Burnout Revisited

Several months back I wrote a post about a bad case of burnout I had unexpectedly run into. I had known I was approaching burnout, but didn’t really realize just how burnt out I had gotten until someone else pointed it out to me (via a blogpost). Unfortunately I’ve run into the dreaded dead end again.

Recently I’ve been pushing myself really hard. Working longer hours trying to get through a few releases we needed to get done with work. I’ve simultaneously been trying (and failing) to complete several personal chores/goals/responsibilities. All of it has recently come to a sudden crash as it just finally became overwhelming. I found myself not sleeping, barely eating, and snapping on friends and colleagues.

I’ve since had a little time to calm down – taking a weekend off of the normal stuff to try to recover. It has brought me back to a question I’ve asked myself before, however. How do I retain my passion for what I’m doing while not driving myself to the edge and beyond? I’ve been floating several ideas that I’m planning to try, here’s the short list:

  1. Take a weekend a month and schedule some time off of the normal stuff. Maybe a vacation, maybe just trying something new, but something away from the usual work/personal woes that pile up.
  2. Find more balance in my day and create daily goals of what to get done (as opposed to weekly goals I’ve used in the past).
  3. Force myself to step away from whatever I’m doing if I’m sinking too much time into one task or area of my life.

I’m definitely open to suggestions or feedback, but this is what I’ve loosely come up with to try. How do you prevent burnout? What do you do to make sure you recognize it once you’re approaching it?

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9 Responses to Burnout Revisited

  1. Beau Lebens says:

    Don't burn out Jon, we need you 😉

    Here are a couple of suggestions that I try to work by (not that they always work, but they help).

    1. Find a hobby that operates on a schedule that *you don't set*. Mine is Krav Maga–classes are offered on a certain schedule, so if I want to do it, I have to stick to that schedule, it's refreshing to just get up from work and have to go and do something else, and not be able to say "I'll leave in 10 minutes", because you'll miss a class

    2. Always eat lunch away from the desk–it's just a small chance to break away and not be sitting at a keyboard

    3. Travel–A couple of years ago I aimed to visit a new state at least once a month, just for a weekend. It was awesome, and even though it's actually kind of tiring, I loved it, and it kept me going during some hard times at work. It also makes you realize that things don't actually fall over and melt (usually 😉 ) when you're not there.

    Hope that helps some, and take it easy — for everyone's sake!

  2. Jon says:

    Thanks for the tips. My girlfriend suggested #1 to me also, I'm exploring possible scheduled activities, but this makes a lot of sense. #2 and #3 definitely seem like good suggestions also. Working through lunch is something I definitely do too often and I'd love to travel more.

  3. Noel Jackson says:

    I am prone to burnout as I'm admittedly a workaholic. I log 16+ hour days at the screen.

    I've done a few things to balance work and non-work. But it mostly revolves around planning – even down to that very hour.

    1) Plan activities that I like to do on a calendar: water colors on thursdays, bike ride during lunch every day, DJing on wednesdays – sometimes I skip an activity, but they keep me balanced.

    2) Go out to dinner once a week and plan it. Relax, get an appetizer. Shoot, go for the Apple-tini 😉

    3) Listen to Pema Chödrön. She's amazing. I recommend all of her books and books on tape. She's a western oriented Buddhist who brings no religion into her books, which is really nice.

    4) Listen to more music and… dance in your office when no one is looking. Or find a way to get out of your chair and walk around while solving problems.

    5) View time spent relaxing, reading, painting, listening to music, or exercising as personal development – it's your responsibility as a member of society to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. 🙂

    After I started taking a step back and looking at the big picture things started to snap into place. I'm still working on it myself. But these things have helped me out quite a bit.

    And as a great employer once told me: it's a marathon, not a sprint.

    • Jon says:

      Great tips. I think I would probably do better at making sure I step away from this stuff by just having more planned "other stuff" that gives me a reason to break away from what I'm doing in the moment.

      I'm definitely warming up to the idea of relaxing and other "me time" as a bit of a higher priority in my life. I guess in some weird way it felt selfish or unproductive, but it definitely makes sense to take care of yourself in addition to all your responsibilities and those around you. Kind of that put on your mask before assisting others philosophy.

      Certainly worth trying.

  4. rsmudge says:

    Hair of the dog baby! Keep working through it, full force. Double the work load! Tell your body if it wants to cry you'll give it something to cry about. Let it know!

    Ok, just kidding. I'm prone to burnout too. Now that I'm at Automattic I'm able to have some work-life balance I didn't have when I was in startup mode. That was a painful time (even though I loved the work). Here is what I do now:

    I force myself to take weekends off, I spend a lot of time with my friends–and when they're around I give them my full attention. I also try to run (or rarely, lift) on the days I work.

    Since we work from home I also find leaving every night to go do something helps a lot. I live in a big city so I've used buying a paper and city in a park as a last resort. It helps.

    Another thing that helps is I like to cook, so sometimes taking time out to make a home-made lunch helps too.

    And others have said this, managing your day helps. I try to set goals of what I want to accomplish for each day. I'm fair and make sure there is a legitimate amount of work, but I let myself go when those goals are accomplished. It's kind of like dieting for work.

  5. SonSinema.Com says:
  6. SonSinema.Com says:
  7. Jon says:

    another test