How to Get Over Burnout – with Marlon Marshall

For a while, you seemed to have super human energy! Your days were really long and full every second, but you were so excited about the work you were doing that you never got tired (with the help of a couple extra-large cappuccinos).

But then, slowly, you sensed weariness starting to seep in. Tasks that you used to look forward to, you now dreaded. Getting out of bed seemed like a herculean task. And before you knew it, you felt yourself crashing hard into a wall.

There’s no use denying it—you got burnt out. Now what do you do?

First, take a step back and realize that every organizer gets burnt out occasionally. In fact, Marlon Marshall, Hillary for America director of state campaigns and political engagement(and our first issue’s cover star, says:

“If you didn’t hit a wall or get tired, then you’re not human. It happens to the best of us.”

Okay, phew. You’re not alone!

Let’s see what steps Marlon recommends you take to get through those walls. And hey—he’s been organizing for 13 years. 13 years! If he can work this hard for that long, you know you can trust his advice.

1. Acknowledge the burnout.

“I think what’s most important is simply being self-aware. When you hit that wall—acknowledge it and take a step back.”

The first step in getting over burnout is recognizing it for what it is. If you can’t acknowledge that something is off, you’ll never be able to fix it.

2. Remind yourself why you organize.

“Remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place.”

What is your driving motivation? Why do you care so much about this cause or this candidate? How are your actions moving forward an issue that matters to you?

Taking a minute to get sappy and to re-inspire yourself will drive you to figure out how to move forward.

3. Talk to someone who can help.

“Talk to someone about it. When you hit a wall and don’t tell anyone and just keep going, your performance will suffer. But if you take a step back and have a conversation with someone about it, they can help you through it.”

Hello! This is why you have managers! Talk to them about it. Don’t be afraid to be honest with what you’re facing. Your manager understands and is there to support you. They can work with you to figure out how to climb over that wall.

4. Look at how you spend your time.

“When you get burnt out and hit that wall, it’s often because things have gotten so crazy that you’re not managing your time in the best way. This is when you need to reassess. For one week, write out on your calendar what you’re doing each moment of the day. Then the next week, take a step back and see where you’re spending your time and reevaluate.” 

Often you hit a wall because you’re not handling your time wisely. And I know your first reaction is going to be, “ALL MY TIME IS SPENT WORKING, I HAVE NO TIME.” I get it. It’s annoying to have someone insist you need to adjust the way you spend your time when you feel like you’re constantly working.

But take yourself and your emotions out of it for a second. Figure out what habits need to change. Maybe if you shifted around when you do certain stuff or how you do certain stuff, it will make you more efficient. And if you’re more efficient, maybe you might find a little extra time to go to yoga, or do whatever it is that helps you relax.

5. Create systems.

“I create systems that support my team. These allow us to dig in when we need to get the job done, but also create a team culture that is needed to move forward. These systems make sure that we don’t get stuck by just doing what we’re doing now, but always having a vision of where we need to go.”

Just like Marlon needs systems to manage all four early states, you need systems to manage your volunteer teams. If you have a system set up for each task you and your team need to complete, you can simply follow the system. This will help keep you less distracted and stop you from worrying about little details all the time (because they’re taken care of in the system!). It will allow you to dedicate your time to the parts of organizing you love most.

6. Adapt.

“Even on this campaign, I’ve taken a step back and said, ‘Okay, the way I used my time in April is different than the way I’m using my time in November.’ But, if I had just done the same thing from April to November, then I’m not growing, nor am I supporting my team in a way that they need to be supported.”

The best way to get over burnout is to never have it, right? Well, yeah, we don’t have any magic pills for you or anything, but we do know that if you adapt your schedule, your systems, and your management priorities as the campaign evolves, you’ll be better prepared to avoid burnout.