Welcome to episode 290 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks about blogger burnout and how you can improve the relationship you have with your work.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Chef Marcus Samuelsson about his experience in the restaurant industry during the COVID–19 pandemic and how he is celebrating Black culture through food. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
When you’re living that solopreneur life, the process of starting and growing your blog can get overwhelming. The countless tasks, to-dos, and responsibilities can really add up over time, leading to a sense of fatigue and burnout.
In this episode, Bjork shares seven different concepts that can help you combat those feelings of blogger burnout and fall back in love with your work.
And we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below –– how do you overcome those feelings of burnout?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The idea of a mental activity monitor
- What user-controlled analytics are and how to track your progress
- How to “add frosting to a cracker”
- What it means to align to your journey
- Why it helps to have friends who are removed from the work you’re doing
- Why you should consider taking a break if you need one
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello. This is Bjork. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. One of the great joys that I have every week is pressing record on this computer, talking into this microphone. One of the great sadnesses, one of the things that makes me sad, is that we can’t be hanging out. It would be so fun if we’d be sitting next to each other, having a conversation, because my guess is we’d have a lot to talk about, and a lot of things that we could relate to each other on or about because we’re doing similar work, you and I. We’re in the midst of similar struggles. And it’s actually one of the bummers about doing what we do is that, there are so many people who are doing similar things, but we don’t always have access to them. We can’t connect with them in the way that we could if we played Pickleball. My dad has a bumper sticker on the back of his truck that says, my super power is, I play Pickleball, what’s yours? Or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: But like, if you have a sport, if you have a hobby, you can connect with those people. You talk about how to hit a better forehand or backhand. And we have that to an extent. Right? There’re groups that you can connect with. Food Blogger Pro forums, and a lot of people are having conversations there. But there’s just something a little bit different about sitting down and having, call it a heart to heart, or like a real authentic, genuine conversation with somebody, who’s in a similar field doing similar things.
Bjork Ostrom: And there’s something about that, that’s really reassuring, you know that you’re not alone in a struggle that you’re having, or a thought that you’ve had or something that’s been, kind of a grind. And I think it leads to the potential of people who do work online, especially kind of solopreneurs or people who maybe have a team, but it’s… You’re working with people remotely or kind of in a fractional capacity but it can be kind of lonely. And we can be feeling the same things, but we don’t know that other people are feeling those things because they’re not necessarily things that we talk about.
Bjork Ostrom: And one of those things that I think is really common that I’m going to talk about today on this Podcast is just going to be me not doing an interviewer or conversation. But one of those things is this idea of burnout, and burnout is kind of a diagnosable thing. We had a conversation with Sherry Walling from Zenfounder, and she talks about that, what burnout is and how you can actually kind of classify that. And so there’s kind of a really specific diagnosable version and I’m going to be talking about kind of the generic version, which I think encompasses the specific version of burnout. But, just kind of this idea of working really hard, feeling exhausted, feeling overwhelmed, questioning, if you should continue to work on that thing. Essentially, it’s maybe a version of falling out of love with the work that you’re doing. So it’s not just this extreme version of, maybe it’s like extreme fatigue or depression or feeling like you just can’t do the work.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s definitely a piece of it. But the things that I’m going to be talking about are kind of high level relationship with work, feeling a little bit, generally like cooling towards the work that you’re doing. So it’s a little bit broader and not quite as specific. And just some things personally that I think about when I feel myself going in that direction. There’s actually seven different things that I want to talk about. And this by no means is something that will apply to everybody. It’s not something that will work for everybody. It’s just me sharing some of the realities of what work looks like for me and how I make sure that I continue to have a good relationship with work. Or when I notice that I’m not, some of the things that I think about. And you might be able to take one of those concepts or kind of frameworks, thought frameworks and apply that to the work that you’re doing.
Bjork Ostrom: And my hope is, that does allow you to have a better relationship with the work that you’re doing. So I’m going to talk about each one of those. We’ll kind of recap them along the way, and hopefully you’ll have a little takeaway there. So, the first thing that I think about is this concept of activity monitor. And in seasons where I’m feeling burnt out or seasons where I’m feeling kind of like it’s a real grind. Usually what I try and do is think about kind of the equivalent of my mental activity monitor. And for those of you who have an Apple computer, there’s probably a comparable on windows. But there’s literally a program called, Activity Monitor. If you search for it, you can pull it up. And what you can do is you can change how all the different programs that are running on your computer.
Bjork Ostrom: You can change those, so they’re ordered by CPU percentage. So essentially like how much of your computer’s power or processing power is that specific program or task taking up? And usually what happens is, you pull it up and you’ll see there’s… Especially if you hear the fan spinning on your computer or it’s especially hot. It’s working really hard. You pull up the activity monitor, and usually there’s one program that’s kind of a CPU hog. And I think that there’re similar comparisons too, in the work that I’m doing in my relationship with my work. And if I’m not feeling good about it, if it’s feeling out of sync or if I’m feeling like not super excited about it, or feeling kind of burnt out. A lot of times, what I can do is think about, man, if I were to pull up my activity monitor for kind of how I’m thinking about work and what I’m doing. What would be the one thing that’s just like really spinning? The one task that’s taking up a lot of my mental real state or CPU, to use that analogy.
Bjork Ostrom: And a lot of times what you do with the actual activity monitor on your computer is, you’ll find where a program it is, and you’ll quit out of it. Like if it’s something that shouldn’t be running or maybe it’s some program that’s kind of hung and taking up a lot of CPU, you can just quit it or you could force quit, and then things will settle. And what I found for myself is, a lot of times there’s one specific thing that’s kind of running. And if I address that, my relationship with my work changes. So it’s not all the programs, it’s not all the things it’s not, all the work that I’m doing is a total drag. It’s usually one specific thing. Now that’s kind of general advice because the work that you have to do then, or the work that I would have to do, if I was doing this as kind of a task and trying to figure it out. The work that you have to do is figuring out what that thing is.
Bjork Ostrom: But the framework of the activity monitor as a way to think about how I’m doing has been helpful. So I can kind of rank order, what are the things that are really most specific. And it seems a little bit more manageable to address one thing, as opposed to all of the different things that I’m working on, or that I’m doing in a specific set of time, in a specific day. It’s usually just one thing. And if I can address that, things will kind of cool off. So that’s the activity monitor framework. I think about that quite a bit, literally on my computer when there’s something that’s an issue, but also I use that concept and apply it to how I’m thinking about work and the work that I’m doing.
Bjork Ostrom: Number two, this is something we’ve talked about on the Podcast before. We talk about it, kind of a cousin to this idea is the, user controlled analytics. And said differently, it’s tracking the action that you’re taking, not just the result. And one of the things that I’ve noticed about myself, is that it’s really discouraging, if I’m tracking a result, that I can’t make progress on, even though I’m working really hard. Like the action that I’m taking is the right action. I’m following the steps, I’m working hard, but the result just isn’t coming. And I’m speaking specifically to people who are creating content or building businesses. And in this world, it takes a lot of time to build up momentum and the action that you’re doing, the creating of the content, working on your craft, whether that be photography, or video, writing recipe development, you’re doing the right thing, but early on, you’re not seeing the result. But the result is the only thing that you’re tracking.
Bjork Ostrom: And I think it’s possible to feel burnout when you’re like, “Wait, I’m doing everything I should be doing, but I’m not getting the result.” And the reality is, it takes a lot of time and work and effort, not only to develop your craft to a place where it’s excellent, but also to get momentum, to get followers, to get people who engage with your content, to understand kind of the craft of it. And tracking the action will help you see how much progress you’re actually making. So what does that look like in a really specific way? Some actions that you might want to track.
Bjork Ostrom: One action would be, continuing to learn how to be better at photography. So maybe every month you want to spend five hours learning. That’s an action that you can track and at the end of the month, you can check that off and you can say, “Great. I went through some photography courses. I spent some time reading some books, and I listened to some Photography Podcasts. Check.” That was an action that you took and you made progress.
Bjork Ostrom: Now, the direct correlation to that, isn’t always, and now I have 1000s of followers on Instagram, or now I have photos that go viral on Pinterest. That stuff is a result of it. But a lot of times that result, isn’t an immediate connection. I think there can be some correlations to health and fitness and weight loss. If you’re somebody who’s like, “Hey, new year, I want to get as fit as possible this year. I want to…” Maybe your goal is to lose weight. If you set off with that as your goal, and you are exercising, great, like you might be doing all the right things to be healthy, but the result doesn’t come right away.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s something that you want to consider is, what is the action that you’re taking? And I feel like the health piece is a good example of that. Or whatever it might be for health, it might be the opposite for you where you say, hey, I want to be intentional not to track things. I want to be intentional to eat when I’m hungry, to eat healthy. And to be active and to not be as strict with yourself. I think that’s another version of health that we don’t talk a lot about, but is worth mentioning. The point is, that it’s the action that you are tracking, it’s not the result of it. And sometimes we can get totally wrapped up in results, because they’re so front and centers, it’s Google Analytics, it’s followers on Instagram, it’s ad earnings that we’re getting.
Bjork Ostrom: And that can result in burnout if you are doing really good work, really consistently, and especially in the early stages when you’re not seeing those results. And a lot of times those results come, but they come years and years down the line. The comparison can be sports, it can be music. If you want to be known as an incredible songwriter, you’re not going to have that result for years and years and years, unless you’re taking the action of showing up every day and playing the piano or playing guitar and writing song after song, after song. Or as an athlete, you’re not going to make any money in the first 10, 15 years of being an athlete, because it takes a long time to get to that place where you are pro-level. Right? Athlete being the ultimate example.
Bjork Ostrom: But if you’re tracking your action, how many shots are you taking? Are you showing up and doing, a 1000 free throws every day or, are you diving, if you’re a diver? Are you doing a 100 different rounds? I don’t know if that’s a lot, not a lot or a lot. But practicing a 100 different times to get that dives, exactly as you want it to. It’s the action that you’re tracking is not just the result. So that’s something that I’ve found helpful to say, hey, at the end of the day, it can be good day, not if I have this result, but if I have effectively communicated every time that I have opened up an email and sent somebody an email, every time I’ve communicated with our team on Slack, or every time I’ve had a call, I’ve been a 100% on those interactions.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. If I can use that as an action to track, awesome. What is going to be the result of that? That might not come for years and years down the line and it’s kind of hard to track. So the first thing we talked about activity monitor. If there is something that’s really grinding away at your mental CPU, try to figure out what that is and think through. What are the ways that you can address that? Number two, tracking the action. So if you’re feeling like “Man, I’m doing this work, it’s good work and I’m doing the right thing, but I’m not getting the result.” If you’re focusing just on the result, it can be discouraging. You can get to the end and you can say, “Man, this was a bad day because I didn’t get the result.” When in actuality, the action that you took was really positive and exactly what you needed to be doing.
Bjork Ostrom: Number three, frosting on the cracker. I think about this a lot as it relates to the work that I need to do, that maybe isn’t enjoyable, but I just realistically need to do it. And it’s kind of like a dry cracker. And the way to make it more enjoyable is to put some frosting on it. And there’s work that has to happen. Right? It’s work that, it’s not passion. Right? People say, follow your passion, do what you’re passionate about. I think great. But within that, there will always be segments of it that aren’t things that you’re going to be passionate about. And the thing is, they don’t have to be totally miserable things either. There’re ways that you can approach that work in a way where it’s kind of like putting frosting on a cracker. You can make it a little bit better. And an example would be, there’s some work that I don’t love doing, it might be something like, end of year tax stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: I always kind of dread that. But how do I make it a little bit more enjoyable? One way pre-pandemic was, I would go to a favorite coffee shop and I would order my favorite drink, Hot Crafted Press at Caribou. And I would sit down and… If my favorite spot was available, that’s where I would kind of grind out this work. It doesn’t make it totally go away. It doesn’t totally transform it, but it changes my relationship with it. If I’m able to put a little frosting on the cracker. And so if there’s things that you know that you need to be doing, and it feels like a grind and there’s a little bit of kind of burnout, or it’s affecting your relationship with your work, think about, what are the ways that you could add a little frosting to that Cracker? And maybe it’s doing it with somebody else. Right?
Bjork Ostrom: So you’re not just doing it on your own. You jump on a Zoom call and work together with somebody. Maybe it’s something as simple as what I shared, like you’re reserving your favorite drink for that. Maybe you have like a work happy hour at the end of the day. And you say, “You know what? I’m going to save this to the end of the day when I know it’s going to be a little bit more enjoyable to do the work.” Maybe it’s like a Friday afternoon. So it feels like, “Hey, Friday afternoon. Awesome.” And this work that I maybe don’t enjoy, but it feels a little bit better because it’s at the end of the week as opposed to like Monday morning. So think about ways for the work that you maybe don’t love. How do you add a little frosting to it? So we talked about activity monitor, tracking the action not just the result, frosting on the Cracker.
Bjork Ostrom: And then, this is a really important one. And it kind of ties into the concept of 1% infinity that we talk a lot about on the Podcast. But it’s aligning to your journey, not your destination. And I think it kind of ties into the action over results, but a lot of times what can happen is, we can get too focused on the destination. Where are we going? How do we get there? How do we arrive? And we don’t feel fully aligned or we don’t feel fully accomplished until we’ve reached that destination. But what I’ve started to see with people who have been doing this type of work, whether it be building a business, building a blog, building a following on Instagram, building an offline business, is that a lot of times you get to that point that you think was the destination that you wanted to arrive to.
Bjork Ostrom: And then you just create a new end point. You just extended out further and then you grind, more and more and more. And if you keep punting that out, if you keep moving that destination or that end point, but the work that you’re doing along the way is miserable, not enjoyable if you don’t like doing it. If the journey you are on isn’t the journey you want to be going on, even though the destination is where you want to go, or think that is where you want to go. You need to think about aligning the journey, the path that you’re on. And what I mean by that is, part of 1% infinity is being able to show up every day and get a little bit better. And it changes from having these goals that I want to achieve. This destination that I want to reach to, hey, I want to show up every day and do this work and get a little bit better at it.
Bjork Ostrom: And if that’s the only thing that I do, it’s still going to be a win. It’s still going to be me getting a little bit better at the craft, being on the journey and enjoying that journey of doing the work. And it’s less about reaching this huge milestone. And it’s more about every day saying, “What is it that I want to be doing today? What is it that I want to be doing every day? How do I get better at that thing?” And the destination is less of the goal, the journey, and aligning that as much as possible to who you want to be, what you are about, the work that you want to be doing. The people you want to be working with, the focus that you want to have. That’s where we should be spending our time. Sometimes we’ll end up in a place that we never knew that we would be, but that doesn’t matter as much, because what does matter is that we’re on this path, we’re on this journey and we’re enjoying it each and every day.
Bjork Ostrom: I think about that a lot as it relates to the work that we’re doing. And every day for me, when I show up, it’s a question of, why am I doing this? What is the purpose of it? And if the purpose is for me to get to a certain point, to have a certain number of Podcast downloads, or to reach a certain revenue number, or to have a certain amount of people who follow me on social media, that’s one thing. And I think it’s okay to have goals, but I think it’s better if we say, Hey, I want to show up and kind of the ethos of what I want to be about, the journey that I’m on is doing work with people I enjoy working with and trying to have an impact on other people’s lives.
Bjork Ostrom: How do we think about helping other people get a tiny bit better? That’s the journey that I’m on. And whether that be our team, whether that be people who follow this Podcast, or whether that be people who use the products or services that we’re creating, that’s what it’s about. And if we’re doing something really similar in 10 years, and it’s having the same type of impact, awesome. Because what really matters is that we’re helping people get a little bit better and that we ourselves are taking that on as well as our own challenge. So that’s aligning to your journey, not just thinking about the destination, but thinking about, how do I become the version of me as it relates to my work and career that I want to be, and making those micro-adjustments along the way? I think this is a big one, especially for us who spend a lot of time online and a lot of time online looking at other people’s lives and other people’s businesses. And kind of building in a little bit of a reality check there.
Bjork Ostrom: And that’s the idea of highlighting that it’s a highlight reel. This is something that I continually try and do is remind myself that no matter where I’m looking, whether it be, on social media, whether it be on a blog, whether it be listening to a Podcast, usually what I’m consuming and usually what I’m seeing is that it’s a highlight reel. And it’s important to highlight that because, otherwise we can seem like it’s the norm. Right? Everybody has this great life. Right? Everybody is, a travel blogger and they go to these incredible destinations and eat these awesome meals. And here I am in my three day old unwashed sweatshirt, grinding out an email and drinking a stale coffee. It’s not exactly it, but that’s what it can feel like where you contrast. And you’re like, wait, this person has this like incredible life.
Bjork Ostrom: And I’m just kind of sitting here, grinding it out. And, I come in and I work and I go home and, that’s kind of my life. And some people do have these incredible lives and travel all the time and then highlight that. But it’s also important to realize, it’s a highlight reel. And even for people who are genuine and transparent in sharing their story, even those little glimpses into the thing that would be considered struggle, it’s still just a glimpse. Right? I don’t think the reality is anybody would be interested in following all of the, like the anti-highlight reel, like the lowlight reel because of the way that we’re built, we just aren’t interested in consuming that over and over and over again. So we don’t see it. And it can seem like, if you set yourself up next to somebody else that there’s an element of like contrast or difference there. But it’s because we don’t have a true inside look at what things look like.
Bjork Ostrom: And universally, I think we all have really hard things in our lives that we’re working through and that we’re struggling with. And if not now, then it will probably happen in the future. And if not in the future, there’s a good chance that its happened in the past. And we are collectively, as the human race on this path of highlights and lowlights, and difficult seasons and wonderful seasons. But the hard thing is, online the vast majority of the time, the only thing that we’re seeing is the best stuff, which is just the way it works. Right? That’s just naturally how it goes. But it’s important to remember that, to highlight the highlight reel. And to remember that, that we’re not alone in having really hard seasons. And I think that ties into burnout because, if we get in that realm of feeling like it’s awesome for everybody else, it’s really hard for me.
Bjork Ostrom: This is really discouraging. It can feel like that as you spend more time in that place. And so for me, it’s like, I’m not using social media, like that’s the way that I deal with it. Which might be true for you. Maybe that is what you need to do, but maybe you are somebody who can kind of keep that in check and still feel good about kind of day-to-day life, but maybe you’re not. And I found that I’m somebody who’s not great at that. So I’ve stepped back from social media as a way to kind of combat that highlight reel mentality. So a few things, activity monitor, track the action not just the result, frosting on the cracker. So when you do have those hard things, how can you make them a little bit better?
Bjork Ostrom: Aligning your journey not just the destination. So thinking, how do I make those micro adjustments each day to feel better about the work that I’m doing, and to have a good relationship with it and letting go of just trying to get somewhere striving to arrive? Highlighting that it’s a highlight reel, we just talked about that. Having friends who don’t care. Now, when I wrote that out, that sounds like, wait, you don’t want friends who don’t care. But let me explain that a little bit.
Bjork Ostrom: Some of my greatest escapes are with friends who are like pseudo aware of what we do. We being Lindsay and I, and TinyBit, and Pinch of Yum Food Blogger Pro, but the friendship is not like in any way connected to that. They care in so far as they would care if I was still working at the nonprofit I was at, or if Lindsay was still teaching. They care about what I’m doing, because they care about me, not because they’re especially interested in what it is that we’re doing. And those relationships are helpful because we talk about different things.
Bjork Ostrom: We think about different things. We share ideas around different areas and ask different questions. And if you find that you are starting to have a lot of connections or friends or the majority of your friends or connections are in a similar space, I think that’s awesome. I think it’s valuable, but I encourage you to find or connect with, you probably already have them, those friends who are kind of in a different circle, maybe they’re interested in different things. Maybe there’s no overlap at all in any of the business or blogging or social media stuff that you’re interested in, but you do have some overlap in other areas. Maybe it’s local restaurants that you’re super into, or TV shows that you like to watch or sports or whatever it might be. Those connections for me are really valuable. And whenever I can spend time with those people and plan trips with those people, it’s also super helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: And what I’ve found is, it’s not always that we just don’t talk about anything that we’re doing with work. But when I do bring it up, there’s different perspective. It’s a fresh take on it. It’s somebody who has insight in a way that maybe somebody who is really embedded within the industry wouldn’t. So I found that to be super helpful and a nice reset and refreshing when I’m able to spend time with friends who don’t care specifically about, the ins and outs of what we’re doing. But do care about me as an individual or whatever the work that I would be doing, just not the specifics of it. So it’s something that I found helpful. And if you have those friends connect with them, especially in seasons where you’re feeling burnt out, and I know that’s been helpful for me. Number seven, this might sound obvious, but I feel like it’s a good reminder to take a break. And it might be a short break, or it might be a really long break.
Bjork Ostrom: We’ve had friends I know who have spent a long time working on a site, working on a blog, working on building a following. And they just take an extended break. Maybe it’s three months, maybe it’s six months, maybe it’s a year. And in some instances, they come back and they’re like, “And now I know what I want to be doing. As it relates to this work” In some instances they don’t come back at all and they close up shop and they say, “I’m done with this.” Maybe it’s somebody who sells their site. If there’s enough traffic, if you’re earning some income from your site, it’s possible to sell your site. Right? So it’s an asset. You’ve built it up. If you’re not earning any income from it, you can just kind of cut back as much on expenses and keep it there and say, “Hey, I’m going to come back to this in a certain amount of time and see how I feel about it.”
Bjork Ostrom: And some people come back and they say, “I’ve been reinvigorated, and I want to double down on this.” But I think it’s okay to take a break. Sometimes it feels like we have to feed the beast, feed the monster, the content machine forever. Right? That we can’t take a break, but it’s okay. You can take a break. You can come back to it. And it’s equally as important to be in a place where you can continue to do something for a long period of time, as it is to continually produce content. I think sometimes we think we can’t stop. We got to produce, produce, produce. And what happens is, we get so ground down that we’re just done and then it’s complete burnout. And then you pull the parachute and you say “Never again.” Your relationship to the work has been so spoiled by the grind that you’re just done with it.
Bjork Ostrom: But I think preemptively taking a break, if you feel yourself going in that direction allows you to maybe preserve some of that. Like if there’s still a little bit of a spark there or a little… The Ember is there, but it’s maybe on its way out. And instead of letting it go completely like snuffing the fire out, keep that ember there and step back a little bit and say, “Hey, I’m going to think through what this looks like and how this feels.” For me, those are seven things that I think about if I feel like I’m approaching a kind of a burnout phase, or if I feel like my relationship with my work is kind of trending down, some things that I consider, the activity monitor concept. I go back to tracking the action and not just the result.
Bjork Ostrom: I think about putting a little frosting on the cracker. I ask myself, am I just thinking about the destination, or am I thinking about the journey? And if I’m thinking about the journey too much, I try and align to the journey. If there’s a season of comparison and I feel burnt out or discouraged around that, I try and highlight the highlight reel and, kind of a reality check with myself to remind myself that it’s hard, whether people are having success or not in whatever way that looks like. And there’s still difficult things that exist within that. I hang out with friends who care about me, but are maybe not super connected with this world that I’m in. As kind of a refresh, a way to reset and have different conversations and think about different things. Then occasionally just taking a break, stepping back and saying, I need to take a break from this, whether it be a week a month, whatever that is, that can be a really healthy thing as well, so…
Bjork Ostrom: Hope you’re doing well, hope that in this season, as we continue to match forward in 2021, that you’re feeling some little glimmers of optimism. Maybe you’ve felt that all along, maybe you’re a positive person and you’ve been able to kind of let 2020 roll off your back. But if you are feeling any burnout, if you are feeling like your relationship with your work is kind of trending down. I hope one of these things, two of these things, all of these things are some considerations that you can put into your back pocket or apply right away, and can hopefully turn that around, so…
Bjork Ostrom: Appreciate you, appreciate everybody who reaches out and drops an email or drops a hello. We wouldn’t be able to do this Podcast or to have this community without you tuning in every week. And we’ll be back here again next week. Make it a great week. Thanks.