If you've worked any job for any length of time, you know what this is about.
Even if you love what you do (like me), you're probably going to hit this sooner or later. And the chances are you'll hit it sooner the harder you try to get ahead.
Burnout is no joke. It can ruin a perfectly good career, and it can spiral you into a chain reaction of depression and unmotivation. Sounds awful, right?
What is burnout?
Burnout is the phase you enter when you essentially overwork yourself mentally and physically. You get to the point where even thinking about work sends you into a spiral of anxiety, and this is before you've brushed your teeth. You start counting how many sick days you've taken and how many you have left. You might notice half of your day off goes by without you accomplishing a single thing. If you find yourself thinking that you can't possibly work on more [insert project], you might already be on the verge of it.
But, I love my job! I can't wait to do what I do.
I'm sure you do. I know I do. I work from home. But the fact is, burnout happens to a lot of people, and it happens all the time.
What causes burnout?
The main cause of burnout is simply working too much, for too long. It might be fine in short bursts, but if you are consistently trudging through a to-do list, day in and day out, without any real break, you're going to suffer from it. This is particularly common in regular day workers who have freelance businesses that they try to manage on the side. It takes a toll to work all day, and then devote a certain number of hours at night or on days off to continue working. The brain isn't meant for that.
How can I avoid burnout?
The easiest way is to take it easy. Building a business is hard, but you have to take mental breaks, and physical breaks as well. It doesn't do anyone any good if you work for fourteen days in a row, and then have a meltdown and miss critical deadlines. The key is to maintain an even pace, and take time out for the little things.
Try doing some of the following if you start feeling like you want to set your office on fire:
- Take a walk during lunch, or after work. It will help regulate brain chemicals and you'll feel refreshed. Make this a daily routine.
- Don't eat dinner (or lunch) at your desk. Enjoy that food. If you're near your phone and it rings, you'll feel pressured to answer it.
- If there is a particular part of your job that you don't like (this is particularly true for freelancers), try finding someone else to do it. Barter services if you can. Or set aside some money so you can have someone else do the grunt work while you focus on the bigger issues at hand.
- Learn when enough is enough. If you tell yourself that business is over at 9pm, then it needs to be over at 9pm. Don't continue to check or send emails. Turn your phone off if you need to. The time you spend on yourself needs to be as important as the time you spend working on things for other people.
- Do something else. For example, if you work on the computer all day, try spending more hours outside away from the screen. Leave your phone in the car if you have to so you aren't tempted to check it all the time.
There are many other things you can do, and the list above is really just a starting point for the bigger message. You need to take care of yourself. Sure, it's great to work hard to get ahead, and provide for your family. But there has to be a limit. The brain is just a muscle like anything else in the body, and when it gets overworked, everything else will shut down with it.
When you actively engage your brain and body in things other than work, you will most likely find yourself going farther than you were before, and your clarity of thought will increase exponentially. The key, like they say, is to work smarter, not harder.
By James Rogers
Creative thinking and development are just a part of what makes James tick. When he's not working on a project for a client, he's usually working on a project for himself. When he's not doing that he can be found snowboarding, hiking, or enjoying a broadway show with his wife.