By Andrew Davis published October 17, 2022 Est Read Time: 5 min

Are You Willing To Kill Your Content To Save Yourself?

“Stress is an epidemic,” says Maureen Jann. “It’s almost worse than COVID,” she adds in her 2022 Content Marketing World session focused on managing marketer burnout.

Maureen knows our pain.

Earlier this year, her team at NeoLuxe Marketing asked 1,000 marketers to gauge how run-down they felt as a result of their work. After all, it is good to know we’re not alone.

The results were shared in The Burnout Index (registration required). They found nearly 68% of us are chronically stressed, numb, moody, and filled with doubt. CMI found similar results in its recently released Content Marketing Career and Salary Outlook report (registration required): Over 70% of marketers say they feel at least somewhat stressed at work.

68% of marketers are chronically stressed, numb, moody, and filled with doubt, according to @NeoLuxeMktg’s The Burnout Index via @DrewDavisHere @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Chances are, you’re suffering from some of that stress.

But why? Why are marketing professionals, specifically, SO exhausted?

Well, according to Airtable’s 2022 Marketing Trends report (registration required), marketing teams’ workload jumped by 52% last year. We’re understaffed and overworked.

Also, only one in five marketing teams meet their deadlines, and three in four marketing leaders are frustrated by how long it takes to ship our work. We can’t keep up.

If that’s not enough, let’s add the looming recession, the war in Ukraine, the kids, our flailing TikTok strategy, and global warming.

(I feel more stressed out just writing about burnout.)

Now, there is a lot of great advice on combating burnout. Maureen offers some ideas:

  • Cultivate a strong support network.
  • Talk about your stress with your peers.
  • Find hobbies and experiences that lower your cortisol. (Cortisol is your body’s primary stress hormone, which marketers produce in spades.)
  • Advocate for changes to your team’s structure.
  • Spotlight the great work you and your team are doing.

These are all great suggestions; however, they may not get to the root cause. Unless we address the most common sources of marketing burnout, we’re just treating the symptoms, not preventing the disease.

Unless we address the common sources of #marketing burnout, we’ll never prevent the disease, says @DrewDavisHere via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

So, what causes burnout? Perhaps, it’s our inability to connect our everyday work to a meaningful impact, as the Harvard Business Review proposes. The Mayo Clinic suggests our cynicism and irritability may stem from a lack of social support, little agency over our schedules, or our inability to strike the perfect work-life balance.

All of these might be contributors. But I don’t feel like they get to the heart of the matter – specifically for us marketers.

If you’re anything like me, you decided to become a marketer because you love storytelling. You have a penchant for creative problem-solving. You adore diving into new technology and emerging trends.

Nothing excites a marketer more than the chance to explore a new social media platform, a new campaign, or a new medium. We love any new opportunity to get creative.

The problem is our creative fuel is finite.

We might wake up each morning with a full tank of creative gas, but every added task burns some of the fuel. Posting a witty tweet might use only a drop. Writing a blog post might empty the entire tank.

We get cranky when we’re running on fumes and even more stressed, burned out, and exhausted when we’re pressed to keep working when the tank is totally dry.

Our agitation climbs off the charts when we still have 10 more campaigns to execute though we’re already broken down on the side of the highway with our hazard lights on.

Some say we need to learn to say no more often. But who are we, the IT department? No. We’re marketers. We love to say yes.

Maybe so many of us are suffering from burnout because we don’t know what to stop doing.

Does this conversation sound familiar?

“Remember those monthly Facebook Live videos we agreed to do? When was the last time we did one? February of 2018.”

But it’s still on the calendar. And it’s still gobbling up a little creative juice every time we kick ourselves for not having done it.

Dump it.

Cut the stress by doing this

I’ve embraced an entirely new approach to every exciting marketing opportunity: Kill two things, so my creative energy can live on.

Essentially, I kill at least two other projects, initiatives, or campaigns before I take on something new.

To retain his creative energy, @DrewDavisHere kills at least two projects before he takes on something new via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Why two things?

First, we need to make an easy sacrifice. We need to tell everyone we’re no longer doing those Facebook Lives, so we can get it off our calendars – and off our minds.

The easy one is the thing we’re still supposed to be doing, but it’s fallen so low on the priority list no one seems to notice it’s not being done … until they do.

Then, we must kill something that’s harder to let go of – perhaps the one where egos are attached, budget is allocated, and resources are committed, but the outcomes aren’t matching up with the effort we put into it.

The hard kills are often the ones that can put the most creative fuel back in your tank.

For example, you know the podcast the CEO asked you to start? The podcast no one listens to.

Kill it.

What about that monthly newsletter with an open rate of .0001%?

Kill it.

If we’re going to thrive as creative marketers in this fast-paced digital world, we need to learn to end more than we start.

Our creative fuel is finite. Burn it wisely.

What two things are you going to stop doing right now?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis wrote for Charles Kuralt and produced for NBC. He's worked for the Muppets and MTV. He co-founded, built, and sold a marketing agency. You might have seen him on The Today Show or in The New York Times. He's a best-selling author and one of the most influential marketers in the world. Follow Andrew on Twitter @DrewDavisHere.

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