Since going full-time with my YouTube brand, I’ve been amazed by how easily you can fill every single hour you suddenly have available.

Looking back, I have no idea how I was running both this brand and my marketing consultancy business. Where did I find the time to make videos? How on earth did I continue to write a new blog post every day?

This is known as Parkinson’s Law, which was coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1955. Back then, Cyril pointed out that work always expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. And, boy was he right.

As a result of this, I feel busier than I’ve ever been. I work long hours, often into the evening and still rise at 6am every day to get cracking. I don’t intend to do this forever, but during this startup phase of Mark Ellis Reviews, it’s unavoidable.

Yet, I’ve never felt burnt out.

I think this is the result of five strategies I’d like to share with you today.

Strategy 1: Exercise

I’ve always enjoyed exercise, but I’ve never relied on it as much as I do today.

I’m not a long-distance runner, I no longer play football, and my grumpy old dog (bless him) is less inclined to long country walks these days. But I do exercise at least five times a week, because I simply couldn’t run this business effectively if I didn’t.

My exercise routine is a mixture of 5K runs and gym visits, and I do my best to mix as much cardio with weight training as I can. I’m not breaking any records, but I am keeping my body as healthy as possible and, crucially, my mind fresh.

If I miss a run or can’t make the gym for whatever reason, I always have a worse day at work.

Strategy 2: Guaranteed family time

I recently became a dad which is the single most amazing thing in the universe.

This morning, Jen brought Harrison into the kitchen to say “good morning”. I was sat there in the middle of a sponsorship negotiation. I was struggling to focus, had a million other things I’d rather be doing, and was getting a bit grumpy about it all.

Then, Harrison entered the room in his mum’s arms, and gave me a huge smile.

I’ll tell you what – there is nothing on earth that makes you feel better than seeing that little face. Ever. And it’s why guaranteed family time – even when fleeting – is an absolute non-negotiable in my quest to never encounter burnout.

Strategy 3: Other business interests

I went full-time with the Mark Ellis Reviews brand back in March. Leading up to that, I gradually let go of all my existing, legacy contracts. It was a tough thing to do – particularly when the money had been guaranteed for so long – but I’ve not looked back since.

However, there has been one contract I’ve kept on board, and I’m glad I did.

I talked about this briefly in last week’s newsletter (sign up for free here if you’re not already on the list!) but it essentially involves me heading once a month to another town that’s a 45-minute drive from home. The work is bread and butter (filming, editing, and a bit of podcast hosting) but it involves people I love spending time with.

This contract is a break away from running Mark Ellis Reviews. It forces me into another environment, enables me to meet other people, helps me catch up with friends, and ensures I have something else to focus on. I’m not giving it up any time soon.

Strategy 4: Avoiding all-nighters

I can guarantee that you know someone who has told you about the incredible all-nighter they pulled just to get ‘that thing’ finished and out of the door.

They’re really proud of themselves and they want you to know all about it. They carried the flag for their employer well into the night. Multiple cans of Red Bull were consumed. Midnight pizza was scoffed, and the rising sun witnessed. Spreadsheets were smashed into oblivion, Word documents nailed down to within an inch of their lives, and the entire company strategy fleshed out before most people had even switched the kettle on for the first time.

Well, I’ve tried this myself, and I can tell you that it is an utterly stupid idea.

Pulling an all-nighter doesn’t make you better at your job or more committed than anyone else; it means you’re simply not very good at managing your to-do list. It also makes you highly susceptible to burnout, because once you’ve experienced the adrenaline rush of one all-nighter, you’ll probably want a second.

Avoid this at all costs. I’ve nearly fallen into the trap on a couple of occasions, but by the time I reach midnight I always think, what the hell are you doing, Mark? Just go to bed!

That’s exactly what I do these days, and nothing goes wrong.

Strategy 5: Holidays!

At the end of this week, we’re heading off on a family holiday that has been delayed continually since the pandemic.

I cannot wait. Sure, I’m having to work doubly hard to get everything done in time, but that doesn’t matter; the payoff will be more than worth it.

Just like family time, holidays are a non-negotiable for me. I’ve not had a proper one for a couple of years, and I’ve been feeling the effects of that for a while. My guess is that if I went on much longer without a holiday, I probably would reach some form of mild burnout.

That ain’t gonna happen.

Wrapping up

Burning yourself out isn’t a badge of honour (it often feels like that’s the underlying narrative when I’ve heard business owners talk about their own burnout experiences). Just like those pointless all-nighters, burnout doesn’t do your brain, body, or career prospects any good.

The five strategies above have helped me avoid it so far, and I have no desire to test out what happens if I fall behind on any of them.

If you’re struggling at the moment or have crept into the realms of burnout yourself, I hope these ideas help you.

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