Source: Pexels Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

The Power of Personal Understanding

in preventing burnout

I am passionate about marketers having successful and fulfilling careers. It is what underpins my Whole Marketer philosophy, that developing holistic skills can lead to having a career that is happening for us, not to us; bringing us purpose and fulfilment to our lives as a whole.

A key pillar of our holistic development is our personal understanding – the extent to which we know ourselves. It is essential that we build our personal understanding to help us within our challenging yet rewarding profession, especially to prevent burning out as our roles evolve from increased accountability for the marketing function to lead the long-term agenda, pressure to deliver the commercial number, often with changes happening all around us; to change in leadership and ownerships in the way in which we market, constantly pivoting. 

In order to build the resilience and strength to overcome periods of challenge, professionally and personally, we need to be actively working on developing our personal understanding.

Managing constant change

Just look back over the past 4 years... we're constantly responding to market and societal changes (as well as changing approaches and the speed in demand to which we respond with changes). Then there’s how we plan and execute, shifting from our planned calendar of activities and anticipated seasonal peaks to needing to become more responsive to consumer demands and changes. Our 'always on' way in which we activate in marketing provides less clarity on when there will be demand peaks and lessens our ability to plan and resource accordingly.

This prolonged stress and intense workload can lead to true burnout and it’s unsurprising it’s on the rise in our profession.

True burnout

True burnout means chronic exhaustion and being unable to get out of bed - true burnout cannot be solved by a long weekend away or chilling out in front of Netflix to recharge your batteries. When it does occur it can take weeks, if not months to recover from. True burnout, which I have personally experienced, is truly awful and something we have to address in our industry. 

True burnout occurs when we are experiencing periods of prolonged stress, whether personal or professional, coupled with internal drivers and pressure we put upon ourselves. I have found that those who have drivers for perfection and/or people pleasers are more prone to burnout. 

Developing personal understanding can help burnout prevention

We need to develop our personal understanding, so we have the knowledge and empowerment to take the reins to help improve our fulfilment but also to ensure that we get what we need to thrive as well as survive knowing not only what drives and motivates us, but also having the clarity around what you need in order to have the energy and drive to deal with the challenge. 

Start building your personal understanding

The following exercise will allow you to think about what activities, goals and people energise and drain you. Being mindful of these can help you to do less of, do more of, or continue the things that increase your levels of fulfilment.

Energy creator (doing more of this will energise us)

  • What are you doing when you are at your best that you enjoy?
  • Do you know your values? If so, what can you be doing to play to your values? Insides and outside of work?
  • What fills up your cup?
  • What are your wider goals, beyond the here and now, that you are working towards?
  • What is your motivation for achieving these goals?
  • Are you prioritising well-being (sleep, eating, rest, exercise etc)?

Energy protectors 

  • What do we need in place to remain balanced, especially in periods of stress? 
  • What are your non-compromisables? 
  • Are you creating and communicating boundaries around these to your colleagues, friends and family? 

Energy drainers 

  • Are there certain people you need to avoid or reduce time with for now?
  • Are there situations you need to avoid and or say no to for now?
  • Are there tasks that are draining your energy that you can ask for help with or pass on to another?
  • Are there activities that no longer play to your values you can stop or reduce time doing?


Burnout prevention through self-awareness

One key part of personal understanding is self-awareness and in order to prevent a case of true burnout from occurring, we need to be able to notice the signs and behaviours that you are not your full self and start taking action.

The signs that you may be heading for burning out may include the inability to sleep, feelings of overwhelm or irritability with things you normally enjoy or wouldn't bother you, a lack of motivation, fulfilment, and energy.  Feelings of constantly having to dig deep to carry on and perform, and reduction in desire to want to socialise or do activities you normally enjoy due to tiredness or overwhelm.

It is also really important to acknowledge these feelings and behaviours, to ensure we are using our understanding of self to notice the signs that we may indeed not be our normal selves and start to address the root cause. 

However, acknowledgement isn't enough to prevent it from occurring.

We need to ensure manageable workloads by providing clarity, focus and clear prioritisation - we can do anything, not everything.

For the marketers in your care, support them to develop their personal understanding and awareness of self - to define what drives them and what they need to have in place to ensure they are feeling balanced and looking after themselves, especially in times of prolonged stress.

To find out more about burnout prevention and support workshops for your team, visit Whole Marketer Workshops Programmes - The Whole Marketer

Hear Abby's podcast series The Whole Marketer on The Marketing Society podcast channel.

Abigail Dixon is an award-winning marketer and marketing and capability consultant, chartered marketer, fellow, and accredited trainer(cim), coach (icf) and mentor. She is the founder, author and podcast host of The Whole Marketer

Published 24 April 2024



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