Today we're talking about a major hurdle almost all community leaders will face at some point: burnout.
What starts as a “refrigerator hum of anxiety” (as one of our roundtable participants puts it) can quickly turn into a total lack of joy, general irritability . . . even forgetting why you're involved with your community at all. Learning better energy management skills, boundary-setting, recognizing the “danger zone” — these are all strategies that can help anyone involved in community to better mitigate burnout. (Which is ultimately great for everyone involved.)
We wanted to get a diverse range of experience on this topic, so we invited SPI's co-CEO Matt Gartland onto the show, as well as SPI Pro's Community Experience Director, Jay Clouse. Combined with our hosts' experience managing digital and in-person communities, we have a lot to share today: what causes burnout, why it's so endemic to community management, how to tame Slack and smartphone notifications, the importance of doing something “magical” for yourself every day, and much more. Whether you work with a community directly, are thinking of starting one of your own, or are just curious — managing burnout is critical, so this episode of The Community Experience is critical listening.
In This Episode:
- Why burnout is so prevalent, especially amongst digital community managers
- Dealing with “fighty” communities and the relationship between personal conflict and burnout
- Managing the refrigerator hum of anxiety (which leads to burnout)
- Managing notifications, social media usage, and behavior patterns
- How burnout manifests differently for folks
- The importance of boundary-setting for community managers
- Communicating a burned-out state effectively and recognizing “the danger zone”
- The importance of making time to do something magic and special
- Heading off burnout before it becomes a major issue
The CX 012: Burnout Management for Community Leaders: a Roundtable Chat
Jillian Benbow: Burnout, it comes for us all. If you learn how to recognize it bubbling up, then you've already won half the battle. Today, we host a roundtable discussion about both recognizing and addressing the feelings of burnout. So you can continue to show up and be your best self, in your community and in your life. Stay tuned for more.
Tony Bacigalupo: You're listening to the Community Experience. We're here to explore all the ways you can learn how to cultivate genuine belonging for yourself and for those around you. I'm Tony Bacigalupo. And I'm here with Jillian Benbow.
Jillian: Hey, hey, how's it going?
Tony: All right, Jillian, today's a big topic. We're talking about burnout.
Jillian: Just that little thing we know as burnout, no big deal.
Tony: Crazy little thing called burnout. Anybody who has been a community manager for more than a few minutes, has some experience with burnout. And certainly a lot of us have visceral experience with burnout after years of just trying to give ourselves to our communities. So it's a very common thing. And for anybody who wants to do a great job running a great community, we have to learn how to recognize it, how to work with it. And we're going to have a roundtable today. And the roundtable is a bit of a different format from the usual interview format. And this is where we're going to have members of Team SPI, in not a literal round table, just so you know, I'm spoiling it. We're not currently sitting around a round table, but a theoretical round table where we're going to hang out.
Jillian: We can say all the things about our colleagues now, before they're with us. Just kidding, they're a delight. I have no feedback.
Tony: We've got Matthew Gartland. And we've got Jay Clouse, two really experienced business builders and community builders, who've just got an extensive resume having dealt with building communities of all different shapes and sizes over the years. And myself and Jillian as well, we've all got collectively a bunch of years, working with community leaders, being community leaders, being community members of other communities where people have burned out. So we've really got a chance to just talk about it from our perspective, and what we've learnt.
Jillian: Man, if I could go back in time, I would go buy a bunch of Bitcoin.
Tony: But then you'd also learn how to be a better community leader.
Jillian: There's that too, there's that too. Well and yeah, and I think it's an important conversation, because the digital community is just exploding. As we know, COVID's helped really ramp it up to the next level. And we may all be participating in community, whether digital or real life. But as a community organizer, in particular, burnout is just such a real risk. So just talking about what it looks like and how we deal with it. Hopefully this will help people listening, be able to better recognize it in themselves, but also have a plan of action when they feel it, to nip it in the bud and have some self care practices to make sure you're taking care of yourself.
Tony: Yeah, because it's such a huge part of it, being a community leader means to do it sustainably, you have to find a way to do it in a way where you can do it yourself, and not drain yourself.
Tony: And we're going to tell you a little bit about how to recognize this and how to set yourself up to avoid burnout and set your community on a more sustainable and healthy path.
Jillian: We sure are. Should we start the roundtable? Let's start the show.
Tony: Let's do it. Let's get into the roundtable right here on the Community Experience.
What's up everybody? We've got Team SPI in the house, myself, Tony Bacigalupo, Jillian Benbow, your usual hosts. And we've got our fab, fab friends and co-workers, Jay Clouse and Matthew Gartland with us as well. Welcome, fellas.
Matt Gartland: Thrilled to be here!
Jay Clouse: Hello!
Tony: So, what a team, I tell you. We have invited you guys in, you have so much wisdom to share in your experiences building businesses and building communities to talk about a pretty tough topic, a pretty sensitive topic, a pretty personal topic, but one that any community builder encounters in the course of their time as a leader, which is burnout. And so first of all, I just wanted to kind of open it up to the floor, and talk a little bit about our relationships to burnout.
Maybe just to start us off, we could just tell a little bit more about our relationships to burn out. Jillian, where's your relationship to burn out? When you hear that word, what do you think about in your own world?
Jillian: My relationship is we are going strong, burnout and I. My background is digital communities, and you think, oh, you just walk away. No, communities never sleep, especially global digital communities. There's always something happening, depending on the type of community will determine how fighty it is. And when you work in communities that are "fighty", official term, there's always something. It's very hard to get away from it, especially when you can access it on your phone. Burnout's a big part of my life, I've had to set up all sorts of boundaries to prevent it from taking over. But it's just kind of like my little friend that's always around.
Jay: What is fighty? This is a new term to me.
Jillian: Fighty? Jay, communities that are fighty, I would say, are communities where people fight with each other, internet arguments, the best part of humanity. Getting to deescalate various levels of fighting online.
Tony: Jay, now that you know the definition, have you had to deal with fighty communities in your journey?
Jay: Luckily, no. Most of my communities have had kind of a high bar for getting plugged into them and getting engaged in them. I think that weeds out a lot of the fighty nature, a lot of the trolls, thankfully. And so I haven't had to deal with that. I mean, but any community there's conflict that arises and needs to be moderated, mediated. So I get that. And those are scary moments when you realize, oh, there was a fighty moment, or there was kind of a tense moment. And this happened at 10:00 PM last night, and nobody has tended to it.
Jillian: It's usually a Friday night, yeah. Usually a Friday evening, and then Monday, if you were able to turn off work, you come to a huge mess, versus — or you get to work all weekend to deescalate and then be super burnt out. Jay, I don't feel like you would be a part of fighty communities. You're too nice.
Jay: I am conflict averse, is what I am.
Jillian: But you're just like a genuinely nice, chill person. I don't see you doing a clap back.
Jay: Yeah, it just doesn't seem productive. I never quite understand most conflicts, because it just isn't useful. I look at everything through the frame of utility. And most the time it's like, this isn't useful. No one's going to get what they want in this matter of engaging in this. So I mostly just disengage.
Jillian: I wish more people thought about it that way. Instead of, I'm right and I'm going to tell you why.
Tony: I think Jay, I've had a very similar, very pragmatic approach to conflict. And this isn't a conversation about conflict. We will get into burnout in a second. But I think that they're closely related, because people-
Jillian: In community, they are very closely related.
Tony: They're closely related. Because especially community, somebody who's passionate, who starts a community, starts it because they want there to be harmony. They want there to be connection, they want people to get along. And inevitably, they end up dealing, in some way, with conflict. And so that, I think, contributes a lot to burnout. I can tell you, certainly from personal experience, but even from community managers I've worked with, that dreading the interaction with that one person about that one thing is the thing that will ruin a person's weekend. That they will just spend so much time agonizing over, how do I deal with this person? How do I deal with this situation? And that's probably one of the bigger contributors to burnout.
Tony: Would you all agree? Jay, what else for you do you think contributes, or has contributed in your experience?
Jay: For me, it kind of starts with this refrigerator hum of anxiety that's always there, wondering if I'm forgetting something, or if there's something that needs to be done. The only times that I can recharge and move the needle away from burnout is if I make a very explicit contract and agreement with myself that I have no expectations for myself to do this thing today, which may be mediating, moderating, checking in. I have to very explicitly tell myself, after this time, or in this day, I'm not going to do these things. And that's the only way I can start to recharge and let go some of that refrigerator hum, of hmm, I wonder what's going on in the community right now. Or I wonder what I should be doing about this.
Tony: The imagery of the refrigerator hum, I think is so resonant to anybody who has experienced it, that it's just almost like a tinnitus, there's just something going on. It's just ringing in your head. And you're right, you really have to work to create those boundaries. It's not easy, even if you know all of the best practices for doing it. The physical somatic act of separating yourself from that refrigerator buzz is very, very difficult. Have you found that to be something that takes a lot of work to try to get at, Jay?
Jay: Oh, yeah.
Tony: Or have you gotten better at it over time?
Jay: I have not gotten better at it over time, I think I've actually gotten worse at it over time. And Jill used the important word, which is boundaries. And it's hard. Because in isolation, these binary moments of, here's one situation I can take care of, or here's one notification, well, that's only going to take me a couple minutes to action on that. Let me just do that now, so I don't have to deal with that later. But in aggregate, that becomes such a bear. And in large or growing communities, that's just a constant. That's something that you have to tell yourself or determine for yourself, when am I going to turn this off? It's for communities, it's for your own company Slack channels, even. It wasn't only until recently when I realized, oh, I can put my Slack on Do Not Disturb after 6:00 PM, and that's good for me. And so there are mechanisms that are built so you can put those systems in place for yourself, but they're often things you have to opt into, as opposed to opt out of.
Tony: Right, yeah. And I think-
Jillian: I think we need to get Matt's voice in this. Because I'm dying to hear what Matt says about burnout and working constantly.
Matt: Like you, Jillian, I have an intimate relationship with burnout. And it's going super strong right now. It's actually a pretty serendipitous, weird, copacetic timing to be talking about it. Because we have a lot of stuff flying hard right now at SPI, and sort of in my broader work and life. And it's all sort of in a blender again. So it's a very resonant and relevant topic for me. I think about this, then yes, through these parameters of boundaries and opting in and opting out, those are absolutely the right mechanisms. But for me, sort of what I've been experiencing, which has been, I will confess heavy, tinkering around the edges from a bottoms-up standpoint, hasn't been effective lately.
And I'm feeling that more and more just across media at large, and consumption patterns and input channels to consumption. And I'm finding myself more gravitating toward top-down decisions and choices to manage that burnout more. One could think of these as just more like macro filters than more micro filters. And not to, I guess pontificate this for everyone, but for me in my life, with a toddler, with running several different companies right now, most of these with Pat, I'm needing to think larger scale in terms of my boundaries and filter mechanisms, so that I can stay sane.
Tony: Can you give us an example of that, Matt?
Matt: Social media, which is I am more or less not on social media in any way, shape, or form right now. That is not per se what I desire, because I would like to find a more intentional use case for myself both to consume and to create and contribute. And it's likely been through Twitter and how Twitter has evolved over the last 18 to 24 months. I'm actually really intrigued by the form and format and dialogue and sub community building that is in fact, if we even want to, and should probably, ascribe the term community to what's happening on Twitter. I want to participate there. And Jay, you're doing excellent stuff, you're actually kind of rebooting that for us at SPI, the creator community through Twitter and just creators at large. Like it's really picking up some really interesting steam.
And I know that if I commit my time and energy and mental bandwidth to that, that's an unhealthy commitment. You talk about contracting with yourself, like, I cannot consciously make that commitment now. So I've had to put basically a total blackout on social media. Again, at least for right now.
Jillian: That's hard to do, I mean, for most of us, anyways. I know you're not a huge social media person. But I mean, I have recently discovered the joys of TikTok, I intentionally did not download it for the longest time. And then it got me and like, oh, my gosh, just the dog videos, so, good for you. Stay off TikTok.
Matt: The viewpoint I suppose I have on social media at large is probably not all that favorable, all things considered. Probably skewing more towards Facebook and certain patterns, unhealthy patterns, negative patterns of organizing and engagement, however we want to define that on Facebook, I'll confess that. And it probably has given me a slight maybe disposition to being a little more sticky, in a way that it does stick to say, like, hey, I just have to kind of do total blackout. But it is hard, and it is still, I want to join this conversation that Jay's sparking or contributing to, or we just got out of a really excellent program with the Maven team about cohort-based courses. And one of their co-founders, Wes, is really active in putting a lot of thoughtful stuff on Twitter.
I want to be there, I have that impulse to be there. But I have to short circuit that, because I know it will be compromising of other commitments, other relationships, other obligations that I have, that I'm judging and deeming to be of higher priority and value. So I have to sacrifice that right now.
Jay: You can go a layer up to what Matt's saying about top-down versus bottoms-up, I have intentionally turned off notifications on my phone for most apps. However-
Jay: ... I find that now my behavior has adapted to just obsessively go into the app and see if there are notifications that I was missing. So the top-down for that is to literally just leave my phone inside, if I'm going out to the garden or something. And that's kind of the master control.
Matt: Okay, I've got to jump in on that. That's really relevant. So, fun story here, a couple months back, I had to do a hard reboot and refresh on my iPhone, which kind of puts it back to default settings. Not awesome if you have to do that, because you have to spend a lot of time re-customizing everything. Because of that, and this was unintentional, I will say, as a preface at the start of this, my push notifications for Slack got turned off. And we as a sub community, again, as we sort of through the podcast here, navigate what is, is not community, how in the heck are people in the world defining and organizing and ascribing community onto a thing, we definitely have community ourselves, like with our Slack environment for the team. I love it. I think we've obviously done a really great job over the years fostering that. But I will say that not having Slack push notifications on my phone has been one of the best gosh darn things that's happened to me in the last six months.
Jay: I believe that.
Jillian: It's so hard to —
Matt: Period full stop.
Jillian: I think there're so many layers to this, because in community, however you define it, in general, the FOMO can easily lead to burnout. And then the piece with the Slack notifications, I did the same, but I felt guilty about it. Because we're a remote team, we're in different time zones. And what if I could alleviate a problem by just seeing that something comes through and I can fix it. Although that probably pertains more to me contacting Jay and Matt at weird times where I'm like, are you on? But it's like, you kind of want to be this 24/7 crisis response team, because you want to be there for your team. But at the expense of your own sanity, just allowing yourself to turn those notifications off, or like Jay said, leave the phone in the house when you go do stuff outside. If you can get over the guilt, which is the part I struggle with, it's freeing.
Matt: At least what was certain in my case, for whatever relevance and value this has, I didn't know I did that. It was truly accidental. I thought, for some crazy reason, I wasn't getting tagged into things, so that I wasn't receiving push notifications for like two days. And then it finally occurred to me, hey, something must be happening. But just even within that 48-hour period, I had enough, you can call it grace or enough something, where I gave myself permission. There was just enough separation to be like, hey, you know what? This was okay. Nothing really melted down. The team was fine.
Jillian: The company did not end.
Matt: When I'm working, I'm at the computer. If there's something urgent, people are going to text me probably anyway, over Slack. So that was just enough of a buffer zone where I could start to change that behavior for myself. And it was, for me, profound.
Jillian: And you've left it off, you said, yeah?
Matt: Yeah, it's not on.
Jillian: That's amazing. Good for you, Matt.
Jay: Ironically, we often have, or we've probably already heard and experienced how efficient batching certain tasks are. But when we have notifications on, we're removing that from our workflow. We're basically saying one by one, we're going to do all these things. And when you go on Do Not Disturb, when you put your phone away, and you come back and there are things for you to action, you realize, oh, I can actually get through all of this in a matter of five or 10 minutes, whereas that would have been twice or three times as long if I was doing them one at a time, over the course of an evening. And it's more of a drain on my mental bandwidth.
Tony: Especially because it's a context switch. So even if it's a very brief amount of time, each time, every time you're resetting your brain in terms of its ability to focus on anything else. So absolutely. The problem that I've seen that people run into, is that you do that, you try to batch stuff. And then you come back to a mountain. And it actually is a lot of work. And then you're like, oh, no, that was a mistake, I shouldn't have taken that day off, or something, or that day away. And you kind of have to learn how to do it sustainably and set yourself up to be able to crank through that stuff. But you can do it, you just have to plan for it. How do you know that you're going too far? There's times when it's appropriate to work hard, there's times when it's appropriate to kind of dig deep in something.
But I think our bodies will tell us when this isn't healthy, something's going on, I need to listen, I need to pay attention. Has anybody had an experience, there was a moment of, oh, this isn't good. Or maybe they didn't realize it in the moment. But after the fact, they realized, oh, that was the moment, and I didn't recognize it at that time.
Jay: I haven't had some of these stupendous crash and burn stories that puts me out of commission for a period of time. The way it manifests for me is, I cannot be present in the moment and I stop feeling joy, essentially. Most of my emotion just goes away, and I'm more concerned on what's next, than what's here. And almost there's just a weight to it, there's this weight of despair. That's the way burnout manifests for me. And I think about this thing that they have with kids, where kids have to touch the stove to know that they've done wrong or that they shouldn't touch the stove. That's kind of how I treat my personal capacity, is I'm constantly touching the stove of what I can do as one person. And then I realize, okay, I've gone too far, I have to reel that back.
And then, capacity expands a small amount. But there's diminishing returns to that. And burnout feels like constantly touching the stove of my emotional capacity.
Jillian: Jay, you've got to stop touching the stove.
Tony: Who would have thought? The joy side of it, I think is hugely important. Because unlike other businesses or other creative pursuits, building a community is a inherently very human, personal thing. And theoretically, maybe you could build a community without having any personal emotional connection to it. Odds are, that if you're building community, it's because you care. And you care about the people, you care about the subject matter at hand. And if you find that your relationship to that thing is shifting away from passion, joy, excitement, towards feeling disconnected, resentful. I know just for me, one of those moments that I had, that was one of those wake up calls, was when I was in the middle of trying to do something and a person walked into the door of my co-working space. And they were a new person who was interested in learning about membership. And in my head, I was like, ugh, not another fricking person I have to talk to.
I caught myself in that moment, being like, whoa, wait a minute, like, what am I... I got into this business to help people and build community. And now, I resent a person for walking in the door and wanting to join my community. And that's when I knew, like, okay, I have a problem. I have to reorient something because, otherwise, why am I here? What's the point?
Jay: Totally. There's a bit of self sabotage that can happen when you... When you're succeeding, it can contribute to your own burnout. And then you start to realize, oh, I can counteract that by not succeeding to that same degree, or not cultivating the same space that I want to. So it's really, really important to build those systems, so that when you are accomplishing the goals that you have yourself, your business, your community, you don't inhibit yourself for the sake of not personally burning out. You need to create an environment where you can ride that wave in a positive way.
Matt: I see that potentially playing into a meta lesson, as we think about building teams, building companies, building community, building relationships, outside of work, personal relationships, life partner relationships, which is, if there isn't great intentionality and some beginning patterns, that systemization to decision-making, then you end up building something that you didn't set out to build. When it's small and focused and maybe if it's just one person, say again, building a team, or a company, or a community, that's easier to manage. It won't veer off course in terms of, again, a stated or potentially unstated vision or plan for what you're trying to do. But if you keep making compromise after compromise, however small, that compounding effect will veer off course.
And you're going to potentially and unknowingly, find yourself waking up some day and being like, holy crap, I resent the community, I resent the members, I resent my business. How did I ever get here? And it was through a collection of these small incremental, but increasingly cascading unintentional choices. So that's why these conversations are phenomenal, a bit of the small reset and making sure that in thinking about our own community, do we have the right parameters of like code of conduct? Do we have the right questions as part of our application? This is getting tactical and into the mechanics, but this is how I think they have to manifest, so that we on the community building side aren't in fact, having our community veer off course. Because ultimately, that plays to, hopefully, the value of the members themselves and that our choices aren't then fostering burnout for them.
Jillian: I think there's a lot to say about modeling behavior, too. So our company very much has the, get your work done, but do it on the schedule that works. So if you need to take an hour to go sit outside in the sunshine and stare at the grass, or whatever it is, if you need a reset during the day, you can do it. And so by having that trust in us, as employees, to get our work done, but also make time for ourselves, we show up in a healthier mental space. But then that transfers to the communities we run, because it goes back to boundaries. If people think that at 2:00 AM, they can send me a message, and I'm going to respond, they'll do it. And it's not them being weird, they might live in a time zone that that makes sense.
But setting the expectation that, we're a business and we'll be responsive during certain times, also kind of teaches them maybe to know, if I message Jillian with a question, she'll get back to me at the next business day. And that's okay, because that's how it works. And then just letting them see that we take care of ourselves. And part of that might be not being as responsive as what they would expect. That sounds like we're not responsive, which we are. But hopefully that makes sense. I think then it helps those people to do the same in the communities they're in, and thus avoid their own burnout. To be like, hey, this staff takes time off, I don't need to be here 24/7 if it doesn't bring me joy.
Tony: Well, I think that's huge. And you see that in team communications and also in the community. But having just those subtle signals that send and set an example, even within Team SPI, I've seen that the team tends to have a pretty good rhythm of not posting stuff after hours and weekends. And for me, personally, I tend to have the attitude of, well, I can post something into a channel whenever, I'll just leave it up to people to decide when they want to look at it. Just the fact that I posted it, doesn't mean I expect anyone to look at it. But not everybody acts that way. So looking out for those opportunities to model things and set the right example. And people pay attention. People will pay attention to the way that you model your behavior. And that means, certainly, like in a physical space, when I finish my coffee, I wash my mug and put it back in the cabinet, or I stick it in the dish... I can't leave the mug in the sink. Because otherwise there'll be 50 mugs the next time I go by that sink.
Jillian: Please come to my house.
Tony: So maybe that leads to kind of a good kind of topic, which is, okay, you've recognized that you have hit an area where maybe you are burned out, you're going to burn out. How have you gone about seeking help? I mean, like seeking support from your community, from trusted confidants. Where do you go when you find that that's happening?
Jillian: The woods.
Tony: Tell me more.
Jillian: Yeah, I mean, I have the luxury of living in the woods, but I go outside. If I need perspective, or just to reset, nature is the place my soul wants to be. And I find often if, especially like exercising outside, be it trail riding or hiking or whatever it is, I can solve the world's problems. The endorphins hit in a certain way. And suddenly, that problem that I've been thinking about, you just have this like, aha. Unfortunately, it doesn't always make sense once you get home. But in the moment, it feels great. I think, for me, going out in the woods. But also communicating. So if I'm feeling particularly burned out, I might tell Jay. I might be like, look, I need a break. I'm going to skip out, I'm taking a half day today, and I just need some time. Or so I can be 100 percent the following day.
And just having that open communication and trust to be like, I can say this and it's not going to be a problem. And I realize not everyone has that luxury. I work on a very nice team and people are very understanding here. Some people don't have that. But also, I think it's important to be doing things proactively. So something I do is I like to create things, I like doing art projects and creative projects. I get in that zone, you get in a... what is it called?
Tony: The flow, the creative flow.
Jillian: The flow, yes. I was like, I know there's a buzzy term for it. Yeah, I like getting in flow state. And that's the fastest way for me to get into it. And so sometimes, especially on the days I take my daughter to school, because I have a pretty big chunk of time between, I have like an hour and a half or something from that point, to when my day would technically start at work, if we clocked in, if you will. Instead of just jumping into work, which is what I naturally think, like, oh, I'll just hop on early. I stop myself and say no, unless, I really need to. And I go work on a creative project. And doing that in the morning, before work, it sets my brain up for success. And I'm just in this better mood in general, because I got to flow.
So I think finding those things, I realize for everybody, that's not what it's going to be, you might not have that hour and a half. It can be a little stuff too. It can be drinking coffee outside, during sunrise is like one of the most magical things you can do in a day.
Matt: Clearly, your children are past being toddlers.
Jillian: Yes. And let me just clarify, when [Lily] was a toddler, I was very burned out. They're very needy at that age. Middle school, they don't really want to talk to anymore.
Tony: So claiming little moments of appreciation and sacredness can be enormously powerful. I know, there was some event I went to a couple of years ago, where there was this prompt of what's one moment that you really appreciate every day. And it just kind of popped in my head, I said, the moment when I smell the coffee beans before I pour over the French press, when you're fresh ground. And there's just nothing like smelling those perfectly fresh ground coffee beans. And now every day, I didn't really understand how much I appreciated it until I named it. And then since then, every single time I make a cup of coffee, I look down at that little hopper full of beans. And I'm like, oh yeah, this is nice. And I smell it. And just for that moment, I remember, oh, I’m a human again, and the world is magical.
If you let it consume you so much that you don't have any time to appreciate and enjoy the magic of what you're doing, and maybe to even go a step further and just do something special that feels special to you, that's when you really, I think get into danger zone of you're going to start destroying this business, because you want out. What I tried to do very hard at my co-working space was, always make time to do something magical and special. Even if it was really, really hard to do it, because I really, really wanted to work on businessy business stuff, every now and then I needed to do something crazy and fun and random that made me remember why the heck I was bothering to go through all of this in the first place. And I'm really glad I did. Because in retrospect, being a few years out from that business now, those are my most cherished memories. And make me feel like it was worth it.
Matt: And when you were doing that, Tony, was that just you for you? And you kind of, I guess, engaging in those activities by yourself? Or inside that habitat, were you reconnecting with members of your co-working facility? Was that a part of your exercise?
Tony: The thing that brought me the most joy was doing things that brought joy to others. And created something that was special to more than just me. It wasn't just something that was my . . . although oftentimes those things overlapped really heavily. And so for example, I used to do recreational volleyball leagues and I found out that there was a pretty affordable one, that was on a beach volleyball court on the Hudson River. And just this incredible scenery of New York City. And it was a walking distance from our co-working space, which is in lower Manhattan. And so we started a volleyball team, we were so bad, but we had so much fun. We were the Co-Ballers and we had our Co-Ballers teeshirt.
Jillian: Oh my gosh.
Tony: One of the big keys I wanted to touch on is empowering others to be leaderful in your community, and trying as much as you can to cultivate a sense that you're not necessarily the one and only canonical provider of all things in the community. But you are more a steward and a shepherd and a guide and a facilitator who is encouraging the community to prosper.
Jillian: It's kind of that relationship of trust and control. Trust that other people can make decisions and be willing to let go of the control.
Tony: It's so true.
Jillian: Like could that have turned into a flop? I don't know if you had a keg at your co-working space, you should have if you didn't. But I mean, that could have turned into a rowdy thing, where the rest of the people there are complaining because there was a frat party. But it didn't. You trusted and you let go of control, and it was fine.
Tony: The ego will say, it will talk about it in a very friendly voice. It will say like, oh, but only you can do it, nobody else can do it as well as you can. It says it in this very heroic voice. But it's a trap. And it's one certainly to look out for. Yes, other people can do community as well.
Okay, so let's do a quick whip around before we run out of time. I know some of us have to run. Matt, I'll start with you. Keys to sustainability, what's a big win for you in terms of how can you head off burnout, and what kinds of things can you instill in something you're creating to foster sustainability, reduce the chances of burnout?
Matt: My key to rule them all? My meta key, is to not sacrifice your private life for your public life. It's a big frame. It's a very binary sort of mental state to sit in, for me again, personally, for me. It's effective in thinking then through, following decision makings, then trying to play at a chess game to see how certain decisions then might compound into others. Because it's my belief that a lot of the burnout effects and where they are born from, especially digital community building people, a lot of it comes from a public persona. That we need to show up in all of these places, that we need to be in some way, shape or form a little bit extra of ourselves, a little bit performative, a little bit extra happy. A little bit more flamboyant, gregarious, et cetera, et cetera.
And I'm not suggesting that everyone that does that is inauthentic, that's not the argument. My point here is that...
Jillian: I do that.
Matt: Okay. Anyway, that's taxing. At least it's taxing for me, who's someone who's like a 51/49 split, almost always on like the introverted-extroverted spectrum, I'm right there on the middle. And how-
Tony: Ambivert crew.
Matt: Yeah. And forgive the elaboration, but to not sacrifice your private life for your public life, I think is, for me a very useful mechanic to sit in and inform decision making.
Tony: Thank you for that, Matt. Jay, I really want to hear you maybe riff on that, and then add your own item to our list.
Jay: Just want to say I really relate to that. When you're showing up all day, emotionally, for your communities, it can be really difficult then to also show up emotionally for your family, your partner, your friends, and instead, feel like someone needs to take care of me. But if those people in your personal life community are feeling the same way, then it becomes really difficult. For me, as the guy who's just constantly touching the stove, what I've realized is I need a hard off-day on the weekend, and if I can get two, even better.
I absolutely love watching film and television. And I'm not afraid to say that, because I started looking at it now with like the eye of a producer. And it's really fun to try to deconstruct production decisions that were made and it makes me enjoy stories that much more. So if I can get a day on the weekend where I can just totally turn off, make the contract with myself that I have no expectations to get anything done. And watch season one of Billions, I'm in. I am completely recharged.
Jillian: Have you watched all the Survivor? Are you on to the new thing?
Jay: Well, Survivor's great and super entertaining, because of the game theory aspect of it. But there are almost no production decisions, because it's incredibly formulaic.
Jay: So for storytelling, and actually I like to have a differentiation between weeknight TV and weekend TV, to even further enforce the difference. And Survivor's weeknight television.
Jillian: Got you. It's like the brain list, yeah. And for the audience listening, Jay has been on Season One to the end binge of Survivor, he joined the party recently.
Jay: I'm on Season 28, and it's great. It never gets old.
Jillian: Are you really? I didn't even know. Doesn't it?
Jay: No, it doesn't.
Jillian: Hey, if it fills your weeknight TV hole, then good for you.
Tony: Jill, how about yourself? One major tip for heading off burnout, cultivating sustainability and community?
Jillian: Boundaries, boundaries, throw them boundaries up. And it's okay to say no. It's okay to say, I don't know, let me look into it. Communicate with people, expectations. Make sure their reality aligns with yours. And it's okay to say no. If you find yourself getting frustrated with little things, it's time to take a day.
Tony: I'll reinforce some things we already talked about, which are cultivating leaderful culture, encourage, encourage, encourage, and do stuff that refills your well. Do stuff that's awesome, that speaks to your soul. And people will respond to that. And that's going to help a lot.
So thank you guys, this has been awesome. I'm really enjoying this conversation. I feel like we could probably do a whole other episode just diving deeper into some of the more specific stories each of us has to share, I'm sure. But I appreciate y'all taking the time. And let's keep the explorations going. Thanks everyone. We're going to set a boundary and end the interview there.
Matt: Good job, guys.
Jay: Thanks, everybody. Don't touch the stove-
Tony: Thanks guys-
Jillian: Awesome. Thanks, everyone.
Well, that was an amazing talk. I'm so glad we did that. And I hope it's helpful. If you have a burnout story, we would love to hear it and hear more about how you manage it. So tag us on Twitter at Team SPI, and we will continue the conversation there.
Tony: That's right. We are here because we want to see lots of people building community everywhere. And one of the reasons why there's loneliness, why people have trouble finding belonging, is because people burn out and they stop building the community. And so we want you not to go down that path. We want to see more folks building great communities and doing so sustainably for the long run. So we're here to support you in that journey any way we can. We're going to continue this exploration. And thanks for joining us on this episode of the Community Experience.
This has been the Community Experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head to SmartPassiveIncome.com and click on Listen.
Jillian: Your hosts are me, Jillian Benbow and Tony Bacigalupo. The Community Experience is a production of SPI media.
Tony: Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our series producers are David Grabowski and senior producer Sara Jane Hess. Editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.
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