The Burnout Epidemic: Taking Charge of Your Well-Being

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Welcome back to another episode of The Agency Accelerator. Today we're diving into a topic that is all too familiar for many marketing agency owners - the burnout epidemic. As agency owners, we often find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, and struggling to manage our well-being amidst the demands of running a business. So in this episode, we're going to explore strategies to take charge of our well-being and prevent burnout. So grab your favourite beverage, sit back, and let's get started on this journey towards a healthier and more sustainable agency life!

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[00:00] Introduction to episode topic: The Burnout Epidemic: Taking Charge of Your Well-Being 

[01:12] Strategy 1: Creating and maintaining a clear vision for your agency

[02:45] Strategy 2: Setting clear expectations with clients from the beginning

[04:17] Strategy 3: Focusing on one task at a time to increase productivity

[05:38] Strategy 4: Planning your day and overestimating time for tasks

[07:03] Strategy 5: Delegating tasks to free up time and prevent burnout

[09:02] Strategy 6: Implementing morning and evening rituals for structure

[10:27] Strategy 7: Establishing a supportive network to avoid burnout

[12:01] Bonus Strategy: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance

[13:20] Preview of future episode: Interview with an expert on the sabbatical method


"When you're going through stressful or busy times,, make sure you hang on to your WHY to help you get through the times of craziness” - Rob Da Costa
Setting Boundaries with Clients: "It's much easier to get your boundaries with clients right from the beginning than it is to retrospectively put them in place. After all, if a client is used to you responding as soon as they send an email, then of course they expect you to respond every time they send an email!" — Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Entrepreneurial agency owners often try to be Superman or Superwoman, thinking they can do everything themselves, working super long hours, especially in the early days of starting and growing an agency, which is completely understandable. But if we're not super careful, we end up getting burnt out. We end up 1 day realising that we're working for a much tougher boss than when we were an employee, and we're also at the beck and call of all our clients, and often at the back of the queue when it comes to being paid. So in today's episode, I want to talk about taking charge of your well-being and making sure that you avoid burnout by following some simple, maybe common sense, yet often overlooked strategies. So that's what we're talking about in today's show. And let's get started.I'm Rob Dacosta, and this is the Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests' experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business.When we start our own agency we are full of energy and full of inspiration and full of ideas and we are gonna work super long hours to get our baby started. But that enthusiasm can very quickly wane because, after all, we're human, we're not Superman or Superwoman. And if we're not careful, we end up working for a much tougher boss than we ever did before and we feel like we have to say yes when our clients say jump and at the end of the day we are being pulled in 20 different directions and of course, this can very quickly lead to burnout And I feel like this is a big epidemic in the agency world where we have agency owners that are fundamentally control freaks, therefore not very good at letting go, want to hang on to everything. But of course, they're only 24 hours in a day and we only have so much energy. So I want to talk about that today and I want to acknowledge that it happens to all of us, me included, and you've probably been through cycles where you're feeling a bit exhausted and maybe a bit demotivated. You're hearing all these stories about how amazing everyone else is and you're feeling like you're not there and you're feeling a bit inadequate. So there are some fundamentally basic things that we can do to overcome this and to be sure that we put these strategies in place, we start implementing them way before we ever get to a point of burnout.

So I want to share with you 7 strategies that you can start implementing right away that are going to help you avoid being burnt out. And strategy number 1 is all about creating and keeping alive a clear vision. This is the why. This is why you run your agency and what that roadmap is and what the destination is and I think when we have a clear vision we can take control of the direction of our agency because we've got this roadmap whereas when we don't have a vision we are being pulled in 20 different directions and we let external factors dictate our pathway and ultimately that will lead to stress and burnout. So make sure you have a clear vision and this vision becomes kind of a benchmark to help you decide whether you're doing something that is actually driving towards that vision or whether you're doing something that's just distracting you and actually you need to stop doing it. So that is a simple strategy number 1, not necessarily simple to implement, but something that is vitally important, which is having a clear vision for your agency and for yourself. I always tell my clients that your personal aspirations should be tied into your business vision because it's human beings that run a business and we can't really separate personal aspirations from business aspirations. So make sure you have a clear why and you're hanging on to that why.

So when you're going through times of craziness, you can hang on to the way that will help you get through that or help you put a strategy to get out of the times of craziness. So that's strategy 1 to help you avoid burnout, which is to have a clear vision and keep checking in on that vision and updating it and reminding yourself of why you do what you do. Strategy number 2 is all about creating clear expectations from clients from the start. I think in the early days of running a business, we just want to say yes to clients because we're happy they've chosen to work with us, and we want to please them, and we think the way to do that is to always say yes to their demands, and of course, this leads to scope creep, and it leads to over-servicing, and that means you don't have the space to take on other work, or do the other work as well as you could and of course that leads to quality and it also leads to you not being profitable and in the end, we have this disconnect between how busy you are and how profitable your business is even if you're just a 1 person business today. So we want to make sure that we are getting clear expectations set with clients from the beginning and we don't believe that if I push back on a client and say no, then they will hate us and leave us. So just change your mindset around that. You don't have to say yes to everything. You need to make sure that you're doing a great job for the fee that they're paying and you've got a clear scope of work and that you're building an equal partner-partner relationship with your clients rather than this imbalanced customer supply where the customer beats the supplier up and you feel like you are at the mercy of the client's demands.

So that's strategy number 2, which is to set clear expectations with the client from the start. And strategy 3 really follows on from that, which is all about having really good boundaries with your clients and your team and your partners and so on. And that means that you're not answerable to these people 24 hours a day. And that you make sure that your service level, for example, with clients or partners, is commensurate with the fee that they're paying. Again, in the early days of running a business, we just believe that we should be available to our clients because we want to provide an exceptional level of service, or we always want to be able to answer the questions that our team have, and so we drop what we're doing. But that is going to ultimately lead you to a feeling of not being in control because everyone else is your boss. So we need to get those boundaries right. Now it's much easier to get those boundaries right at the beginning as it is with strategy number 2 about setting clear expectations.

It's much easier to get that right from the beginning than it is to retrospectively put it in place because after all, if a client is used to you responding as soon as they send an email, then of course they expect you to respond every time they send an email. And that time that you don't because you're now trying to get good boundaries in place, they're now disappointed. So when you're trying to reset those boundaries, you just need to explain that to a client and you need to train yourself to not just answer things straight away because you can. And let's face it, if you want to be really productive, you need to focus on the thing that you're doing and if you're focusing on that writing that reports or writing that proposal and then you see an email pinging in from a client you think oh I better go and respond to that now well now it's going to take you a lot longer to get your head back in the game of writing that proposal and therefore you're not only now setting expectations badly with clients, but you're also taking longer to get tasks done. So we can't really multitask as much as people say we can. You need to focus on 1 conscious task at a time. So if you're writing that report, turn off all your distractions and just focus on doing that. And remember that the client is paying a certain fee to get a certain level of service.

And that fee is very rarely a super high fee which means that they get an instant level of service. So train your clients and your staff and your partners to expect a certain level of service and get good boundaries in place, which is my third strategy. Now, strategy number 4, once we've done all of that, is to plan your day. And obviously, if you've got a vision for your agency and you're translating that into quarters and months, then you can take the month tasks and translate them into days and weeks and translate those days into hours. So My recommendation is to plan your day to the nearest half an hour, so literally from 8.30 to 9, this is what you're gonna do, from 5.30 to 6, this is when you close your computer and log out, rather than just having a huge to-do list, which as we know, you cross 1 thing off and you put 2 more things on. So you want to actually plan your day so you know how many slots of time you have available and then determine what tasks are the priority that fit in those time slots. And of course, by doing that, you are going to feel in control and not overwhelmed. And when you feel in control and not overwhelmed, you're much less likely to burn out than if you're just feeling overwhelmed because every time I cross a task off, something else comes on and my to-do list never gets any shorter and it just feels like a never-ending hamster wheel of doom in terms of doing your tasks and that is not motivating, that is a very clear way of leading to burnout.

So that is my fourth strategy which is to plan your day as an added tip on that I would advise you to always overestimate how long tasks will take rather than underestimate because invariably sometimes tasks do take longer than we initially thought, but also it allows you time for all of the things that you couldn't know that will happen during the day when you planned your day at 08:00 that morning. So we want to sort of leave space for all the things that we don't know that are gonna happen, like those phone calls that we need to take or that demand from a partner, a customer, a client, or a member of your team that you couldn't plan for but you do actually need to do it. So that is the next strategy, which is to plan your day and overestimate how long tasks will take. And then strategy number 6 is to delegate as much of your work as you can as soon as possible and look at what tasks you can automate. There are lots and lots of tools these days that will help you take some of those mundane tasks and automate them. And you want to get work off your plate as quickly as possible so that you can work at the top of your game and take all those admin tasks that are very necessary but perhaps slightly tedious and delegate them to someone else. Even if that's to a VA based remotely that isn't going to cost you much money but you can get tasks off your plate. Now of course as these Entrepreneurial people we believe no 1 will do it as well as us or do it as quickly as us and we think we haven't got time to delegate to other people so you need to break down some of those beliefs I've recorded podcasts on this before which I'll link in the show notes But you need to break down some of those beliefs that will stop you delegating and you want to get as many tasks off your plate as quickly as possible, even if you're at the beginning of your journey in a one-person business, as soon as you can afford it, hire yourself a low-cost VA and get some of those admin tasks off your plate, which obviously frees you up to do more interesting stuff, but also will help alleviate that sense of burnout because let's face it, some of the admin tasks are really tedious and yet they need to be done.

And if we're spending a lot of time doing them, it can lead to burnout and kind of questioning why we do what we do. So that's strategy number 6 which is to delegate as much work as quickly as possible even if it's to a remote worker or virtual assistant before you actually start hiring staff but we need to get work off our plate to focus ourselves on the strategic activities that are going to drive our business forward and also to give us a sense of being in control because our to-do list isn't so vast because we're trying to do everything ourself and of course that will lead to burnout that is guaranteed. Okay, the last tip I want to share with you is to build a support network. It can be really lonely at the top when you're running a business. You kind of know what you know because you've learnt it through trial and error and you see lots of other people supposedly being super successful and that can be really demotivating because we don't feel we're as making as much progress as others supposedly are, and we just get on and try and do it all ourselves. And as I say, it can feel lonely at the top, and again, that can ultimately lead to demotivation and ultimately burnout. So it's really important that we build a support network around us. Now, these can be mentors and coaches like me, or they can be peers.

And that's 1 of the things I love about my self-running agency implementation group, which is a group of about 40 to 50 marketing agency owners who are in the same boat as you, going through the same journey. They may be slightly ahead of you or they may be behind of you, but we just created this really supportive community and I know that a lot of the members don't, no longer feel like they're doing it alone and they've got a place to talk and to get support and to ask questions and I think that's super important. So whether that's a networking group you're part of or a group coaching program such as my self-running agency or a mentor or a coach or an ally, make sure that you are building that network. Make sure that you understand that everybody else doesn't have all the answers and you're all in it together and have that place where you can have a sounding board, get support, sound off, and get advice to help you have confidence that you're doing the right things. It's super important that we have a really good supportive network, so that is tip number 7, which is to build a supportive network. Now, if you apply those 7 strategies, then you're gonna give yourself the best chance of not getting burnt out. And of course, the other thing is to make sure that you are getting a healthy life balance, you're not working all hours. I think this is especially true where many people are working remotely or working from home and there's a very blurred boundary between what's work and what's not work.

So I talked many times about morning and evening rituals and this ties in with strategy 4 of planning your day because part of planning your day should be to know exactly what time you're starting work and what time you're finishing and have the morning and evening ritual to kind of start the day and full stop the day at the end of the day. So you want to make sure you're putting that in place. And I guess bonus strategy number 8 is to get a good work-life balance in place so that you have time to do other things outside of work and have a life. And I always find when I'm feeling a little bit stressed or a little bit overwhelmed, then taking a break is a really good thing to do, even though sometimes that can feel like the absolute opposite of what you need to do because you've got so much to do, you just need to get on with it. Sometimes when we're stuck at that moment and we can't see the wood for the trees, the best thing to do, like I would do, is go and take my dog for a walk on the beach and just clear my head and come back with some renewed energy. I also think it's good to know your energy sort of biorhythm like which parts of the day are you best at and which parts are you worst at and then schedule your day accordingly where you can so you're doing your real thinking strategy time when you're at your best, which is for me, first thing in the morning, and you're doing more of those mundane tasks but you don't have to think too much about, and that for me would be after lunch so that you can follow your energy rhythms because you're much more likely to be productive and feel good by doing that than trying to kind of go against it and just get on with it. So those are my 7 plus bonus strategies of how to avoid burnout. Now in a future episode of the podcast coming up in a few weeks time.

I'm gonna be interviewing an expert who talks about the sabbatical method, which is sort of how to scale your agency and be less involved in it and how to avoid burnout. So we'll be digging into this topic in more detail. So do look out for that. Of course, make sure you are subscribed to the podcast so you are alerted every Thursday when a new episode goes live and please please please if you find these podcasts useful I would really appreciate you leaving a review on Apple podcasts I've left a little video in the show notes telling you how to do that So that it helps the algorithm show the podcast to more people and raises the profile of the podcast So I hope that you get value from these podcasts and in return you would leave a review on Apple podcasts And as I say, I've put a video in the show notes because it's not always obvious how to do that. But other than that, have a great Thursday. Get super organized so that you don't feel burnt out or you're never going to get burnt out. And other than that, I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast. You

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