Creativity is more than a magical gift for those of us in the world of content marketing; it’s a non-negotiable skill. As a leader in the marketing space, you’ve likely worked with some exceptionally creative people for whom brilliant, innovative ideas seem to flow effortlessly and without cessation.
That is until they don’t.
As anyone who has ever felt the stinging frustration of writer’s block hours before a deadline can attest, even if the creative energy well runs deep, it can (and will) eventually run dry. Creative fatigue is real, and if left unchecked, it can have devastating consequences on your content marketing success.
As we approach the year’s end and subsequent winter slump, creative teams face an elevated risk of burnout. (After all, holiday travel, flu season, and the long, gray weeks between New Year’s and Spring do little to ignite inspiration.)
To keep your content dazzling year-round, get informed about the common causes of creative burnout in marketing, and what you can do to keep your team’s creative spark aglow.
How to Spot Creative Fatigue
Successful content marketing requires a consistent supply of creative energy, but overwhelming demands can kill motivation and deplete your team’s mental resources. As a leader, it’s critical you spot the warning signs, and act before it begins affecting outcomes.
Here are some tell-tale symptoms of creative fatigue:
Everyone has a bad day once in a while. Emotional ebbs and flows are a natural part of the human psyche. But there’s a difference between someone who’s a little stressed and someone who’s wound so tight, they’re on the verge of biting off a coworker’s head. If a normally chipper and positive team member is uncharacteristically snappy and cross, it’s a sign they’re losing workplace motivation.
Image attribution: Kevin Grieve
Decreased Productivity or Poor Work Quality
When you’re creatively depleted, even the smallest to-dos seem insurmountable. Tasks that typically take hours begin to stretch for days. Similarly, when you’re not “on your game,” you’re more likely to get careless and make amateur-style errors—like missing a deadline. To the untrained eye, this can look like laziness. But for typically hardworking creatives, a dip in output or quality is usually symbolic of burnout.
As a leader, there’s nothing better than a fiery brainstorming session where your team is eagerly tossing out ideas, and clambering over each other for dibs on a new project. The best days are the ones where you know everyone is feeling fulfilled by their work. But when team members are unusually quiet, obviously distracted, and simply less invested than usual, creative fatigue could be rearing its ugly head.
If your team members are exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, it’s time to begin investigating the cause.
Culprits Causing Creative Burnout (and How to Fix Them)
Many factors can cause a team member to become burnt out, and some issues—such as personal troubles—are beyond your control. However, there are a few common workplace culprits that often plague creative teams. Here are three things that may be siphoning your team’s creative energy:
1. Not Enough Breaks
As a leader, you know breaks are essential to employee well-being. But in the thick of crunch time, it’s easy to accidentally skip them—or feel guilty taking time away when everyone else is heads-down and working hard. Whether it’s an extra-long lunch or a three-day weekend, a little break from the workplace can help recharge the creative batteries and ensure team members feel better equipped to manage the mountain of work on their plates.
What you can do: Remember your team will model their behavior after you. If you’re chained to your desk, sending emails in the middle of the night, and haven’t taken a vacation in several months, not only are you setting yourself up for burnout as well, but you’re setting an unhealthy example for your team. Take necessary breaks, and encourage everyone on your team to do the same.
Image attribution: Kevin Grieve
2. Too Much Multitasking
There is plenty of research that multitasking is essentially productivity kryptonite. And yet, we still do it.
“As humans, we have a very limited capacity for simultaneous thought—we can only hold a little bit of information in the mind at any single moment,” says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, in an article for Fortune. “Our brains, however, delude us into thinking we can do more.”
The multitasking issue is further exasperated when organizations don’t have the right systems in place to help marketers work more efficiently on certain tasks, such as collecting and evaluating data, so that they can dedicate the majority of their day to moving forward on their major creative initiatives. A 2017 survey by Track Maven reported that marketers spend 24% of their workday “collecting, organizing, and analyzing marketing data.” The same study also found that marketers used an average of seven different tools to accomplish this reporting.
When you’re spread thin across too many projects and constantly switching between different programs and interfaces, it’s likely to slow down work and negatively impact t
What you can do: As a leader, it’s critical you ensure your team members are able to devote the majority of their attention to strategic campaigns that impact business goals. Making this happen means making sure your analytics processes are as streamlined as possible. By removing the burden associated with non-core creative pursuits, they’ll be able to dedicate that time to innovation and produce better results.
3. Unrealistic Timelines
It’s a great feeling when the senior executive team is not only on board with content marketing, but champing at the bit to see new campaigns launched. However, while their enthusiasm is a good sign your organization is becoming more content-centric, it’s crucial you set realistic expectations about production and performance. If you’re not mindful of your team’s bandwidth, avoiding creative burnout will be nearly impossible.
What you can do: Be sure to better manage stakeholder’s expectations. I once worked with a creative director who said “no” more than any person I’ve ever met. If someone needed an infographic designed or a last-minute piece of sales collateral and his team was already at their capacity, he’d tell to make a decision—either they could wait until their time freed up, or they could choose another project to move to the back burner in its place. And you know what? The earth didn’t shatter, no one lost their jobs, and his team consistently turned out brilliant work.
Contrary to popular belief, creative energy is not an infinite resource. It requires regular recharging and a focus on maintaining smart, efficient operations. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to protect your team from potential “creative vampires” and ensure they have plenty of room to create the magic essential to your organization’s content marketing success.
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Featured image attribution: energepic