That Time I Burnt Out, Hard (And What I’m Doing Differently This Year)

That time I burnt out, and what I'm doing to make sure it doesn't happen again

I was going to start this post off as a quick recap of my goals for the new year, and turn it into a bit of a how-to post, but every time I tried to sit down and write it, it didn’t make much sense.

I was trying to shoehorn why these were my goals into like, a paragraph or two, but without the context of the past year, it was kind of jarring.

See, this past year was a big one, which makes sense when you look at my goals last year. I was all about…

  • Growing Half Banked
  • Earning more money by freelancing more
  • Buying a house (see: earning more money, because houses are not cheap)

Those were my main priorities, and because they were my priorities, they got done.

To the point that when we finally moved into our new house, and I took two weeks off of everything to focus on moving in and relaxing a bit, it pretty much broke me.

Behind the scenes of my posts about the home-buying process, I was working with multiple freelance clients, delivering anywhere from six to ten articles a week, managing client calls, keeping track of deadlines, running my own blog (which was doing two posts a week in the lead-up to the move) and more.

All of that was on top of the small tasks of having a full-time job and trying to feed myself and be a functioning adult who still had clean laundry sometimes.

That all felt fine at the time… until I stopped doing it all for two weeks, and realized how truly, deeply unsustainable it was, and how stressed and tired I had been. My typical day was to wake up, walk the dog, go to work for eight or nine hours, come home, scarf down some food, sit back down at my laptop, and crank out another four or so hours of work. I’d close my laptop when I had too bad of a headache to continue, and call it a night.

Every day.

Now it’s not like I was doing that for months, but for the few weeks before the move, that was my entire life, and my entire focus. It had ramped up slowly to that point, but I somehow missed the turnoff to “sustainable work-life balance” and went straight into “wow, you need to quit everything because you’re so burnt out.”

So that’s kind of what I did.

Luckily, the summer is a slower season in personal finance (everyone is more interested in drinking on patios than budgeting, I get it, that’s fine) so it’s not like I was turning down huge projects or gobs of work or anything. But when things did start to ramp back up in the fall, I was also starting a brand-new job, and was really conscious of not ever wanting to go back to that volume of work. I wanted to be able to rest, so I could bring my A-game when I was at work (and when I was working on the projects I did decide to say yes to.)

So I got more picky, and I’m glad I did, because some truly amazing projects came my way in the fall, and I had the bandwidth to say yes to them. Plus, my priority was always to make sure that I had the time to keep posting here on a regular schedule, because my favourite part of all of this is connecting with you guys—by email, on Twitter, and right here on the blog.

And it’s hard to write about the behind-the-scenes burnout without making this sound like I had a bad year, but I want to clarify that this year was amazing, in case that got lost in translation. It was a year full of things I never thought I would achieve or do at the beginning of the year—it just happened to be a bit too much at one point, and I didn’t figure that out until I was in the middle of it.

Aside from a tweet here or there joking about 2017 being the year of hustle-slash-burnout, I’ve never really shared what was going on with me this year.

Or what wasn’t going on.

Here’s what didn’t happen last year.

Aside from completely burning out, and doing amazing work with fantastic companies, I also fully stopped going to the gym for most of the year. Yes, even after I got better about making intentional choices about my workload.

Let me tell you, it was super fun times when I decided to get back into it by doing what was a “good leg day” for me at peak fitness. Long story short, I couldn’t walk for three days.

In news that will surprise no one, I also ended up at my heaviest weight ever. Whoops.

Was any of this intentional? Of course not. But while I was busy focusing on my priorities—working more, earning more, and buying a house—I had to let other “priorities” drop, hard. Like my health.

What I learned is that if you really focus on a priority, because it really matters to you, you can do a lot in a year. A year is a heckin’ long time, and because I focused so intently on those three things, I was able to exceed basically every goal I set in those areas (except the house, it’s not like I bought three houses instead of one. Three is too many houses.)

But this year, I don’t want to focus on hustling harder, making tons more money, or buying a house.

Partially, I’m just tired. I just need to have a weekend every now and again, and I understand what that will “cost” me in terms of earnings. I’m cool with it. Consider it my two-day early retirement every few weeks or whatever.

But I also want my main focus and priority to be my health.

Luckily, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go off the rails with my money.

I’ve got projects lined up that are reasonable to tackle alongside a full-time job, and I’m learning to say no more and better. My personal money situation is basically on autopilot: I’ve got all my automatic contributions setup to work behind the scenes, my investments are totally hands-off thanks to Wealthsimple, and my tracking-my-spending game is still on point. (Shout-out to everyone participating in the Track Your Spending Challenge right now, who can all say the same!)

Now, when I look at how I’m spending both my time and my money, I have a new true-north: Is this helping me achieve my health goals?

Non-money goals are still money.

And even though they aren’t specifically money goals, I wouldn’t be a personal finance blogger if I wasn’t still aware of how much my health goals are going to impact my personal finances. It’s already shifted what I’d consider buying, and has led to a few key purchases. Specifically…

  • A new pair of workout shoes
  • A nutrition course, to learn how to not eat like a teenager (this one, and it’s virtual, so if you’re interested you should totally take it with me!)
  • A pair of wireless headphones for the gym (these ones, after so much research that I gave up and said “they’re the right colour and cheap enough that I don’t have high expectations”)

Total spending on health stuff so far this year? $332.06. I’ll (obviously) keep tabs on my health spending and update you guys on how it’s going over the course of the year, and it might even work its way into a post or two.

Of course, there are ways you can be hella frugal with your health, and you don’t need any expensive gear or plans to get started—this is just me recognizing that it’s an area I want to invest in, and I’m making purchases based on what I know will keep me happy and motivated to keep moving my body (and feeding it well).

Plus, I’m making them instead of other purchases, and all of it’s either coming out of my general “fun” budget, or is covered by my work benefits. (I’m very lucky to work for a company that gives people flexibility in terms of what kind of benefits they choose to claim, and how they want to use their benefits account. We use League, which is pretty much the coolest platform ever.)

I’m also eating way more vegetables, and I’m doing a modified Dry January, both of which have overall positive impacts on my spending. If you’re interested: I’m not drinking until my birthday (January 26th, you should send me cute dog photos on Twitter, it’s A Thing) and then when the nutrition course kicks off on January 29th, I’m back on the Dry-End-of-January-and-most-of-February train. I’ve always found that Dry January, which I’ve done for four years now, is a good reset to help me be more intentional with alcohol, and I think that this is a great manifestation of that. I’d love to celebrate my birthday with a glass of wine, and it’s no big deal to me to commit to another few weeks without alcohol.

So if 2017 was the year of hustle, 2018 is the year of health.

I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Desirae is on a mission to demystify and un-boring financial info for millennials, so that we can all save more money, spend on stuff that matters to us, and still have a latte or two along the way. Money is literally why we can have nice things, and Desirae is committed to helping make sure you know just enough to make the right calls for you. (She’s also committed to her expensive dog, her side hustle, and her retirement fund.)

20 Comments on “That Time I Burnt Out, Hard (And What I’m Doing Differently This Year)”

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    Yup. Yup. And more yup. I posted twice (and sometimes three) times a week while I was in labor and at the hospital and trying desperately to keep a human who came with no manual alive. It wasn’t until winter AFTER I had been back at work for a beat that I stopped posting multiple times a week. And it was glorious. And it didn’t really impact my views all that much. Why do we do this to ourselves? (Not just you and me…but writers everywhere.)

    Cheers to health. I hope 2018 is full of good things and time to enjoy them, Des. If I had it my way, this would be the year of sleep. 😉

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Cheers to health is right! And honestly, I’ve been in awe of your posting schedule for so long, so I’m glad to see you’re actually a human being, not a robot, and that you’re taking care of yourself! You deserve a reasonable schedule!

      I also hear babies start to sleep well by like, 13 years in or so? (Lol but I know nothing about children, so hopefully it’s sooner than that.)

  2. @luxthrift Reforming Spendthrift

    Just like you I found that while I focused on professional and financial goals, I dropped the ball on my health goals. Sure I got injured too but ultimately, I didn’t prioritise my health. That’s come back into focus this year and will probably be my number one priority.

  3. Sarah | Smile & Conquer

    Great post Des, I feel you on this one for sure. Trying to balance a job, side hustle, health and home life too often feels like an impossible task. As soon as things feel overwhelming in my life I tend to shutdown and lose motivation to do almost everything. I’ve been feeling this since the Christmas break for sure. It’s hard to get back into the routine after taking some time off. Here’s to making 2018 productive, but balanced.

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Thank you so much Sarah! And yeah, balancing All The Things is no joke, and I’m the same way – my first instinct is to totally shut down. This year has been a pretty good ramp back up to a “regular” work week after the holidays… but I don’t want to jinx it! Here’s to balanced productivity for sure 🙂

  4. Lindsey P.

    It’s so easy to hit burnout when you’re doing the 9-to-5 and hustling with your own biz. I feel like I’m always teetering on the brink of burnout myself for the same reasons. That’s why I took most of Q4 2017 off from freelancing. I needed a break! Also completely unplugged when I went home for Christmas.
    Also, if you want a workout accountability buddy, I’m available. I’m at my heaviest weight as well and I’ve jumped back on the gym bandwagon. We can do it!

    1. Desirae Odjick

      YESSSSSSS I am going to Slack you so incessantly about the gym. Prepare yourself.

      And unplugged Christmas was the bomb dot com – I did it too and it’s so great! (Does it count as unplugged if I played like… a LOT of the Sims? Whatever. I’m counting it.)

  5. Britt @ Tiny Ambitions

    100% yes!! Thanks for being honest about the flipside of ‘the hustle’. I was recently asked to take on an additional project at work (for many monies), and my initial instinct was ‘how could I not do this’. But, after thinking about it, I realized that if I took on that additional project, I’d be even more exhausted on a daily basis than I already am. I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate as much of my brain capacity to the blog and I’m not ok with that.

    Congrats on renewing your commitment to your health! I think that’s awesome and it is something that is often overlooked in other measures of ‘wealth’. I know I need to get better in that area too, but the gym is just not the place for me. I’m more of practice yoga quietly in my living room kind of person. The downside of that is that Netflix also lives in my living room. Not quite sure how that happened….

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Hahaha I’ve been a yoga person before too! And I still love a good class, and should go more, but I’m craving the flexibility of doing my own thing at my own pace, plus the intensity of cardio and weights. (On the other hand I have to be much more intentional about working on my actual flexibility haha.)

      And yeah, this was really the year that the tradeoffs became super apparent to me, which was a good lesson to learn. I feel like I’m much better equipped to make good choices this year!

  6. NZ Muse

    I was just thinking that while I did basically no side hustling last year was dominated by work – surviving when it turned toxic and then searching for and settling into a brand new job. So this year is about restoring balance – health, mindfulness and relationships primarily. And yay for employers with useful benefits!

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Ooof, so true – it can happen even without any kind of second job or hustle! I’m so sorry you had that experience, but so happy for you that you found something better and that will allow you more balance!

  7. Erin | Reaching for FI

    Huzzah for health! There’s a reason I spend what seems like an unreasonable amount of money on a gym membership every month, and it’s not because I’ve got a ton of money to burn. It’s because I realize that health is wealth, and if my fancy barre classes are the only way I’ll work out, so be it! Also there’s a bit of “wow I pay a lot for this each month. Guess I better actually go to class to get use out of that money” playing into that decision for sure.

    Here’s to a less stressful, more healthy 2018!

    Also, you wrote “heckin,” but I’m sure you meant to write “h*ckin” 😉

    1. Desirae Odjick

      You are my favourite, you win commenting, this is the best spelling-and-grammar correction that has EVER LIVED.

      Lol also I’m with you on the memberships. I’ve done it all at different points, and if you’re using it, it’s money well spent in my opinion.

  8. Matt Spillar @ Spills Spot

    Great post! Glad you had such a good year and that you were able to take a step back to figure out wasn’t working. So often “the hustle” gets put on a pedestal, but it’s important to dive deeper into the behind the scenes. These changes sound really important and your health has to be one of your top priorities or everything else begins to suffer. Wishing you a very healthy and successful 2018!

  9. Mel C

    Love this post. Would love to see a breakdown of healthier eating costs. I gave the kitchen pantry an overhaul in the fall, but more vegetables and sweat healthy eating costs more! And wait, we share a birthday! No wonder you’re so cool, my fellow Aquarius!

    1. Desirae Odjick

      NO WAY!! Happy early Australia Day slash our birthday! That is so cool. And I feel you on the healthy eating stuff! It’s been interesting for me because we ate a LOT of meat for the past few years, so I’ve actually seen our food bill go down a bit as I transitioned to eating vegetarian (plus fish), but I’m keeping an eye on it. Mostly I’m just using the “savings” to buy us higher quality stuff, like the eggs that are good to the chickens, and as many mushrooms as I want, so it hasn’t been a huge difference from before.

      That said, I’m only shopping for two people! And luckily, I don’t get any complaints as long as it’s edible, haha.

  10. Bryan Jensen

    Great article Desirae, I just stumbled across your blog the other day and have been catching up on previous posts. I find myself bouncing back and forth between these goals all the time. I keep telling myself the body fuels the mind and fitness is a top priority, however life it great at getting in the way. My job requires long hours for weeks at a time, and it is awesome to hear that there are others out there dedicated to the same goals and fight the same battles. I also just purchased a house this past year and have a 5 year plan to pay it off. Keep the posts coming, Cheers

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