Have you ever experienced the symptoms of burnout? Malaise, fatigue, the absence of drive, a lack of interest… if you’ve ever felt like all your professional vim and vigor were depleted, then there’s a chance you’ve dealt with burnout.
Burnout can be a career killer; a spiral from which some people never quite recover. I’m not saying that to scare you, but just to underscore how serious it is. Burnout eats away at your physical and mental health. It causes your work to become sloppy or erratic. And sometimes, it can be hard to shake.
Best to protect yourself from getting burned out in the first place, then. That may sound easier said than done, but I’ve got a few practical tips that I can recommend.
10. Plan your day
At the end of each day, take five minutes to write, evaluate and plan the day ahead. Consider it a brain dump so you leave any shit behind you that you’d usually take home. Now you can leave the office with clarity as to how you’re going to attack tomorrow’s tasks for maximum productivity. On top of that, your subconscious will get to work on coming up with solutions on how to best manage any challenges you face, all the while as you sleep.
2. Know your limits
There’s no way to completely avoid stress, and really, you wouldn’t want to; stress is a big part of what motivates us. However, it’s important to know just how much stress you can handle, and what your breaking point is. Take a self-inventory: What are the things that tend to push you over the edge, or the levels of anxiety you’re comfortable with? Know yourself.
3. Fill your day with joy
Our business works to fill our people’s day with what they love. When work feels like a job, we redirect those tasks to someone who loves them. Not a great organizer? We have a team member who is. Hate numbers? We’ve got someone who loves them. We are fueled with so much joy that we have a term around the company called the ‘joy hangover.’ When work is such a blast, burnout doesn’t exist.
4. Listen to music
The soothing power of music is well documented. Listening to slow, classical or chilled-out music is incredibly relaxing for both the body and mind. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be extremely effective in decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
5. Live with mindfulness
Personally, I find the best way to avoid burnout is to have an ongoing focus on mindfulness rather than only when on breaks and vacations. Find ways to detach during the week in a way that works for you. Yoga and exercise work for some, while meditation works for others. Be mindful of those moments. Try to take consistent mini-breaks throughout the week to detach and re-center.
I used to be of the opinion that the sooner I went to sleep, the sooner I had to go to work. And I didn’t like that because I didn’t like work. So I’d deprive myself of sleep to put off work. Stress, focus, mental clarity, and productivity will all take a hit if you are sleep deprived. On top of that, a lack of sleep can contribute to many serious diseases in the long run. Take time to unwind — turn off all distractions, unplug from social media, grab your favorite cuddly toy, wrap that bastard in your arms and sleep as if you’re a narcoleptic. When your alarm goes off — count down from 5 and get the fuck up. Immediately. No snoozing. There is a tonne of science as to why this is a deadly habit I can’t go into right now, but basically, we sleep in cycles and by snoozing we drift off into another one which we then interrupt while screwing ourselves for hours in the process. You should aim to get enough sleep so you wake up naturally with your alarm.
6. Schedule free time
Schedule free time on your calendar, just like you would schedule a meeting, and stick to it. It’s crucial to take the time you need for yourself, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day. You’ll get back to work feeling recharged and inspired, and chances are, you’ll accomplish a lot more than you would if you worked straight through the day.
7. Build a great team
I used to think vacations would recharge me, but I would just come back to piles of work. In the last year, we’ve built our team to eight people. The quantity doesn’t matter—the key is that it’s a strong team. I know that whether I’m working or not, great things are being done. Feeling the support from all sides has been critical to my personal happiness.
8. Keep good company
This is of utmost importance — both in and out of work. This is probably the most important component of happiness. Even if you hate your job — going home to friends you love, and laughing about how much you hate your boss while you plot his murder ain’t that bad.
Work on making real connections with your colleagues also. And avoid as much negativity as possible. Don’t get sucked into office politics and allow that negativity to bring you down.
9. Travel and change your environment
Traveling is the best way to avoid burnout. Take your laptop and spend one to two months working from somewhere else, preferably internationally. With the internet and cloud tools like Dropbox and Skype, there’s very little that can’t be done from abroad. The change in environment sparks your creativity and allows you to bring new energy into your work.
10. Reach out to those closest to you
such as your partner, family, and friends. Opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship. Try not to think about what’s burning you out and make the time you spend with loved ones positive and enjoyable.