I’m not sure if this is a topic that gets discussed too much, but that doesn’t make it any less important. This is about burning yourself out, stretching yourself too thin, and burning the candle at both ends. If other women in this field are anything like me, you really put forth a lot of effort. I mean a lot of effort. Likely more so than your colleagues to compensate for the fact that “you’re just a woman”. I take great pride in my work ethic, it defines me. I love what I do, so it’s easy for me to accidentally overdo it. I think that some of us should take a deep breath, and ponder if we’re on a path to getting burned out completely.
This has been on my mind for the last week or so, and I can’t let go of it. So here I am, writing it down to see if I can figure it out and possibly help some along the way. Let me paint you a picture of what my typical week looks like:
On Mondays I work for 9 hours, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I work for 14 hours. On Thursdays I work about 9 and a half hours. That’s 46 hours in 4 days. On Fridays and Saturdays, I have misc. gigs with my band that can range anywhere from 3 hours in the afternoon to a 14 hour blazing double-gig, and sometimes actually having one or both days off. And on Sundays I work church services and freelance consultations for houses of worship. So I’ll be a little shy on the average, but let’s say that’s 15 hours. So now we’re up to 61 hours. On top of that, I have several interns, I’m developing curriculum for graduate students on event technology, and I write here for SoundGirls every month, and I’ve got another writing project in the works. So I’ve got to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 hours a week. Every week.
Just writing all of this out, honestly, gives me palpitations.
So, in short, I’m busy.
I’m really busy.
Not to mention planning a wedding, and whatever resemblance of a social life I’ve got. Oh, and I’m trying to go back to school in January.
When I’m in an interview, I often get asked what my greatest weakness is. I hate answering that question, I don’t understand the point of it, and I have to answer it like a jerk. My greatest weakness is that I work too much. From the employer’s point of view, that isn’t really a problem. But for me, it is. I have been known to work when I really should not. Last year I got very sick for an entire month. I almost popped my ear drum because I refused to go to the doctor. I didn’t miss a single day of work, though.
The good news is I’m young. I can get away with working this much because my body and mind can keep up. But for how long?
I recently accepted another job. A colleague needed some help, and it included some fun projects that I’m really looking forward to working on. And in the wake of my formal acceptance of the position, I began feeling something I hadn’t felt in a long time: stretched. At some point, something will have to give. I know that I need to force some time for more relaxation in, we all should.
I think that we are such a work-centric society, that relaxation and family time doesn’t mean much. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people would be impressed that I can juggle so much. But should we have to juggle so much? Why must we work so much harder than our colleagues? Draw a line in the sand, and promise yourself that you won’t work past it. Schedule in relaxation. It’s so important for our mental health, which gets ignored a lot. I’m tired while writing this. Today is my one day off for a while. Don’t work yourself to death if you don’t need to. Enjoy every single day. Our field can be really really fun and it’s easy to let things slip away from us. When you’re just starting out, you’re taught to take every gig and work your tail off to climb the ladder. Don’t get burned out. Don’t become addicted to work. I’m lucky enough to love every single day of work, but I have to start shaving off some of it or I may end up hating it.
So, what do I do?
Well, it may mean giving and taking from some places. I always have my list of most important things in my life. My significant other is at the top, followed closely by my work at the school, and my work at the church, then freelancing. That may mean working faster when possible so that I may get work finished and move on to the next project. It may also mean turning down some projects to keep my availability open. If my S.O. needs something, that absolutely comes first. You have to be able to say “no.” I have a system of support so that when something does happen, I’ve got all my projects covered. I wouldn’t be able to do all this by myself. It actually took a good amount of time to get this system set up, and I’m still building it. There are so many moving parts to each event and every project that you simply just cannot put it all on yourself. I don’t like missing work, but if I need to I know I’ve got 2 or 3 very reliable, trustworthy people to take my place. Your replacements are a part of your reputation. It’s your name on the line, not theirs. My very specific line in the sand is any event on a Sunday. I try my absolute hardest to not do anything on Sunday, as does my S.O., so that we may spend this time together. Sometimes things pop up, and on occasion I will do them, but only after I’ve spoken with my better half. Know that relationships with other people are important. Family means different things to different people, just make sure that you nurture those relationships. They’ll help you up when you’re down.
Be careful. Your life outside of work is just as important as the work itself.
Editors Note: Check out April Tucker’s Blog on avoiding Burn Out. Part Time Mixer – Part Time What? SoundGirls remember to take care of yourself.
Samantha Potter: Samantha is an IT Media Supervisor and Audio Engineer for the largest Methodist Church in the US and a Production Manager for Funk Syndicate located in Kansas City. Working closely with IT, Producers, Coordinators, and Musicians, Samantha oversees audio and other media technology while mentoring and training women in STEM fields. Additionally, Samantha is the Chapter Head of the SoundGirls KC Chapter.
About Samantha: A lover of coffee and R&B music, Samantha is a classically trained musician with a particular interest in technology. While getting her professional career started in studio work, the calling of Live Sound and Event Production was too great to ignore. She can be found with a mug of coffee, a pair of converse, and listening to Jazmine Sullivan during load-in.