For ambitious people, burnout can be a real problem. I can speak from experience when I say that I would love to do ten times more than I actually do, but simply physically cannot. Even then, I try futilely, only to realize the stress builds up and you notice you all of a sudden aren’t have quite as much fun as you used to.
So, in this post, I wanted to give some tips for avoiding burnout. These tips are mostly things that I have found helpful for me, and so hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well.
1. Recognize you have burnout
Yup. When it comes to something like this, recognition is oftentimes half the battle. Sometimes burnout can be confused with just plain stress; both are negative factors, but one has much worse long-term repercussions. Keep cognizant of whether there’s something specific that you’ve been working on that’s been causing all your fatigue, and you’ll be able to better pinpoint your burnout.
2. Give yourself a break
Once you’ve recognized that you’re feeling the effects of burnout, take an hour or two to relax. Many times this can be surprisingly hard; when you’ve been working on a project for a long time, it can be hard to quit. The urge to “be productive” takes a hold of you, and you can’t easily let it down. However, the facts are that you are actually much, much more productive if you take regular breaks than if you stay laser-focused on a project for an extended period of time; your ability to perform tasks well grows logarithmically over time, and can only be refreshed with the occasional break. This is by far the best way to fix short-term burnout.
3. Take out the non-essential
For long-term burnout, we’ll have to take some different, more extreme measures. Sometimes it isn’t that you’ve been working on a specific project for a long time in a given day; sometimes its that you’ve been working on many different projects for a long time in a given week, month, etc. In this case, it might be best for you to think of what to cut out.
One of my personal favorite quotes is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. I love strategically quitting projects. Whenever I work on something long enough and begin to feel it hitting a dead-end, I think to myself whether or not working on it would really help me progress to one of my long-term goals; if it does not, I stop working on it. Now take in mind that strategic quitting really is a skill; it’s hard to just give up on something, especially when you’ve made decent progress on it. But when that project is hurting you more than helping you, then its time to kill it off. Only then will the burnout cease.
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