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Tackling Burnout and Overwhelm as Design Professionals

As design professionals and business owners in the design industry know, some days our jobs feel like we are living the dream, while others are incredibly stressful. It’s amazing to be part of such an interesting, creative industry, but there are pressures associated with it as well. This leaves many design professionals feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by their schedules and to-do lists.

To learn more about how to cope with these struggles, we talked with Lisa Guillot, a life, brand and business coach for female entrepreneurs and leaders. She delivers her branding experience to motivated entrepreneurs through one-on-one coaching and workshop settings. Through coaching her clients, she is often challenged with their feelings of burnout - and even some feelings of overwhelm all her own. She shared with us some helpful insight into overcoming these obstacles that so many busy professionals face.


How have you seen burnout manifested in entrepreneurs?

Lisa Guillot“This morning, I was speaking with a florist about the upcoming busy season in 2017, when burnout happens inevitably. It’s called a busy season for a reason, and you will get burnt out if you don’t put things in place to help. I wouldn’t say you can correct it, but just create a different experience or a different mindset to enter into busy periods with intention.

I’ve known business owners who have ended up in the hospital from exhaustion and overwhelm - really, from being burnt out - with pneumonia and dehydration. For me, burnout has actually shown up physically as well; 2013 was the first time I had been diagnosed with a stress-related virus! So, my body has been consistently giving me wake up calls. It’s important to reflect on how you can take better care of yourself and really listen to what your body is telling you in the face of how you grow your business.

The fastest way to get overwhelmed or burnt out is to over book yourself. It’s that process of taking on, taking on, taking on, creating a cycle of overwhelm. Then, you beat yourself up because you can’t meet somebody else’s expectations. But really, you’re setting yourself up to fail by doing that. I think overwhelm and burnout are truly choices that we make every single day. All of those tiny decisions we make are based on our comfort levels and the type of days we want to create for ourselves.”

How can a business owner try to keep from falling into overwhelm?

“The answer is not online. It’s not in your inbox. And, it’s not in social media. It’s to realign yourself to your higher purpose, whatever that may be - for your business, your family, or for yourself - because that will really bring you back to what’s important. Then, prioritize from there.

I’m a big list maker, but following a list every day can make you feel like a short order cook. But if that’s the type of life you create for yourself, the to-do list will never be done. However, if you build your days with intention and a specific purpose, it is so much more rewarding and helps you keep your eye on the prize.”

When design professionals find themselves having a tough day where they don’t quite feel ready to face the to-do list, what’s something small they can do to remedy the situation?

“If you go into your day knowing it’s going south, there is a 100% chance that it will. It’s all about your mindset going in. Make a decision about how you want to be that day. An easy pick-me-up that I use to pop myself back into a better place is music. One of my go-to’s is a song called ‘Lost in my Mind’ by The Head and the Heart. I also will listen to Missy Elliott or anything Mumford and Sons, so everything from bluegrass and country to 90’s hip-hop. I listen to it really loud on my headphones, stand up and dance, and shake it all out. It just gets me back to being me.” 

What are some long-term habits that you feel are most beneficial to establish that help prevent burnout?

“Overwhelm happens because you’ve overdone something. There’s always something prior to that overwhelm; a decision that you made. So first, start to notice what those decisions are that you’re making that lead up to the overwhelm, and make choices from a different place.

Second, as entrepreneurs, we often feel like we’re an island, that nobody else has gone through this before, and we’re doing this all by ourselves. That’s totally not true. Build bridges and invite people onto your island, and reach out to go onto somebody else’s island. Lean on others who are going through similar things; share in your journeys.

Lastly, focus on self care. There was a point last summer when I finally took it to heart that self care is not selfish. I’ve got two little kids, two big step kids, and three businesses; there was no room in my life for me. And as a business owner, the reason your company runs is because of you, your leadership qualities, and how you show up every day. If you’re not taking care of yourself and you’re operating at half capacity, then that’s the type of results you’re going to get in your business.”

Technology can be such a great way to reach out, connect with other business owners, and get support. But, comparison can create even more pressure, which can lead to burnout. How do you advise business owners about using technology responsibly?

“I think it’s very easy to compare yourself to people in your industry with thousands of followers, and lives that seem beautiful and perfect 100% of the time. But the reality is, it’s not real. So, I suggest unfollowing some of those people. Take a step back and follow things you’re interested in, make you laugh, inform and educate you, or inspire you in a positive way. I saw something recently that said, ‘Neiman Marcus is not concerned with what K-Mart is doing.’ I think in that same light, we need to think of ourselves as the highest and best people we can be, and not be so concerned with what others are doing. Approaching social media from a place of feeling inspired and creative is a much better place to be, rather than comparing, judging, and feeling like you’re not doing enough.”


Learn more about Lisa at bebrightlisa.com. If you’re in Chicago, join her workshop on March 1st to develop and build upon your personal brand! Learn more at simplybebright.com.

Photo Credit: Jamie Davis

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