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Saving Your Muse: Preventing Long-Term Content Burnout in a Content-Driven World

There’s no getting around it. At some point, writing just feels like a hamster wheel of writing more:

  • headlines
  • call-to-actions
  • social media updates
  • webpages
  • blogs
  • emails
  • etc. and etc.

The constant strain to provide fresh and relevant content in a marketing world driven by content can quickly lead to content burnout.

 It can be particularly frustrating to business owners because good content sells. A college student experiencing content burnout can just shut off the computer or close down a social media channel. A business owner usually can’t afford to do that. They need the ongoing feedback with their customers to maintain their business. 

Content burnout begins when a content creator (writer, marketer, business owner) experiences a significant decline in at least one of three areas:

  • Time: Failing to schedule and follow through on content goals
  • Expectations: Unrealistic expectations about content (i.e. believing content will go viral)
  • Resources: Failing to devote the proper energy, teamwork, budget, and technology to feed your goals

People experiencing content burnout develop a growing frustration, procrastination, and an overwhelming sense of dread. In response, they may try to produce even more content, stick to the same content strategies (even if those strategies aren’t working, or ignore the content process altogether.

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Most advice for burned-out writers or content creators is focused on short-term efforts, like trying out a new app that is guaranteed to solve all of your problems. This can be helpful, but it doesn’t stop content burnout over the long term. Businesses, with the constant need to update blogs, social media, advertising, website pages, databases, and more need a more resilient way to break out of content burnout.

So, how do you break out of content burnout? Start investing in the things that feed your content: time, resources, and expectations.

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Here are some tips on investing in the craft and discipline of  sustainable content creation:

Time:

  • Schedule specific writing tasks on your to-do lists. Most people don’t schedule enough time for writing. Don’t fall for that simple mistake. Schedule specific tasks, such as “research new content ideas for 30 minutes” or “revise next week’s blog post for at least 15 minutes” Otherwise, your simple note to write a blog post will not account for everything that goes into writing a blog post like:
    • Choosing a compelling headline
    • Selecting images
    • Conducting any research
    • Editing
    • Formatting paragraphs
    • Looking at funny hamster wheel videos while you wait for a new idea about the paragraph because it looks like it should have more information but you don’t know what to add yet.
  • Set two deadlines (completion & review), then set it and forget it. This is one way to prevent “scope creep” (aka spending more time on a project because you’re worried to release it to the world) and procrastination. Instead of waiting until you “feel” like writing, set up two deadlines, a completion date (that occurs before the actual due date) and a review date. After that, move to the next task. If you have to complete blog posts every Tuesday, set a completion date for Friday and a review date for Sunday or Monday. That way, you decrease the habit of scrambling to write and edit at the same time.
  • Put your writing on a schedule. Another habit of procrastinating content creators is to wait until the last absolute minute (either out of habit or because they are waiting for a Muse). A better approach is to practice writing at a specific time in a specific space. Even if your writing doesn’t make sense at the time, if you practice writing in a specific time and space, your brain will get the cue.

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Resources

  • Schedule in breaks. Your creative health depends on your overall health. That means you need to take care of yourself. Content creators often forget this in two situations, when they don’t have any ideas or when they are filled with ideas. Both situations can lead to burnout. Take the time now to schedule in breaks so that you can recharge. Trust me, your ideas will still be there (For a simple approach, try the Pomodoro technique).
  • Stick to a minimum core set of tools that work for you. Trying to keep up with the tools and trends in your industry is important, but it isn’t worth losing the feature creep. Select a few core tools for your content needs and stick with them. At a minimum, you want a
    • Document-processing program or app (Word, Google Docs, or Scrivener),
    • Photo/Video Sharing Site (such as PhotoPin, MorgueFile, or GIPHY),
    • Publishing Platform (Blogs, social media, website)
    • Grammar-checking software

There are plenty of other tools out there that can add all kinds of features to your content including SEO optimization, formatting, etc. The key is to find the set of tools that helps produce content without getting overwhelmed.

  • Experiment (aka play with your content) While you should stick to a core set of tools, formats, and techniques, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try other things. Content creators who stick to just one type of content (infographics or ebooks, for examples) may quickly burnout in themselves and their audience. People like routine, but they also crave variety. Schedule in some time to experiment with different content formats, different styles of writing, and different tools. See what works, see what doesn’t, and move forward. If you come across a new app or software, make a note of it and try it out when you have some “downtime” in your day.

Expectations

  • Stop chasing “viral” Lots of content creators (marketers, writers, etc.) write with the conscious or unconscious goal of “going viral”. STOP IT. First, there is no clear definition of when an article “goes viral”. Second, you aren’t in control of the process. A “viral” post occurs when another person decides to share content with someone else. You can’t force them to. You don’t know why they’re sharing it. You also may not be able to tie that “viral” goal to your marketing efforts. A better and more realistic goal is to create content that connects and engages with your reader.  How will you know if your content is doing that? Follow these four steps: publish, measure, refine, and repeat.
  • Create a backup stash of ideas and articles No matter how good of a writer, advertiser, or marketer, you are, you will have days where your ideas feel like they are running on “empty”. For those days, you may need to dig into your backup stash of ideas and articles. Did you come across an advertisement that caught your idea? Save it. Do you have an article that wasn’t ready for publication? Don’t toss it. Keep it. Make use of your brain’s ability to make new connections even with old material. When you’re feeling low on inspiration, go through your backup stash of ideas and articles and see if there’s anything you can share in a different format or different way.
  • Focus on the right things. A lot of writers focus on the fear of missing a deadline or fear of the competition. This places your mental energy where it doesn’t need to go, things you can’t control. Instead, focus on what you can control, your words, your attention, and your energy. Also, realize that your content (no matter how much you produce) is only a small part of your audience’s life. It is only a small part. Your audience may like, share, and comment on your article, then they will move on. You need to do the same.

As you notice, preventing burnout isn’t a matter of finding a productivity “secret” or “hack”. It involves feeding the resources that feed your creativity instead waiting for “the right moment”. Because of that, you don’t need to spend any additional money or time.  You only need to apply your hard-earned money and limited time to the right things that make a difference.

About the Author Charles Franklin

Almost-graduated turned freelance marketing/tech writer, future web developer, social justice advocate, and Millennial on a mission but still confused about the path

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  • Reno SEO

    Writing quality articles can improve your website. People will get attracted and interested especially if you write very informative articles.