I burned out. Here’s how I recovered.

I burned out. Here’s how I recovered.


– This video is sponsored by Audible. And for a limited time, you can get more than 50%
off three months of Audible by using the link in the
description below to sign up. So just to let you know up front, this is gonna be a bit
more of a strip down video, especially in comparison
to the last video. But I think we’re gonna talk about today doesn’t need a super bombastic approach and it certainly doesn’t need a thousand different camera angles. So, what I wanna talk
about today is burnout. And the reason I wanna
talk about it is that, in 2019, I went through
a period of true burnout. I was creatively exhausted, I started to take a very cynical approach to how I looked at my work, and how I looked at my life in some cases. And it was different than
any year before that. I’ve definitely gone through
stressful periods before but this year, around May, maybe April, I got to a point where
things just were not good. I was looking very
negatively towards my work, and part of the reason
was that I sort of felt trapped by the work that
I had built for myself. And it was kind of funny
because nobody was telling me to do what I was doing. Everything that I do on a daily basis is something that I decided to do since I run my own business, and yet, I felt like
there wasn’t a way out. But, with the help of some other people and with some better decisions that I’ve made since those months, I’ve actually been able to
come out of that burnout and get back a to of that creative energy and just that fire for
life and for my work that I used to have. So what I wanna talk
about in this video is, number one, how I burned out, but number two and more importantly, how I got passed that burnout. Because I think a lot of
people go through this. Especially as we constantly
put more and more expectations on ourselves. And I think this is partly due to the influences we all have, the internet and social media. We often feel a lot of pressure and that can lead to burnout. But I think it’s something that
we can definitely get over. So in my case, I felt burned
out because of my schedule. I was putting out so much content and, as you probably know if you’ve
watched a lot of my content, I’m really not content to do the same kind of video
over and over again. I like to find something new
and innovative that I can do with every piece of content that I create. But I also have a schedule to stick to. And to pull back the curtain a little bit on how my business works, as you probably know, I have sponsors on most videos that I do. And things have gotten to the point over the past couple of years where sponsors would book out
several months in advance, meaning that I had deadlines and I had kind of a schedule
that I would stick to. And I am a person who tends to bite off more than I can chew. I get overly ambitious
especially when it comes to what future Tom can do, because in my head,
future Tom is not burdened by all of the myriad to-do items that present Tom has to do. So I will happily saddle future Tom with many many many commitments. And it got to the point where I had four videos a month, sometimes five, scheduled out months and
months and months in advance. And as a lot of entrepreneurs do, I had started to build a team. So now, not only was my
livelihood on the line, but other people’s livelihoods
were on the line as well. I felt that if I were to scale back the amount of content I was producing, I will be letting down my team in a very real tangible way. So as a result, I kind of felt trapped. And months and months and months went by where I would, you know,
push up against deadlines, I would feel creatively exhausted, and I would always tell myself, next month, I will just work harder, next month, I’ll just be more efficient. And this is always my go-to
solution for everything. I just think, you know, if I’m having a tough time right now,
if things are stressful, it is my fault because
I have been inefficient and I just need to work harder the next time around the next month. And there’s some truth
to that. (chuckling) I think a lot of these mental prisons we put ourselves in are
built on a foundation of at least a kernel of truth. Like I could actually be more efficient. But that’s not always
the crux of the problem. There’s often something more fundamental that needs to be addressed. And in my case, it was the
number of commitments that I had. Because I have a desire to
make everything that I create high quality and often have
different innovative elements or, you know, because I
often learn something new and want to incorporate it into everything I make afterwards, I just can’t put out the
same amount of content that certain other YouTubers can. So here’s how I got out of my burnout. And I know this is not a
very highly structured video but I’m just kind of
speaking from the heart here. So number one, and this
may not be as actionable for some people but I did take a break. I went on vacation with my girlfriend. And unlike most of the vacations I have taken in my life
since becoming an adult, I made this one an actual vacation. I did as much as I could
to cut work out of my life. I have a great team, and they were able to
take care of some things. We were able to work ahead to get things done in advance. And I was able to actually relax. But much more importantly, I cut back on my commitments. I had a conversation with
the guy who runs my agency, and I asked him if he would help me move things around so I would get down to a bit of a sparser schedule. And when I did that, something
really surprising happened. I immediately started to get ideas again. I immediately started to
become interested in things that I would normally get agitated about. Like when a new project
came across my plate or something that I would
maybe wanna get interested in, as part of my burnout, I
would just get agitated because it would feel like that thing would take too much of my time and I already had so much going on I couldn’t even pay it any attention. The moment I committed to
cutting back my schedule, I started to have a more open
outlook towards new things. I had a lot of that interest for life in general coming back. And the interesting thing was the way that my agent
had moved things around, made it so that I still had
to do four videos in June, and the cut down schedule
wasn’t gonna start until July, so I still had a full
month of the same workload, but just knowing that my schedule was going to open up and I was gonna have more breathing room in the near future, it took a lot of pressure off of me, it took a weight off my shoulders. So if you’re in a place where
you are feeling burned out, I think the number one
thing you have to do is figure out how you can cut down on the number of commitments in your life. And this is really really tough. I put off doing this for so long because, again, I felt
like I literally couldn’t. I felt like I had to keep
up my content schedule because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay my team what they deserved. And the reason I felt this way is I did not have an
accurate concrete picture of everything that was going on. I just had this sort of ethereal feeling that if I stopped working
as hard as I was working, then everything was
going to crash and burn. And I think a lot of
people have this fear. So here’s what’s probably
gonna be the most practical piece of advice in this video. When you realize that you need to reduce the number of commitments in your life, sit down, write them all out, and see exactly what
you’re going to sacrifice. So in my case, my big fear was that I was not gonna make enough
money to pay my team, but I hadn’t really sat
down and done the math. So I broke out my big
spreadsheet that I use to track my entire
business and my finances. I don’t do crazy in-depth budgeting on a month to month basis on this, but I do put in average income numbers, average expense numbers, and this gets me a
pretty accurate estimate of how much is gonna be left
over at the end of the month, after everything is said and done. So, I broke that spreadsheet out and I changed the number of videos that I was doing per month, from four to one, to see what it would do. And I think putting it to a one would have put me in the red every month, so I brought it up to two, and interestingly enough, at two videos a month, my business would have
started breaking even. So I wouldn’t have been saving any money, but I would have been able
to continue paying my salary and I wouldn’t have had
to give anyone a pay cut. And I would have cut my salary before giving anyone else a pay cut. But I wouldn’t even have had to do that. And that was such a different picture than what I had in my head before. I thought, if I stopped working as hard as I’m working right now, everything is gonna crash and burn. Not, if I stopped working
as hard as I’m working, then everything is just
going to slow down. Which is a much more palatable future. And once I had that data, I realized that I could
actually slow down. The role wasn’t gonna end. I would just grow a
little bit more slowly. So get straight on your priorities. Be willing to make some sacrifices, and get as much data as you
can on those sacrifices. A couple more things that I did. Number one, I had to
come to the realization that not every single piece
of content that I create can be at the exact same level. And I think a lot of
artists struggle with this, but there are also a
lot of artists out there who completely understand it. There are bands that do, you know, crazy albums with entire orchestras, and then on the next album, they’ll strip it back, they’ll go back to just
four people on the band, the guitar, bass, drums,
and a singer and that’s it. And that’s fine. There’s this ebb and flow
to the amount of craziness they put into each piece of art. I struggled with that. When I make a video like the
one on our morning routine, which took me like five
full days of work to make, I start to feel like every single video I make in the future has to be that good and that crazy and
technical and effortful, otherwise, I’m not working
to my full potential. But that’s just not how it works. We don’t always have to
do the exact same thing at the exact same level. Finally, and this is a bit
more of a philosophical thing, but I’ve taken more seriously the knowledge that
there’s never going to be a magical moment where I have attained enough success that I will
just let myself slow down. That doesn’t exist. But I believe that I am
not alone in having that, as like a thought in the back of my head, that if, you know, if I just
do this and this and this, then I’ll take a break,
then I’ll slow down. But that’s not how it works. You know, when I was 25 I thought that, but I got to 28 and I
have accomplished a lot of what I wanted to
accomplish back when I was 25, and now there’s like
a thousand more things I want to accomplish. So I’ve just become, again,
okay with slower progress because in exchange, I get
a better work life balance. I have less chronic stress and I also have time to pursue things that are really interesting. Things that I probably
would have found aggravating because I was so overwhelmed
just six months ago. Now, those things truly
are interesting again. And one of those things is actually music, which is why I have taken the time to build this new studio and set it up for music production. I’ve been doing a lot more guitar practice, piano practice, lately. And I’ve also been going through a really excellent book called, “How Music Works” by David Byrne, who was one of the founding members of the Talking Heads band. It is a fantastic book,
I’m really enjoying it. And you can listen to it on Audible, if you go over to Audible.com/thomas, or by texting Thomas to
500-500 on your phone, and signing up. And you might wanna do that soon because for a limited time, you can get three months
of Audible service for just $6.95 per month, which is more than 50% off the normal monthly subscription price. Of course, Audible has the best selection of audio books on the internet. They have all the best sellers, lots of really obscure titles, they have biographies,
science fiction books. They have lots of music
science books actually. And every single month, you get one credit that is good for any audio book title in their library, plus two Audible originals that you cannot get anywhere else. So, once again, if you wanna get started and get three months of
Audible for more than 50% off, go over to Audible.com/thomas, or text Thomas to 500-500
on your phone to sign up. Thanks as always for watching. Hopefully, this kind of rambling video is helpful for you. I’ve honestly had a lot of trouble getting over this burnout myself and I had to have a lot of conversations with friends and people that I trust and that
love me to get over it. So hopefully some of my experience is helpful for you to hear about. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that right there, to get notifications about new videos that come out on this channel. Otherwise, you could check
out a couple more videos right here and right here. Thanks again for watching and I will see you in my next video.

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  1. I'd like to share a little bonus story, which will show how my life is often a process of learning the same lesson over and over:

    In college, I was in the honors program. Graduating with it would've meant I'd be able to put it on my resume and wear a cool gold cord at the graduation ceremony. However, there were some requirements; I had to take some extra classes and do a big project during my senior year.

    About halfway through college, I was putting a lot more time into building my business, and trying to juggle that alongside classes, my job, and the Honors requirements was becoming incredibly stressful. Additionally, my time was very fractured; I wasn't able to focus for very long on any one thing, and everything suffered as a result.

    So – even though I really wanted that additional resume item – I decided to quit the Honors program during my senior year. It was hard to give that up, but the time and ability to focus that I gained was worth it. And looking back, I can see now that having "honors graduate" on my resume wouldn't have helped me as much as all the extra time I was able to invest in building my business.

    I still struggle with living by the lesson this taught me: Letting an opportunity go doesn't equal failure. And even if that opportunity would have helped me progress slightly faster, it may not have been worth it.

  2. That's weird, my burnout hit me at the exact same time this year. I went through the exact same sequence of events. I cut my monthly uploads in half and thankfully the income didn't suffer. However it didn't increase either. I'm glad you posted this.

  3. The timing couldn't be better. I am severely burnt out with my grad school and I can't enough how much I needed this. THANKS, THOMAS, Keep up the fantastic work. Btw I am looking forward to your next book recommendation video, finished the ones you recommended, what a fantastic read it was.

  4. Thank you Thomas. This is refreshing. Its been a while since I sat and fully watch your video without getting distracted by those annoying background noises/music. Please keep making these type of content. Re-subbed.

  5. Yeah, there is never a moment that we have enough success to slow down. I really needed to hear that. Thanks for that man! Awesome vid :))

  6. Love the idea that not every project has to have the same level of quality. Kind of an 'oh, duh!' moment for me. I can make amazing things… but I can't make everything at the same level, all the time. I've never thought of that comparison of albums. So good!

  7. I think I experienced something that was almost like reverse burnout. I was convincing myself that I was doing a lot of work and needed a break when in reality my grades were dropping, I was breaking my budget and also gaining weight and losing muscle. Finally last week I took a step back and realized that I needed to step it, get back in the gym and start doing work. Now that I've made the change and started actually working toward my goals again I feel so much better.

  8. I really appreciate how raw and authentic you expressed this to the world. Burnout is real. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives and how you have handled it inspires me to see burnout as a recovering process. Thank you. This is the perfect video for what I need right now.

  9. As a relatively new YouTuber myself, I'm experiencing burn out now. As I review my plans, I started to feel better as I revise my plans and reduce my workload by making content that is more streamlined with my other project .

  10. Perfect video, especially for me and for those other college students out there pursuing those toughest courses. I could never agree more to the fact that, In doing things we put passion to, requires a good amount of balance and break. It may be true that the progression of our performance might slow down, but every little step counts and surely enough one will reach his/her goal eventually.

    Thank you so much thomasss !!! needed this kind of video so badly right now !!

  11. I always like your videos. 🙂 I am recovering right now after having finished my master thesis – which was insanely hard for me. Never had this much stress and doubts in my life. I am taking a break now before getting a "real" job but I don't feel good doing nothing. Somehow I feel a useless. So I am searching for something productive that I can enjoy in the meantime. It is a luxury I have for the moment but I really need it

  12. I am literally going through my first burnout in my first year in uni due to the enormous workload i was working with and i literally knocked myself out with the pressure. Thank you.
    Any tips on how to recover before finals season which is in a week?

  13. Great video! And really helpful to a lot of your viewers I think, including myself. I struggle with this too, as I'm very ambitious and I often over promise and get myself in very stressful situations.

  14. I enjoyed and can relate to this video. Stripped down "acoustic" Thomas is nice to see. Thanks for sharing and enjoy the upcoming holiday.

  15. I know this is kind of the topic of your channel so this might be a bit counterintuitive but having gone through something similar, I have to say that always being focused on maximizing productivity and efficiency is probably not very healthy. You will always feel like you could be more productive or more efficient but you will never attain it. The biggest realization for me was the you, in fact, don't HAVE to be productive or efficient. It's really a construct of your capitalist society that we should maximize every second and be as productive as possible all the time. In reality, that's not how we naturally function. Zen has taught me a lot about that and scaling back on productivity, doing one thing at a time fully and enjoying the process instead of trying to do a thousand things simultaneously. Letting go of this desire to maximize your time all the time is the best I ever did. For example, I don't think it's super healthy to be listening to audiobooks while doing other tasks. It makes you feel more productive but are you really? You're not fully focused on the audiobook and you're not fully focused on the task at hand and you get stressed out because you end up not really getting the most out of either. Anyway, that's my rambling take on this.

  16. Thomas, thank you for your transparency and openness about this topic. I have experienced burnout as well, but your story helps create an awareness of the factors that lead to burnout. I appreciate the time you spend on your content.👍🏼👍🏼

  17. Thankyou for your wonderful tips and an amazing advice that you have given to all of us. I really like what you said about opportunities and failures. "Letting an opportunity go is not = failures. Brilliant, something that I needed to hear to be reassured. Thankyou.

  18. Man I know exactly how you feel!

    ( not with YouTube yet as my channel is small)

    But in other areas of life. I’ve always been a guy to take on more work on the weekends since I’m self employed and need to learn to bring it back. It’s easy to do and easy to burn out. Delegating work out so you aren’t the one feeling all the pressure is key.

  19. I just realized one of my "commitments" has ended up being watching a certain amount of YouTube every day. It seems as though I've fallen into a trap of sorts. Welp now I know exactly what that is… Thanks.

  20. Thank you for this. I just got out of a burnout. I did nothing but sit in my apartment for two days and watch lighthearted Netflix shows. I am a people pleaser, yes man, very involved, an intern, and a full time student. I've been running around from one thing to the next every day for years and when I'm "resting" I'm thinking about another commitment or another homework assignment or something to study.

    I pride myself for being a hard worker but wow I lit my candle at 20 ends instead of just both. I'm happy now I'm starting to see myself getting back to normal but I'm being cautious to not take everything back on at the same second.

  21. this video was so helpful and it came at me at the right time, it made me think about the fact that I'm so full with things to do that I don't even have time to think about myself, and this doesn't only affect my creativity, my work efficiency and my learning processes but my health and my well being. Right now I have three jobs and I'm working on an animation for my thesis work (which I've been doing for so long it's embarrasing), some days I don't even want to get out of bed and confront all of those things, but even though I can't take my break right now and cut down on compromises (I have to finish my animation before January) I'm sure that I have to take more time to reflect on my work life and how I spend my time, and make some major changes in my life to be happier and healthier.

  22. 4:41 I'm sorry, what? Who? Your what? You friend who is female? Oh, okay. For a second there I thought I heard a claim toward heteronessness. Almost dropped my kale

  23. Awesome video Tom, I've recently had to back off my UNI classes after a major bout of anxiety and depression, thanks for this. Take care of yourself hun ^_^

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience. I think trying to grow fast and create a high number of content product, with a high production quality, could lead to a huge burn out. Personally, the idea that more content and production equals more success is wrong, and is in the basis of capitalism. More so, content/production doesn't equal a better quality of life, specially when your area of production is in the creative field. Sometime few and simple production could lead to a better quality content. Remember, fancy doesn't always equal quality, just see any Michael Bay's Transformer, you will see: no quality story there.

  25. Huge respect bro.
    It's very difficult to look on one's self objectively and diagnose the problem and the cause and discoverthe treatment and the hardest of all is to be brave enough to take the medicine which is very sacrificial on one side but it's very liberating on the other

  26. Thomas, thanks.
    I'm in a similar place right now, I feel like you describe in the video: like everything will break if I stop.

    I'll follow your advice, really really thank you for this video.

  27. Dude idk how you do it. I went looking for a video about burnout earlier this morning, and now, here it is. Thank you 🙏🏻

  28. Can't tell you how helpful and reassuring this content was, Thomas! I'm currently working through the end of a burnout season and am facing many of the dilemmas that you described. Coincidentally, I just recently plotted out my life and commitments like you described, and this gave me the opportunity to thoughtfully cut back. Thank you again, Thomas, for the reminder that's it okay to not do everything. Godspeed.

  29. Thanks you for your honesty Thomas. Your content is always informative but more importantly relatable. Am really glad that you found a way out and arecon your way to balance and fulfillment. Cheers!!

  30. This Burnout I really felt when I started freelancing after my graduation. I did freelancing continuously for 3 months, I was really interested in what I was doing and started growing but then this Burnout phase came and I was even not ready to touch my PC to start working. I just realized that I have to balance my life otherwise I would trap my self in this and that was not good to work for 16 hours per day.

  31. I know you tend to focus on the more practical side of things but there are a few books or at least summaries of these books that you should get a hand on better to understand why creativity is such a task. They're a part of my sociology courses and I've loved this uncharted mental growth they offer that may not yield immediate results but definitely help you time to time for many years in life.
    1) the concept of Homer by Miklos Haraszti (A Worker In A Worker's State)
    2) concept of counter culture by Paul Willis (Learning To Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs) and Theodore Roszak (The Making Of A Counter Culture)
    3) technical life by Arthur Bradley (Originate Technicity: The Theory Of Technology from Marx to Derrida)
    And lastly but let's hope not finally, the ever helpful curse:
    4) notion of "keeping yourself in check" and what is does by Michel Foucault (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison)

    While I've read these books in a sociological context, they've helped me ask important questions that I feel a person must ask themselves especially if they're a working adult. Your schedule sounds absolutely hectic but I do hope that one or twice a month you can have a few hours to read for yourself in a way I'm sure that will also help you grow both personally and affect your outlook in life. And thanks as always for creating such helpful content 🙂

  32. We all go through a “burn out” phase from time to time. Especially if you are a perfectionist, you will panic as you expect the best output all the time. Certainly one should have a break once in a while and do what they like. If you just work without taking breaks you will suffer and the output quality diminishes. I could relate to this video when I was doing my full time M.B.A. which I finally got back in December, 2018. I was always working on my projects, preparing for exams and insuring my work was the best in the class. I was however much better at it in my second year as I learnt how to manage my time better and have all the time I needed to rest. I also came up with this equation for my life balance in general: Managing Time + Productivity + Rest = Quality Work and Pleasurable Life (MTPR = QWPL).

  33. I guess that American hustle mentality doesn’t help as well. We here in Germany have that too, but it doesn’t seem to be that extreme.

  34. I really liked the style of this video, it felt like a heart to heart and I'm feeling reassured and inspired again. Thank you!

  35. Really appreciate you doing this video!
    Nice and refreshing to see a raw Thomas.
    I know it might be surprising to you that this might be your best video yet
    A lot of times you seem like a machine, constantly producing. It's good for us "humans" to see that even you are human.
    Glad your well
    Keep healthy!!!

  36. I really liked this video. I have a spreadsheet as well for my business which shows my montly recurring expenses (team, office, licenses, taxes, my salary) so i know what i have to make. This was a game changer when i made this. Also, i think in our free time (when we minimise the business) we can always pursue passive income models/additional revenue streams (products). For example your course on Skillshare was very very good. Im sure if you made a course on being a youtuber that would be a hit as well. This was also a great video because it made me feel as a business owner that burning out is normal. Thanks Thomas, i really enjoy your thoughts and your mindset work is very valuable to me.

  37. Thank you for sharing this story Tom, this is very sweet of you to be so candid about how you feel. I really enjoyed this video. I enjoyed you speaking from the heart ☺️

  38. Been there, Tom. Hang on in there! Thank you for your pieces of advice. The whole video has been really helpful! As a mean of fighting stress I paint pictures. There is a way to do it even for amateurs. I buy pictures called 'Painting by numbers.' It's a quite popular hobby in Russia. Your brain switches off and stress wears off.

  39. I've been there before, and I'm even there a little now. I run my own online business: service based marketing and reputation management and I also sell 30 online courses on Udemy and Skillshare. 10,000 YouTube subscribers and sponsorships from banks and large companies on Instagram. All this while traveling the world and in Vietnam I burned out like crazy. I felt like I needed more community around me, I was off put by my work and I have more freedom than most people. The over-ambition you mentioned fits me too. Traveling while having massive commitments and expectations of yourself is hard. I got sick and had massive migraines. You've inspired me to question my commitments.

  40. My biggest thing is accepting "good enough" for certain tasks. I am always on the verge of burning out due to my own perfectionist tendencies. I'm only a high school teacher, but I will work all the hours I can to be the very best I can be at great personal expense!
    I needed to watch this video – thank you!

  41. It's interesting what you say about how you view future Tom – that he'll be unburdened by your current struggles, a superhero of the future.

    My name is Tom, too, and my mantra is "future Tom is a d*ck"

    By that I mean that I always assume that, when faced with a choice, future Tom will take the easiest choice and not the one that requires willpower; that future Tom will be less capable than I am now. And so my task right now, in this moment, is to set things up so that it's easy for future Tom to make the right choices – in fact, current Tom needs to make it so that it's actively difficult for future Tom to make the wrong choices.

    This has to include making sure future Tom doesn't have too much on his plate or he'll make the wrong choice and burn out.

    Thank you for the video and honest look at commitments – sometimes saying no feels like failure but is actually a success.

  42. I don't know what subjects to choose to be honest should I go fully sciences or fully social, or half and half I can't decide between my subjects I am an all rounder help me Thomas

  43. Pressure in life pushes us to catastrophise all situations when in reality, it is far less problematic. Our brain is a great magician and must be questioned

  44. ‘If I stopped working as hard as I was, everything was going to crash and burn’. Man I’ve started having that thought on a daily basis, this really came at the right time (also your recent interview on the Money Lab podcast was amazing) xx

  45. Thanks for sharing these insights, Thomas. I've definitely experienced the creative drought due to burnout and one of the things that helped me was James Altucher's book "Choose Yourself" and specifically an activity where you have to come up with as many ideas as you can every morning. It was one of the things that brought me back to me. As an entrepreneur, I definitely feel the need for more self care and to be cognizant of mental health and work life balance. When you love what you're doing it blends into your life so it can sometimes be challenging to set boundaries (i.e., turning down certain projects, not working 12 hours a day..as tempting as that might be… etc). My husband reminds me all the time not to burn myself out, so that definitely helps! Thanks again for inspiring so many with your excellent content!

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