5 Ways to Avoid the Much-Dreaded End of Year Burnout

Q4 doesn't have to be full of endless stress and pressure

End of the year burnout is real, but it's also avoidable. Getty Images
Headshot of Dom Joseph

Let’s be real, the advertising and media industry is relentless. “Work hard, play hard” has been the norm for many of us who have been in the industry our entire professional careers. The end of year pressure cooker makes it difficult to look up and look out. Let’s step out of the heat for a second and pivot because Q4 doesn’t have to feel this way.

Many of us thrive off the pace our industry and businesses have set. Monthly cycles of planning, pitching, proposals and targets keep our teams circulating in a pattern of high energy, high pressure and high performance. Continual client pitches can lead to euphoric highs and hard-to-swallow lows. Even programmatic still has an intense monthly workload to drive maximum performance for clients. The constant quest for innovation, uncapped creativity and new ways of understanding consumers leaves many of us feeling like we need to find new ways to do more.

In Q4, the pinch is felt harder than ever.

The unforgiving pace throughout the year culminates during the highly intense and hectic fourth quarter. The demands mount, the number of internal and external meetings explodes and client expectations (and targets) are higher than ever. Add in 33 client dinners, the balancing act between work family and your own family, subtract more sleep than you can afford and add in the growing guilt of an unused expensive gym membership. Across the whole supply chain, there is enormous pressure to perform and so much to play for. With that sentiment, there’s no just turning up.

With only 24 hours in a day, a one-year-old daughter, a fast-growing technology business and a huge moral responsibility, I wanted to reflect on how to create space for yourself amidst the silly season insanity.

The constant quest for innovation, uncapped creativity and new ways of understanding consumers leaves many of us feeling like we need to find new ways to do more.

Take lead

Whether you’re the CEO of a company or a team lead, it’s important to set the pace. Take your work/life balance seriously, take your annual leave, step away from your desk for lunch to breathe something other than office air and leave on time when you can. Robbert Rietbroek, an executive at PepsiCo, asks his leadership team to “leave loudly,” a practice that ensures leaders feel comfortable about broadcasting why they are leaving.

Remove taboos

As leaders, it’s important that we create safe, trusting environments for our teams to speak out about their wellness struggles and challenges. Talking openly and honestly about the intensity of this quarter and getting your teams ready to recognize the burn-out signals will prevent being pushed to the limit. It’s also crucial these discussions happen in communal areas where management and teams speak frankly about how they feel because it’ll normalize feelings.

Create space

Creating headspace pays back in dividends. A lack of dedicated thinking time in Q4 leads to high stress, poorer quality and overly intense workloads. From DJing to ukulele playing, business leaders such as David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Warren Buffett, American business magnate, create space in their lives for hobbies and music as a way to enrich their business thinking and to mentally refresh. Carving time, even when it’s busy, for uplifting downtime helps reset and refocus.

Do less

Prioritize and move non-essential meetings into 2019. The key thing is to do less and do it really well. Yes, it can wait.

Identify triggers outside of Q4

Regardless of the time of year, understand your positive and negative triggers that spark high and low performance. Setting expectations with those around you will also let them understand your own triggers. Take time to understand theirs, too.

Ultimately the risk of burnout is a year-long problem we all share across the industry that we collectively have to change. We must rally to look after each other and do everything in our power to maintain the high energy, creativity and innovation that media is renowned for, or in one year from now you’ll wish you started today.

Dom Joseph is co-founder CEO of Captify.