Louise: Do you ever have those days where you can’t quite make it out of your pajamas? Or the ones where you mark your entire inbox as read? Even the ones where you find yourself Googling “How do you DO marketing?” I’m Louise, Content Manager at BuzzSumo – the world’s best content marketing tool – and this is Marketing IRL, where we peel away the glossy veneer, and chat about the realities of working in marketing. This podcast is an extension of a project we started recently at BuzzSumo called The Wellbeing Hub. It’s a place for you to go for advice, real life experience, and lessons learned by marketers throughout their career. Check it out at buzzsumo.com/wellbeing-hub.
So today we’re talking about how to set boundaries when you’re feeling overwhelmed and I’m super excited to be joined by Christina Pashialis.
Christina is the founder of ContentUK, a community of UK based content professionals, supporting each other with marketing advice, Q and A’s webinars, and workshops, amongst many other cool things. I, for one I’m here for it. In fact, I met Christina in person this year at Brighton SEO, where she organized an awesome ContentUK meet up. Christina has worked in content marketing herself for eight years across companies like Soldo, Grizzle, and Geckoboard. You might also know her from the BuzzSumo Wellbeing Hub, where she’s written an awesome piece on using communities to supercharge your content career.
Louise: Hi Christina!
Christina: Hey Louise!
Louise: Welcome to the podcast, how are you?
Christina: I’m good. You’ve got a very professional looking mic there. Like a proper podcaster.
Louise: Oh yeah. I know. I’m a real streamer now. Yeah. I went out and got this. I thought, you know, all the gear, no idea, but I’ll go with it.
So welcome to the podcast. Just to let you know, I’ve had to move rooms this morning because I’m at home, working from home, and today was obviously a perfect day for them to clean the tennis courts opposite my flat, which is so unbelievably loud!
So now I’m in my housemates room at the back of the flat. So fingers crossed there won’t be any roaring in the background.
Christina: Well, my grandparents have just come over from Cyprus and they’re downstairs to visit and I’ve had to be like “Hi, but just be quiet for an hour, sorry!”
Louise: Yeah. Me too with my housemate as well. Just please don’t put the washing machine on! Well, how is it going? How are you?
Christina: Yeah, I’m very good. Thank you.
Louise: So Christina, can you tell us a bit more about your own experience? And what made you want to talk about this topic today?
Christina: Yeah. So I worked in content for nearly eight years and really early in my career, I’ve always experienced bouts and cycles of feeling burnt out and, speaking with a lot of other content marketers, it seems quite common. So I just wanted to talk about some of the things that I, I’m not an expert, but just some of the things that I found useful for helping me manage with overwhelm, and hopefully that can help some others who are experiencing it as well.
Louise: Yeah, definitely. Do you think you had a breakthrough kind of realization, or was it something you gradually came to understand about how you felt and how you dealt with things?
Christina: I’ve probably always experienced burnout, and been quite a perfectionist, and always sacrificed my own wellbeing in order to make sure I looked efficient at work, and meet deadlines and stuff.
But probably the biggest experience of feeling really burnt out was during the pandemic period, when I was working as a full-time content manager in-house, which is stressful in and of itself. And then I wanted to set up my ContentUK business. So I started working before work on my business, full-time job, after work, weekends, because I was just so determined to launch this. And I was just running off adrenaline really. And then it just really hit in one big bulk, where I just felt like I could barely operate. I couldn’t sleep. I was just constantly in this anxious state, and that’s when I was like. Oh. I’m overwhelmed. This isn’t good. Let’s research as to what I can do to make this a bit better, and have better habits because it’s not sustainable. So that’s probably when I first started properly looking into different techniques to help with that.
Louise: Yeah, so it was kind of an active research process?
Christina: It was yeah. An active research process. I probably could have dealt with having better tactics over the years before, but I hadn’t properly dived into it.
Louise: It’s hard though because, like I’m sure everyone, I also feel overwhelmed every now and again, and sometimes you don’t even realize when it’s happening. You just kind of realize when it comes to a head and you’re like “Oh. What happened there?”
Christina: Yeah, it can be very gradual and there are probably signs early on that you feel a bit of anxiousness in your chest, and you just ignore it and ignore it. But then it really builds up.
So in terms of in the moment, if you’re feeling in that phase of, you’re going through your, to do list. Everything seems important. You feel really stressed. You don’t know what to do. Just shut your laptop. Even if it’s for 10 minutes. Put your phone away and, if you can, do a 20 minute walk. I think that’s helped a lot. If it’s stretching or going for a walk. If you don’t have that big stretch of time, even just for a few minutes, taking 10 deep breaths, 10 active breaths and doing gratitude. That really helps. Or getting a piece of paper – I use Evernote online – and just journaling to yourself, everything that’s in your head, just really get it all out onto a piece of paper. And then think “What’s one thing I can do in the next 10 minutes?” And break it down.
Louise: Yeah. I haven’t done that before, but I think I’ll be taking that advice myself.
Christina: It does help. So that’s more like in the moment of overwhelm, and then in terms of better routines that you can do, the biggest one for me is going onto plane mode, and just turning off social media from 8:00 PM to 11:00 AM. But that’s probably the single biggest thing that makes a difference to me personally.
Louise: Yeah, I am so not good at that. I am the doom scroller of 2021. It is definitely a good piece of advice. I just need to make myself act upon it.
Christina: Yeah . There’s such a difference from the phases when I have that routine and flow, and when it’s not happening. Then it’s like, oh no, it’s 1:00 AM, and I’m still on here. And I feel rubbish. I wonder why.
Louise: Yeah, definitely. So, what do you think has been the best thing for your wellbeing and preventing that feeling of being overwhelmed or burnt out?
Christina: It’s been learning to say no to prioritize my wellbeing, to prevent overwhelm in its tracks. Because before, if I’d finished work at 8:00 PM, and I had a deadline on that Friday, I’d work until midnight burning myself out in order to get it in on the day I said, to be like “Ok. I’m efficient. I can’t possibly be seen as anything other than efficient.” But now, this year, for example, I had a big project that I was going to take on, but that week I’d taken on other client work, and I was running my business and I could tell, as it was leading up this big project, that I was feeling it was going to be very stressful.
So I just had a conversation with the client being like, really sorry, but for these reasons, I’m going to have to decline doing this project. And he was very, very understanding and it just felt like a big relief to remove that off of my plate. And I was in a position where I could take that pay cut, whereas before I would have just gone ahead with it, because I would have thought, oh my God, that’s so unprofessional to cancel the contract. And even a small thing like this podcast, I asked to move it by week because I was having a busy week, whereas before I would’ve wanted to stick to all the deadlines perfectly. So that’s been a change.
Louise: Which was absolutely fine by the way, so don’t worry about it!
Christina: It’s such a small thing, but if you’re in an overwhelmed, perfectionist state, it feels really hard to just ask for an extension or take something off your plate.
Louise: Yeah. I think it’s easy to take a lot of things on yourself and kind of not question it, but see it as a failing in yourself when you can’t actually live up to that. But when you take a step back and think about it, you realize that actually no one can do all of the things that you’re trying to do. And if there’s so many moving parts, then maybe you do need to just simplify and prioritize. And, I mean, I’m cranking out all the cliches now, but you can’t be everything to everyone, so you kind of have to just manage expectations. But I’m so guilty of that as well. Trying to do everything on an ever-growing to do list.
Christina: It’s very common for marketers, definitely. And another good way of framing it as well is, if somebody says to you “Oh, do you mind if I put this back by week?” You’re like “Yeah. That’s totally okay, and fine.” But when it’s talking to yourself, it feels harder to see it in that light.
Louise: I think saying no, and accepting that saying no isn’t an issue is definitely important when you’re feeling like that.
Christina: Yeah, and when you are feeling overwhelmed, allow yourself to speak to somebody about it. That can make a really big difference. Whether that’s a friend, or colleague, or anyone. When I was early on in my career, and feeling very stressed, I spoke to my boss at the time about feeling like I couldn’t do the things on my to-do list, and he was really nice. Took me for a coffee. And for two hours, he sat with me. Literally just went through everything on my to do list. And was like “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll take that off your plate. We can eliminate that.” And it was really nice. Obviously not everyone’s going to have a boss that’s as understanding. So I was quite lucky. But I think that’s also a point in terms of what managers can do to help marketers who might be feeling overwhelmed. Because I think just saying “Oh, let me know if you’re feeling stressed at any point. If you’ve got too much, just let me know.”
That’s often not enough, because people want to seem really good at their jobs. So I think managers can do a lot more in terms of putting in things like monthly or fortnightly meetings with their employees. Not to be talking about the tactics of work, but just how they’re feeling and their workload. That can really help employees not be overwhelmed.
Louise: I totally agree with that. It made me think of something I have kind of got into the habit of doing when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ve gotten a bit better at tricking myself into doing things. So I kind of have a “Screw it” mentality. I’m like “Screw it. I’m going to do the bare minimum on this blog today. I’m going to write one paragraph and that’s it. I’m not doing any more.” I have an internal monologue. And then as soon as I get into it, obviously I end up writing more than a paragraph and sometimes I even… I even finished the article! Can you believe it?!
Christina: That’s such a good mantra “Oh screw it! I’m just going to do a paragraph.” just to get you going. I always have a sticky note. Oh you can’t see it. It’s on the camera. But I just have this in front of me, which says “Done over perfect.” I have just always got to tell myself that.
Louise: That is so true! I sometimes have to have a word with myself and go “Look. You just need to stop catastrophizing about this thing and just get it done.” Because, I think when you’re working on something day in, day out, you take it very seriously. But it’s not the end of the world if an email doesn’t go out. So you have to sometimes be a bit strict with yourself and think “Stop, panicking! Just do it.”
Christina: Little mantras help!
Louise: Actually, my old manager in my last company used to work for a well-known British shoe retailer, and her boss used to say “We’re only selling shoes. We’re not saving lives.”, which I always think about now.
Christina: Yeah, exactly! And just zooming out. Because it can seem so important, like you say, when you’re in the marketing world and all of these deadlines. But in the whole scheme of things, it’s not.
Louise: Yeah, definitely. So, if you had one piece of advice to give somebody who was feeling overwhelmed at the moment and putting a lot of pressure on themselves to deliver on X, Y, and Z. What would you say to them?
Christina: Oh, I would probably say to them: Remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way. You’re really not alone. It’s really, really common. And just, don’t beat yourself up about feeling that way. And talk to somebody that you trust about how you’re feeling. I think that if you’re in that state, that’s a really good thing that you can do. And go and walk for an hour first!
Louise: Definitely. Yeah. Get away! Just get away.
Christina, thank you so much for joining Marketing IRL. If we want to find you online, where can we go to look for you?
Louise: Thanks everybody for listening to Marketing IRL, brought to you by BuzzSumo. You can share your own experiences with us on Twitter. Just tweet @BuzzSumo, and you can find us on our website BuzzSumo.com. Bye!