Whatever your hustle may be — design, coding, strategy, project management, writing, something unmarketing related — you started doing it because you loved it. You continued because you loved it. You can’t imagine yourself doing anything else with your life, but yet, you hit a point where you just want to quit. What’s going on?
It’s not a lack of passion for your work. It’s not because of boredom. It’s not because you want to do something else.
When you feel that feeling of loving what you do and being convinced that you’ve never been more connected to and passionate about your work, coupled with a feeling of absolute dread about going in the next day or doing any of the tasks on your list, congrats — you’re in creative burnout.
Everyone has had a “worst project ever”. Mine has been recent and is still ongoing. I don’t mean it’s the worst because the work is bad or the client is bad, quite the opposite with this one. Our team has created amazing work and everyone really cares about this project. The client is fantastic and smart, willing to think outside the box when it comes to design and to take our input. When it finally completes, it will be a great piece of work out there in the world.
But that’s the problem, when it finally completes.
It’s easy to blame others when things don’t go as planned but project managers need to be bigger than that. If it didn’t go according to plan, it means your plan didn’t work. Why not? Where were you? Why weren’t you paying attention? Or if you were paying attention, why did you miss the clear red flags that things were going awry and your plan was not working? How come you didn’t fix it?
This post is for all my DPM peeps out there. That stands for “digital project management” in case you manage projects from under a rock. So, while I no longer work full-time in digital project management (I only dabble, as now I am a strategist/writer full-time), I’m still passionate about client relationship management and making sure our lovingly crafted digital projects go smoothly. I’ve found that now being on “the creative side” has given me even more passion for project management, as I feel like I have a better idea of what it’s like for the people I used to schedule and plan for, both internally and externally.
But we’ve all been there: the digital project that goes completely off track and looks like it’s destined for the rubbish pile or worse, public consumption as a warped, ugly version of its formerly wonderful concept. Let’s face it, it’s usually a website.
So what do you do? How do you tackle this seemingly insurmountable beast and tame it back into a (oh god here comes a cliche) beauty? By following these oh so useful tips of course.
But first, we need to identify the signs of a project going off the rails… We’ll assume it’s a website for the purposes of this example because, well, it probably is.
If you’re like me, you sometimes struggle to come up with new ideas to write about. Or, even if you happen to have a decent amount of new ideas, you struggle with getting them down on paper (err… screen) and just writing it all down into some sort of format that makes sense. Fear not, fellow blogger, I got ya covered today.
I have like 17,000,000 drafts started in WordPress right now, with a title and maybe a one sentence idea of what I wanted to write about so that I’ll remember later when it comes time to actually write a post. I thought that was a good strategy for awhile. And for awhile, it worked.
But I soon realized that my system wasn’t enough to keep me constantly inspired and writing quality shiz for this blog thingy all the time. I felt very accomplished jotting down my headline ideas and rough article ideas, but when the time came to actually write, I was often lost and felt rather meh about it. I spent a lot of time procrastinating (sometimes that can be good because my house is pretty clean now).
There are lots of great blog post planner templates out there to download, so I got some. But I found that a lot of them were kinda what I was already doing – jotting down the gist of your idea, or the headline, and planning those out for the month. But I wasn’t able to find anything that captured all the pieces to think about for each post in a way that was quick and easy to write down, and that still motivated me to actually write the damn post sometime this century.
I think the hardest thing about working in an industry you’re really passionate about is the eventual feeling of “Is this worth it?” that creeps into your mind. If you’re like me, you’re a 110% kind of person. All in or all out, there is no in between.
I’m happy and proud to be doing something I love for a living. I love the sense of accomplishment my work provides, and being surrounded by so many talented people with big ideas. It’s fantastic and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. But sometimes, it still gets tough like anything else.
I guess some people call that burnout, but that’s not really what it is. To me, true burnout is when you are literally so done that you cannot be any more done. You know it’s time to walk away, find a new path, burn bridges to the ground, whatever. You want out of where you are.
But that’s not what I feel sometimes at all. Like I said, I wouldn’t change a thing. So it’s not burnout, it’s just a temporary case of a lack of fucks to give.
Once your supply of fucks to give is restored, all is well.
Your bounce rate is an important indicator of your website’s performance and how interesting your target audience finds your content. A high bounce rate, bad. A low bounce rate, good.
Blocking spam referrers in Google Analytics will cut out the noise and show you your true stats — allowing you to make actionable changes and decisions for your blog or biz to improve your site, retain your audience, and get new leads.
Your bounce rate in Google Analytics refers to the percentage of your website’s visitors who leave your site after visiting only one page.
So, you want to aim for as low a bounce rate as possible. Low bounce rate = more people exploring more than 1 page on your site, meaning they are most likely engaged in your content and liking your shiz.
A high bounce rate is a surefire sign that people aren’t liking your site, or the wrong audience is viewing it.
How to Get Your Bounce Rate Low, Low, Low
So blocking spam is a huge way to lower your bounce rate. Cutting out all the spam means that you’ll know the actual stats of your website as it relates to real, live, breathing human beings visiting your site, not crawler robots or phishing scheme drones.
But blocking spam only helps you see the REAL stats of your website. If your bounce rate is still quite high after blocking spam referrers as described in this article, then you need to buckle down and do some serious work.
Maybe it’s just that you’re attracting the wrong audience. Try thinking more about your target audiences, where they hang out, and promote your blog or website there.
The other quite obvious reason is that… well, your shit’s boring. So re-read your articles and look over your website from your target audience’s point of view. Pretend you’re a potential customer or blog reader who has just landed on your site. What do you think of it? What draws you in?
I was recently lucky enough to attend CIMC 2016, a superfab digital marketing conference in beautiful Squamish, BC (about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver). I haven’t been to that many conferences in my time so far but I really wanted to attend this one because of the world-class speakers involved.
Surprisingly, a few of the talks that I didn’t think would be very relevant to me ended up being my favourite ones, and the ones that gave me some great new ideas to take back to work with me.
Good digital project management is about more than just getting things done, it’s also about keeping all your stakeholders engaged, on the same page, and generally motivated and happy. That means not just your external stakeholders (clients), but your internal ones as well: your internal project team.
I truly believe that keeping your internal project team happy and motivated is of the highest importance. Sure, you need to make your client happy too, but you will never be able to accomplish that without your internal peeps.
They are the ones who slave away, making your project a real, living, breathing THING out there in the world. They create LIFE. Then they have to watch their meticulously crafted project baby take its first steps and walk away, out of their lives forever and into the great unknown. It’s like March of the Penguins but with less (more?) crying.
Let’s take a brief pause and applaud the creative talent in our lives.
So yes, the old expression “Happiness starts from within” — I believe this applies to agencies as well. Without happy, productive, insightful and inspired creative people, no awesome client work is going to get done. Your project team is literally your lifeline.
Now this doesn’t mean fetch them coffee every five minutes or slowly fan them and feed them grapes while they toil away designing, writing or developing your latest web project. Although, personally, I do appreciate when this happens for me. (Hint to any colleagues reading this.)
It means keep them motivated. Keep them engaged. Then client happiness will take care of itself.
But how do you keep a diverse project team motivated and engaged?