3 Tips for Avoiding Project Burnout

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff going on, with the first issue coming out this Saturday. You can subscribe to it here.

Getting out of an Unhealthy Mindset

 

 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time as of late thinking about how to change someone’s mind. Not how to change their mind on a topic, or on an argument, but how to fundamentally change their perspective. I see a lot of people out there with unhealthy mindsets, whether they be depressive, arrogant, or otherwise. I think back in my own experience to how I got out of my unhealthy mind, and I find that it’s pretty incredible that it happened at all.

I think fundamentally what helped me get out of it was keeping myself open to other possibilities. And yet, if you are in an unhealthy mindset, this can be very difficult; you aren’t going to believe that things will be better if you are in a depressive mindset, because that statement fundamentally conflicts with what you currently believe, thus generating cognitive dissonance.

So how do we avoid this cognitive dissonance barrier and get people out of these states? I believe the best answer is to do it over the long-term and focus on making incremental changes. This relates to how my own progress came about, and so I believe it could be a model that would help others as well. For example, if we instead ask the person in a depressive mindset to think about simple things like cute puppies or a good joke every time they get upset, and then slowly move that over to “well look at all these people who went through the same thing that you are going through, and got out fine” then move to “look at these charts that say the world is getting better” and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll see their mind open and begin to take on better ways of looking at the world.

Now that’s just an example, and I’ll be the first to admit that those specific steps probably wouldn’t work. Finding out a strategy that will work I leave to the reader to consider. Another big caveat (and I’ll mention this since I’ve been focusing specifically on the depressive mindset, though there are many different types of mindsets one could consider unhealthy) is that this will not work with mindsets that are caused by disorders based on chemical imbalances, as those are caused by circumstances far beyond the individual’s control and my area of expertise.

I’d also be interested in anyone else’s opinion on this theory – if you do have one, feel free to post it I the comments below. You can also (as always) take out my Twitter  for more miscellaneous musings.