How to Handle Burnout as a Decorator
Many decorators work on their own, in small teams, or at home. This means the workload can be high and it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance. This is what Jen Badger found after running her print shop for the first few years. As her business grew, so did the pressure of keeping up. But over time, Jen learned the best ways to manage and adjust her work patterns to alleviate the stress, allowing her to rediscover the motivation for her craft. Today, Jen shares those lessons with us to inspire decorators to put their wellbeing first — which only ever helps a shop get better.
Recognize the signs
“It’s important to know the signs that it’s coming,” Jen says outright as her first piece of advice. For her, she quickly learned that lethargy, anxiety, and a feeling of dread to go back to work were all clear signals that burnout might be on the horizon. “For others,” she adds, “you’ll have to find the signs yourself; everyone is different.” Recognizing the symptoms of burnout is an important first step as it lets you know that it’s time to take a break — even if business is at its busiest.
Set clear boundaries with customers
Social media and smartphones mean it’s getting increasingly easy for customers to contact you outside office hours. As work tasks bleed into your free time — no matter how small — it can exacerbate or even cause stress. When you run a print shop, there can be a very long list of little tasks. Pair that with a close relationship with your clients, and it suddenly becomes very easy to start resolving jobs in your own time. Jen encourages fellow decorators to give themselves permission not to answer a message or phone call in your personal hours. “It’s important to protect your personal time and your personal life,” Jen emphasizes, “I think when you respect your own time, people will respect it in return.”
Plan your vacations
This doesn’t just mean planning vacations into your schedule — though this is important. What’s equally important is to plan well for your absence. Jen lightheartedly mentions ‘The 7 Ps’ which she picked up in high school and continues to think about throughout her career: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance. To ‘properly plan’ her vacations, Jen makes sure her staff know exactly what they need to do while she’s gone, and ensures they have everything they need, so there’s less chance of receiving work-related messages during her time off. This also includes talking to clients. Jen will let her regular customers know that their orders might take longer than usual before she leaves. Having this clear communication channel usually creates understanding rather than negativity, which can take a lot of the pressure off.
Try to relieve the physical effects
Though burnout usually manifests as an emotional and mental strain, it can also have physical effects. “I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders,” Jen tells us, “those muscles get real tense when you’re stressed, and they are the same muscles you need when you’re manually printing and loading shirts.” Jen suggests making an active effort to stretch your muscles and relieve the tension with exercises or rest, even if it’s only for a minute at a time.
Remember your purpose
The printing and decorating business is unique in the sheer number of steps involved in the process. “There are so many details that go into a print shop order. From intake to artwork, to artwork changes to more revisions and settling on shirt sizes, quantities and colors... And then actually placing the order and producing it,” Jen describes. Because of that, it can be easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture.
But keeping your ‘why’ at the forefront of everything you do is a powerful way to stay motivated. “It’s necessary to step back from all the details and just think: ‘okay, I went into this job and chose this profession for a reason,’” Jen says. “It really helps to take a breath and realize that although the details may still be overwhelming at that moment, you’re still accomplishing your ‘why’.”
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