At the end of 2018, I completely crashed into a pit of burnout. During the year, I had been working myself into the ground – doing long hours at work, going to the gym late at night for 1-1.5 hours, and coming home and working on a fashion business until I was literally falling asleep whilst I typed. At the same time, I was applying way too much mental pressure on myself, feeling dissatisfied with my life, comparing myself to others, and totally crumbling in the midst of it. I felt so down that year, whilst from the outside looking in, there was no reason to be down. I had a good circle around me, had an amazing holiday in Santorini and Mykonos, was on top of my fashion blogging, and I even jumped onto the property ladder.
Going into 2019, I decided I was done with the overly productive lifestyle. I released my brain and toxic thoughts, and gave myself a break. I will still blogging of course, that was even the year I opened my (now closed) fitness page, and started 6am workouts; but I wasn’t putting as much pressure on myself. I was sleeping in on the weekends, working only on the things I wanted to, and trying not to stress out too much if I missed a day at the gym. Granted, at the end on 2019, I decided I wanted to revert back to some of my old habits of trying to use my time productively, but just in a more sustainable way. I think currently, I’ve struck a decent balance. It’s not easy to juggle everything I want to, but I am able to fit in / balance multiple things, without spiralling in craziness as I once did. A lot of it is about learning how to “work smart”, not always working harder.
🔨 Break down tasks
One thing I started doing upon my re-emergence from burnout was learning how to break down tasks. As great as it would be to come home from a day at the office, go into our home office and work away on personal projects like blogging and writing for another 4 hours, it’s just not practical. I am way too tired for that, and even if I could push my body to do it, the output would be so low quality because I am just too exhausted. Instead, I do just a few focussed tasks most evenings, and if I’m too tired, I do none. It could be editing one video for Soulful Kitchen, editing a post for this blog that I wrote up over the weekend, or just answering to e-mails and requests. I can spend 1-2 hours during the evening doing personal tasks, wind down with some YouTube/TV/TikTok (these days), then go to sleep and do it all again. By the time you get to Friday, you’ve shaved a decent amount off of your to-do list.
Over the years, I’ve become better at multi-tasking. For example, when I’m in the gym, I’m usually listening to a podcast or video that I’d listen to regardless during my “downtime”. Or often, I edit videos for Soulful Kitchen whilst watching something on Netflix or Prime during the evening. Currently, I’m typing up this post as I wait for my nails to dry. It’s just about using your “downtime” effectively if you can. I do this partly because I’m impatient, but find that it helps to chip away at tasks I need to do without requiring too much effort.
There was a period where I was trying to fit in way too much – a corporate job, 1-1.5 hours at the gym every day, a blog, a fitness page, and once upon a time, a fashion business that never made it to launch. These days, my schedule is a lot slimmer. For example, instead of 1-1.5 hours at the gym, I tend to spend 30-35 minutes at the gym during the weekday and 45 minutes to 1 hour during the weekend. I make it a priority to walk everywhere I can during the weekdays so when all is said and done, I’m burning the same amount of calories I’d burn doing 1-1.5 hours at the gym, but getting public transport absolutely everywhere. In addition, instead of taking on additional “to-dos” (at one point I was also doing Yoruba language lessons, and thinking of taking up dance classes), I’ve slimmed mine down to the essentials / the things I really want to pour my energy into. It’s the reason why I decided eventually to close down my fitness page. When your energy levels and time are limited – zoom in on the important things.
🗒️ Plan far ahead
I find that Soulful Kitchen and the gym requires a lot of planning of my time. For the former, I need to be writing and filming a recipe most weekends, otherwise I will fall behind on content and in these early stages of the project where we are building up an audience – consistency is really everything. For the gym, if I want to reach 4-5 days a week in that place, then I need to also plan that in advance. I plan around, for e.g., travel – as I have to travel a lot for work and that always throws me off schedule. Or even just planning around social time – if I know I’m out on Saturday evening for example, then I can’t utilise that time for SK, the gym, or even this blog (which I usually try to fit in on a Sunday evening). I go with the flow of course and don’t plan my life to a T, sometimes the best days and experiences are those that are spontaneous, but more often than not, you can plan ahead to fit in things outside of your main workday.
🕯️ Wind down
It’s so important to take time to wind down. During 2018 when I mentally burned myself into the ground, I read so many articles which convinced me that going out with my friends was a waste of time. I remember going to drinks at a birthday and feeling like this wasn’t what “successful” people did. Granted, this was a period of an extremely toxic mindset towards work, and emerging from it through the other end, I appreciated down time more than ever. You don’t need to be working all day, every day – spend your evenings winding down, take time during the evening and weekends to be social – just make time for it. Productivity doesn’t have to be toxic. This way, you’re happier, more satisfied, and as a result you’ll work better too.
❔ How toxic is “toxic productivity”?
Throughout the 2010s, a culture of hustling yourself into the ground emerged. The era of the boss babe, and the (ongoing) era f*ck 9-5s era. I wrote about my take in 2021. Once we got to Covid, and everybody was exhausted, the other camp emerged. Tired of the glamorisation of overwork, and zooming in on protecting your mental heath. Today still, I hear many successful people dismiss the newer school of thought around mental health, and reducing it to “bubble baths are not going to help you be successful”. Where do I stand? I can’t sit here and say that I don’t try to use my days productively, and that I don’t think there is a discipline that comes with working hard. Depending on what you want to achieve, often you need to work hard when you don’t want to, to really get to where you want. That is something I think is the truth, and a way of life I personally think I follow. However, what I dislike is when people glamorise “hustle culture”, and make statements suggesting that one should never have downtime. For example, not taking the day off on Christmas day, because then you’re falling behind whilst others are working. Or advising people to watch TV shows on 2x speeds, to watch shows “productively”… that’s when I think you reer away from practical advice, into the realm of toxicity.
Throughout it all, the most important thing is be on your own journey, drawing your own conclusions and figuring out what works best for you. It’s so easy to have your mind polluted by the multiple opinions of others that could serve to make you feel better or worse about what you’re up to. That said, if you stay lazer focussed on your goals and methods that work for you, things will eventually find an equilibrium.
Have a great week everyone!