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Battling Blogger Burnout

 

If you habitually read many blogs, or especially if you have one yourself, you know the phrase. Blogger burnout.

This is how we describe the feeling of running out of steam.

Everything is going along great, you are building your audience, interacting on social media, promoting your awesome content, traffic is growing… and then for whatever reason, you just stop.

Staring at a blank page in WordPress or Word or Notepad or an actual piece of paper. Typing a few sentences, deleting it, trying again. You get distracted by Twitter, Instagram, the news, a car driving by, or an ad in the corner of the Google search bar.

Five hours later your wordcount is still barely double digits.

Blogger Burnout - blank page

When I first started this blog 7 years ago as College Approved Food, I had big dreams.

I was going to write a cookbook for college kids using only a microwave and recipes with 5 ingredients or less.

I was going to have my own cooking show someday.

I could live off my blog income full-time while I traveled and tasted food from all over the world.

Then I did it, and saw how much work went into blogging.

Consistently. On a schedule. Regularly.

To build a following, to create things people actually could use and wanted to read, to add value to the world.

To interact with others in the space and create a network of like minded people who support you as well.

And of course, “real life” got in the way a bit as well.

Getting through undergraduate studies while working three jobs, dealing with a broken engagement, applying, getting into, and surviving graduate school, paying off all my undergrad loans before finishing graduate school, leaving grad school, moving across the country (thrice)… Occasionally I lost focus.

Sometimes I took a break.

Sometimes it was for a few days, other times a few months.

I changed my publishing schedule from not having one, to three times per week, down to once per week, and back again, trying to find the perfect balance.

Then, for the past year or so, it seemed I’d hit the sweet spot.

I was publishing both food and finance content, and plenty that was a bridge between the two.

When I ran out of recipes for One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bakes and Holiday Diets for a while, I could tell you all about how I save money on beauty and why a $1000 raise didn’t change my life.

And when I got tired of writing about how we bought our house from 1000 miles away and my top tips for saving money, I could write about how easy it is to make your own yogurt at home or our attempt to become ‘almost’ vegetarian.

I even had so many ideas flowing through my brain that I increased my twice a week Sunday/Tuesday schedule to three times a week Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

And then, eventually, the ideas started slowing down.

Maybe it was turning thirty, or the holidays, or winter hibernation, but I started to lose focus.

Creating posts became more of a chore that I had to schedule into my days rather than a firehose of words I couldn’t turn off.

It seems I’m not the only one going through this, since just recently the intrepid Pete at Do You Even Blog posted an article with top tips from 12 other bloggers, and the illustrious Frugal Asian Finance enlightened us all with her Blogger Burnout: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

How do you know you’re burnt

<FIRE joke?>

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

The symptoms may include:

  • Inability to focus, especially when trying to write
  • Questioning why you write or blog in the first place
  • Feeling like social media is taking over your life
  • A feeling of utter exhaustion, where even getting up to go to the bathroom seems like too much work right now
  • The inability to come up with new ideas for a post
  • Wondering if any of this matters or why you keep going
  • Not even wanting to listen to yourself talk about blogging
  • Binge reading other blogger posts on blogger burnout!

I feel like this is a ripe opportunity for “You Might Be Burnt on Blogging If…” jokes… if you got any good ones feel free to share in the comments!

But truly, “burnt out” manifests differently for everyone.

You are the only one who knows when you hit the wall.

You start to procrastinate on writing. Whatever you do manage to write, you hate it and delete it and start over. You stare at a blank page for hours on end, hoping for the magical Muse fairy to sprinkle the page with words of wisdom.

You might be burnt out.

What are the Causes?

Why does “burnout” even happen? How is it that almost every writer in all of time experiences periods of a lack of inspiration?

Psychological Science writer Alexandra Michel says: “burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”

There are several components to what makes people willing and motivated to do something. A physical reward such as candy might get a toddler to pick up his toys. A mental reward like praise could convince hubby taking out the trash is a good idea. A raise at work will keep you at your desk hitting your targets on time.

Those rewards balance the time, effort, and mental strain to complete the task which earns those rewards.

People may do their jobs or write or side hustle for the money, for the recognition from peers or superiors, or because it is a cause they truly believe in and they get personal satisfaction from.

When those do not balance out, you burn out.

How do you Cope?

Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean

To battle the burnout, I attempted immersing myself even further into great content creators, reading like my life depended on it, up to 4-5 hours per day!

This ultimately made me feel like I was staring into a limitless black hole of content, most of it created by people far wiser, more experienced, and ‘better at blogging’ than myself.

The comparison game is one you cannot win.

When reading more about food and health and money didn’t work, I gave it up and started reading anything else.

I lost myself in fictional stories, mystery novels, a few non-fiction works. I escaped into video games and virtual worlds, and even tried going back to some very old stories, songs, and scripts I had started.

None of it worked.

For several weeks, I struggled just to create enough content to keep the blog going on its regular schedule. I came very close to taking it down a notch to fewer posts per week, or taking a few weeks off altogether.

Fellow blogger friends were a big help, though they might not have known it. All the reading I’d been doing helped spark a few ideas too. But ultimately, unplugging is what seemed to flip the switch for me.

I backed way off social media for a little while.  Twitter is my preferred verbal playground slash coffee shop slash news source, and I was spending upwards of 9-10 hours a day on there!

I would obsessively refresh as soon as I woke up, everytime I went to the bathroom, when I was walking between places, on my way to meetings, while watching Netflix at night, sometimes even at red lights! It was unreal. And I knew it was a problem.

I just love all the bloggers out there SO MUCH!

There are some amazing people with amazing life stories, and goals, and great writing style, and humor, and tips, and wisdom.

I NEED TO KNOW IT ALL!

But I had to set some boundaries. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I cannot get anything done of my own, if all I am doing is consuming content 24/7. I want to actually enjoy my IRL life, as well as create my own things.

So I took a brief social media break for a few weeks, followed by rules about phone use.

It doesn’t matter what my rules are, because you have a different life and daily patterns, so make your own that work for you.

But a healthy distance gave me space to go for walks, watch TV and focus on one thing at a time, connect with my husband more, and expand my social group.

And by doing more things in real life, guess what?

More ideas sparked!

More things I wanted to write about came to mind.

More post drafts were created.

But I know this may not be the last time burnout happens, and I know you may be going through this too, or will at some point in the future. So I wanted to explore a little more, for selfish reasons in case I need to refer back to this, but also to help anyone else who has been there or is there, and doesn’t know where to go now!

This advice is slightly tailored to writing, but can apply to any work situation. Whether self-employed, a consultant, or working for The Man, you can burn out.

If that happens to you, try a few or all of the things below. And in the worst case scenario, if you need a new direction from life, follow the steps to a Career Transition Without Going Broke.

What Can You Do to Battle Burnout?
#1) Set a schedule
  • One of the most important things I learned early on about blogging is that if ALL the successful bloggers say it, it is probably true. And they all say to set a schedule. I didn’t do that at first, I just published when I made something I thought was good enough to share, or when I had the time. Then after a few years, I buckled down, set a schedule, announced it, and kept to it, diligently posting on the days I said I would. And my pageviews nearly tripled within a month!
  • The beauty of blogging is, that you can choose your schedule, and you can change your mind! It doesn’t matter if your schedule is “once per month”. Start small, say you will post less often than you think you will. If you have more content that you need, see tip #3 below. Worst case, you change your mind and increase your posting frequency! But, if you start off balls to the wall saying you will write a post every day, well, that is a recipe for disaster.
  • Bless Erin at ReachingForFI, she blogs even when she doesn’t want to, even when it’s past bedtime, even when she thinks she doesn’t have anything to say. And sometimes those are the best posts! Where you are real, spontaneous, raw, and honest.
#2) But, give yourself permission for breaks
  • Sometimes, life happens! We get it. There are holidays where maybe you are hosting or traveling or just want to spend time with family not worrying about work or writing. You might go on a long vacation, and the least relaxing thing you can think of is to keep writing while there. Or you are going through a particularly stressful period of time, with a new child, or a sickness in the family, or moving and upheaval.
  • There’s no shame in taking a time-out! Stop posting for a few days, a few weeks. You can get back in the game once your head is back in the game.
  • If you are burnt from your job, make sure you are taking breaks. Set boundaries about “no email on weekends” or “no work after 6pm”. Make sure you are using your granted vacation time! Take 5-10 minutes every hour to go for a quick walk, drink some water, or do stretching exercises at your desk. It will keep you motivated and help you focus when you return to your tasks.
#3) Have some content in the bank
  • You know the story of the ants and the grasshopper right? The ants toiled away in the summer sun, saving up food in the store room. Meanwhile the grasshopper lived for today, playing his guitar in the sun. Winter came along, and the ants had plenty of food stored in their warm home, while the grasshopper was left to freeze and starve.
  • Be like the ants! When your ideas come faster than you can put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard nowadays) let the words flow, and catch them in jars for later. Also known as ‘draft posts’ or saved Word documents. Having a backlog of posts that can be put out anytime is a huge lifesaver when you’re due to publish (see above) in 2 hours and have yet to write a title.
#4) Automate what you can
  • Automation is the best friend to those who cannot remember things, are terrible procrastinators, or anyone who just wants life to be easier!
  • Use any automation system you can to make repeated tasks simpler. Set up auto-posts ahead of time. That way 2 hours on a Sunday and you are covered for the week, no more thinking. Set up automatic Tweets, Pins, Insta pics, whatever type of sharing platform you use. Less brain power overall, same amount of self-promotion. (But, please, do not only automate! You also need to engage with your audience and community. Or else everyone will hate you and mute you.)
#5) Find your tribe
  • It really helps to find a group of like-minded and supportive people, in real life or online.
  • These people can be there to support you in tough times, give you life advice on things that worked or didn’t work for them, be your sounding board, and help guide you in new directions. They can inspire writing, or sharing, or networking, that might be the key to unlocking a new room of potential inside your brain.
  • Reach out to those who have been where you are. Even if it seems scary, even if a blogger seems so “BIG” there’s no way they would respond to you. Sure, maybe some won’t. They are probably jerks who just want the $65 you might get them from a Bluehost affiliate link. But most of us are pretty cool. (As long as you aren’t spammy or needy. Be respectful.)
  • We have all been there, just starting a new blog, getting stoked and dancing around the room at our first comment, getting over our fears of joining in the “cool kids” talk on social media. We should all be there for each other, because we all want the same things. Savings. Investing. Encouraging others. Sharing. Thinking. Talking. Health. Progress. Financial Independence. Happiness.
Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean
#6) Focus on the good
  • This can mean a lot of different things. Maybe take a look at all the ways your life has changed positively in the past month, year, decade. Maybe just focus on this week, or today, and find three things to be thankful about.
  • Or maybe decide to take one day per week, or per month, to totally disconnect and unplug. Put down the phone, turn off notifications, shut off the laptop.
  • You could try a gratitude journal, where you write down things that made you happy or grateful on a regular basis. You could try writing thank you letters to significant people in your life. Or you could commit to 100 Days of Happy.
  • Just go out and live life in the real world, it will leave you refreshed and perhaps with the exact breath of fresh air and new perspective you needed.

#7) Don’t be afraid of a new direction

  • Sometimes, you reach a place where something which used to be a passion project and defined you, you have outgrown. It can be very tough to admit to. You have poured your time, money, heart, and soul, into a book or project or relationship or degree. And now, you feel it is all for naught.
  • But rather than be sad at an ending, think of how exciting new beginnings are! Like a dew-covered spring morning, the world is fresh and waiting for you to take a different path.
  • J Money from BudgetsAreSexy and formerly Rockstar Finance is a great example! As a seasoned blogger (past the decade mark, y’all!) he has been through a lot. And he has started, finished, and abandoned many projects, writing and otherwise. He knows how to re-evaluate priorities based on where his life is at the present moment, and sometimes you dig deeper… but sometimes you walk away. And that’s okay.

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

What does the future hold?

I’m still not sure where we will go from here. I do not think I would ever give up blogging completely, I love it too much.

The community is just mind-blowingly awesome, and the wealth and depth of knowledge out there is truly outstanding. I enjoy this little creative outlet where I get to connect with others and share ideas and lessons.

I do know that I have been quieter than usual on social media, and not as engaged in community projects like the #WomenRockMoney movement, “middle class” debates, or the Rockstar Throwdown.

That will likely continue for some time, as I revert back to more of a “lurker” and just keep this little guy afloat for now.

But hopefully, as seasons change, this too shall pass, and my blogger mojo will return.

 

Have you ever experienced burnout? What did you do to get over it and keep going? Or did you switch projects completely or try a new path?

Recap: Best of the Budget Epicurean in 2017

 

Since July of 2011 with my very first post, many things have changed. The blog got a new site and hosting, as well as a new name to reflect changes in my life and the direction of my writing. It has evolved from “College Approved Food” with a focus on extreme cheapness and college-budget-and-skill-level recipes, to the Budget Epicurean, which is more expansive, and still combines my main passions of money and food.

While I do create and share many cheap recipes such as my Favorite One Dollar Lunch, Best Black Bean Soup, and The Perfect Breakfast that costs basically fifty cents per serving, I also love to get creative with recipes for Chia Seed Pudding, Tropical Granola, and reviews of fun food places like Cowfish and RocknRolls Sushi.

I also decided to put more emphasis on the “Budget” in Budget Epicurean and began sharing more financially related articles like How to Save on Grocery Bills, Meal Planning, My Frugal Beauty Manifesto, and Why a $1000 Raise Didn’t Change My Life.

This is also the blog’s 600th published post!

At an average of 1200 words per post, and 600 posts, that means I have written 720,000 words on this site y’all!

It also happens to be the last day of 2017. It is the perfect time to look back over the past 12 months and assess what has gone right and what we could do better. I always like to see where this blog has been, and how it has changed over the course of the year.

Top Dozen Posts of All Time

If we go by numbers alone, throughout the year, the top 12 posts skew towards older posts, since they have been published longer. The top 12 posts in the almost-7 year history of this blog are:

12. Frugal Last Minute Gift Ideas
11. Homemade Energy Drink Mix 
10. Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
9. Twice the Wine for Half the Calories!
8. Ginger Peach Slow Cooker Chicken
7. Slow Cooker Red Pozole With Pork
6. Breastfeeding: All About It
5. What Are Vitamins?
4. Grapefruitcello
3. Meal Planning: What it is, why you should, and how to do it
2. Salsa Chicken Soup

And the #1 most viewed post: One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

It consistently comes out as the top viewed post almost every day! And why not? It definitely hits all the marks of a classic hallmark recipe of the Budget Epicurean:

  • Cheap total cost & cost per serving
  • Can be made with what you probably already have at home
  • Very filling and delicious
  • Stores well for later eating
  • Easy to multiply up or down to feed one or twelve
  • Customizable to suit all palates/picky eaters
  • One pan, for minimal prep and cleanup

This coming year, I will be trying to focus more on these super simple yet delicious recipes. For y’all of course, but also for selfish reasons! I also hate dishes and love simplicity. So I will be focusing on freezer meals, slow cooker meals, meal planning and meal prep, and one pan meals as much as possible.

Top Dozen Posts of 2017

However, I like to break it down into the current year alone, and rate the top posts month by month. This gives me an idea of what readers are responding to now, and what type of content I should focus on and continue writing about. In that case, we have:

  1. January: Slow Cooker Enchilada Casserole
  2. February: Make Ahead Egg Muffins
  3. March: How to Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker
  4. April: Nuts & Dark Chocolate Sea Salt KIND Bar
  5. May: Turkey & Cheese Rollups
  6. June: Venison Pot Pie
  7. July: Venison Penne Alfredo
  8. August: Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow
  9. September: Salmon & Couscous Salad
  10. October: My Commuting Mistake
  11. November: A Tie! Between Holiday Weight Loss Plan and Why A $1000 Raise Didn’t Change My Life
  12. December: 12 Days of FI Christmas*
    *more about that in a second!

Clearly, I need to get ahold of more venison and create more venison recipes! People seem to really like those, and I get a lot of search traffic from Google. I love “atypical” foods, including meats we don’t all get to try. See my recipes for brined Pheasant and Elk Burgers.

2017 was also a record-breaking year for page views and number of comments. This humble blog has skyrocketed from about 200 average page views per day to nearly 750 views every day! I’ve been choosing to engage more on social media (find me on Twitter and let’s be friends!) and in the blogosphere in general. I’ve found a literal bottomless well of writers and bloggers to read, follow, interact with, and learn from.

I am so thankful, as these bloggers words have challenged and changed many of my perspectives, motivated me, taught me so much, and helped me make positive changes in my life. Reading blogs and interacting through comments and social media have brought me several new blogger friends & relationships that I cherish.

If you need some new folks to read, follow, and inspire you, check out my What I Love page.

2017’s Biggest Blog Accomplishments

And the 2017 coup de triumph? The 12 Days of FI Christmas of course! Thanks so much to I Dream of FIRE for thinking up this awesome music video project and making it all come together. We had such a huge, positive response from the FI community.

It was an absolute dream for me to be part of a thing that was featured on RockstarFinance! Nice things were said about it by the outstanding Physician on FIRE, J. Money, RootofGood, and many others featured. If you haven’t seen it yet, please enjoy below!

This video and the corresponding avalanche of response brought the blog its new peak views, and broke 1,000 unique organic pageviews in one day!! I can’t tell you how exciting that is. All these great FI Bloggers who think being in our video means they “made it”, when really I feel like I’ve made it! Just goes to show you the power of a community, creativity, and positivity.

Also, notice that roller-coaster looking graph? The bottom line is individual unique visitors, whereas the top line is pageviews. That means the big spikes are people who visit, and then click around to many different posts in one visit. So that big spike on Sunday 12/17 had 1064 unique visitors, and 1967 page views. Thus, each person who came to the site, on average clicked on one other article.

Whomever is coming to this blog and then staying a while, reading through all of the post archives, Thank You and I Love You!! <3

I’ve also begun branching out into the world of Virtual Reality. The Budget Epicurean has brought you videos of Homemade Kombucha, Freezer Meal Planning, Turkey Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna, how to make Stovetop Popcorn and more. Well, we stepped up our game this year with the Virtual Reality video of Cracker Cookies!

There are a few virtual reality cooking games and simulators, and I’m sure that there will be “famous” chefs flooding the VR spaces soon. Currently, there are no Virtual Reality cooking shows. The Budget Epicurean hopes to change that, for the better.

However, we want to bring you real content, to show that you don’t need to be a highly trained five star chef to feed yourself and your family. Literally anyone can learn how to cook healthy, whole food meals at home. We want to invite you into my kitchen to see in real time, step by step, how to make the delightful, frugal, yet tasty recipes you’ve come to know and love here.

So What’s Next?

I don’t really do “resolutions”, because generally speaking, big amorphous goals with no way to measure, track, or keep yourself accountable do not work. However, I do believe in setting goals for myself and my lil’ corner of the internet.

Looking ahead, some of my goals for 2018 include:

  • Continue posting 2x/week, and no less than 1x/week
  • Read a minimum of 1 book per month and 3 blogs/day
  • Grow my subscribers list to double the current number
  • Write and send quarterly newsletters to my subscribers with custom content found only in these emails
  • Record, edit, and publish 3 new VR cooking videos
  • Write, edit, and hopefully publish my biggest project yet!
  • Release the next few meal plan bundles to Amazon
  • Create meaningful side income to support this blogs’ growth and future projects

Hopefully more to come on all of these things in the next few months. Feel free to engage online, through email, or leave a comment any time! I love nothing more than hearing from and interacting with readers like you.

 

What are your best moments or memories of 2017? What are you looking forward to or aiming to accomplish in 2018?

To a Healthy New Year!

 

 

Hello readers!  As we begin a brand-new year, 2017, we tend to look back on the previous year to learn from it.  We make lists of “bests” and “worsts”, and reflect on all we have or have not done.  While many people feel that 2016 was a terrible year, and are worried about what 2017 will bring, there is so much to be thankful for instead.

2016 was the year in which I got married to the world’s best man and my best friend during a wonderful family and love filled week in the Smoky Mountains, traveled to Europe for the first time for an amazing once in a lifetime Mediterranean cruise, and moved across the country to my dream location and bought our very first home together! What a year!

Think back on all the memories with your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, random strangers. Cherish all the growth you have done as a person, and accomplishments big and small. And whether you make resolutions or not, there is much to learn about how we can continue to improve, individually and as a nation.

Be curious, be kind, to others and yourself. Do small acts of kindness, without expecting recognition or reward. Make the world a better place than when you found it, and the universe will pay it back to you in happiness.

Oh, and check out the Top 10 Posts of 2016!

10. Simple sauteed power greens — this is one of my favorite simple side dishes that packs a healthy punch. I make this all the time with whatever greens I have, currently I’m obsessed with collard greens (does it have to do with moving to the south? maybe) and jalapenos.

9. Salsa Chicken Soup – a total classic, this soup is warming and filling, and when you use all canned ingredients plus a slow cooker it is a total breeze! People will think you spent hours simmering this, when in reality it takes less than 10 minutes to whip up. MMMmmm.

8. Twice the wine for half the calories! — A sneaky trick for making your vino last longer, and letting you indulge more without the guilt. Yes please!

7. Homemade energy drink mix – while excess caffeine is not something I endorse, sometimes you just need a little kick in the pants and aren’t in the mood for coffee. Customizable to whatever flavor you prefer.

6. Frugal Last-Minute Gift Ideas — I’ve a suspicion that Christmas time always nudges this post up just enough to make the top 10! But there are also great ideas on there for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Birthdays too.

5. What are Vitamins? – Good knowledge to have in hand, I tried to clarify some common questions.

4. Ginger-Peach Slow Cooker Chicken — Slow cooker recipes are always popular, for good reason! Slow cookers are amazing, and so is this sweet, tender chicken recipe.

3. Breastfeeding: All about it – I’m honestly a bit surprised this one made the top 3, but sure. I’m glad people are at least interested in learning more! Breastfeeding is a great step for a healthy, happy baby.

2. Grapefruitcello — Popular from the start, making your own infused alcohols is a fun hobby to take up. It is way easier than you may think, don’t be scared! Try any flavor infusion you want and see what happens.

1. One-Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake – This recipe definitely deserves its #1 status! It is supremely simple, surprisingly healthy, and a total crowd pleaser. I may make this again one night this week…

 

And there you have it, ten highlights of the blog from 2016. If you have another post that was your favorite, or one you would like to see in 2017, please post here or email me anytime! Here’s to a happy healthy epicurious New Year!