more comfortable with running my own events. Our event in February was actually fairly easy to navigate for me on an energetic and practical level – my team ran it brilliantly, and we had great boundaries established. I could set up rest times and control the environment. I also had a green room I could decompress in and get centred in… all things I need in order to turn up and speak and teach. It’s more difficult to control the environment when I’m not running an event.
I’m truly sorry if this disappoints you. I’m sorry.
I wish we could meet too.
But for me, it’s the decision to do that and impact my ability to do the rest of my work.
My priority is always to be able to help as many as people as possible through my work – my courses, group coaching and weekly Q&A in the Academy, and through my workbooks.
My first love has been to create things that help people. So I’ll be returning to focus just on that.
There’s nothing like the salt and sea to heal and reinvigorate.
That, and large bags of books and journals. Who needs changes of clothes or anything else vaguely practical?
I’ll be off for a while, and back to release our wild cwazy preorder sale on 20th July.
So that’s my prescription.
I’ve also been doing art that no one will ever see.
Written some short novellas of poetry.
Given up reading business books for a while.
Fed myself a steady diet of David Whyte and Julia Cameron audiobooks.
All things that are infinitely needed.
And gradually, just gradually,
I feel the water start seeping back into my well.
I’m not asking too much of it right now.
I’m not going to go ahead and overdraw it again.
I just think over and over:
Let the rains keep coming.
Keep filling that well.
Only pour from an overflowing cup.
This. This is the ultimate act of self love and devotion.
This. This is the way to woo back my most dearly beloved.
With love and tenderness to you… right where you are right now,
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