Even if you love your work, there will be times when it no longer fills you with passion and energy. You feel emotionally exhausted and cynical. Your health suffers as stress mounts. You wonder whether you have the resources, internal or external, to meet your responsibilities.
Web workers may be especially prone to burnout in a hyperconnected world. That damn laptop’s always around, waiting with email at the ready.
To see if you might be at risk of burnout, try this Burnout Self-Test. If you’re close to burnout, though, you probably already know it: you feel irritable, overworked, and underappreciated.
You could leave your job for another — and that might be exactly what you need to do — but that’s not always feasible or sensible. Before taking that drastic step, try these things first:
Find a new project. Especially if you work in a team of substantial size, there’s usually room for individual workers to move around to different tasks or projects. If you ask for changes too regularly and never finish any projects, this turns into a way of shirking rather than rejuvenating. But sometimes, it’s the ideal way of dealing with burnout without setting bridges or income on fire.
Offload some responsibilities. Certain parts of your job might be just fine. Talk to the person in charge about whether you might be able to offload the tasks that are burdensome in favor of focusing on what satisfies you. Most jobs do involve some tasks you don’t like to do, but if the balance has shifted so much towards unpleasantness that you are facing burnout, you need to make a change.
Get some help. Maybe all of your tasks are satisfying but there are just too many of them. Explore whether you can outsource some of them (if you work for yourself) or get another employee to help you (if you work for someone else). Perhaps outsourcing some of your personal chores would free enough time to allow you to get back on top of your work responsibilities.
Reach out of yourself. When you start to burn out, you may push people away with your grumpiness, but connecting with other people can be just what you need to to change your thinking around. If you feel comfortable with it, share your exhaustion and pessimism online with your friends. Instead of annoying people by using IM as your personal therapy provider, broadcast your angst on Twitter or Facebook or Jaiku. Then the people with some free emotional cycles can come to your aid.
Hibernate. Especially if you have a bursty sort of temperament, you may go through periods of massive achievement and accomplishment followed by sloth and torpor. If your job allows it, take it easy while you recover from big efforts — don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your boss will put up with your lulls if you produce results during your energetic times.
Start a side job. What, work more? Yes. Sometimes enthusiasm for a second project can rekindle your energy for your other work. The web offers all sorts of ways to experiment with new ways of making money. Maybe you need a whole portfolio of jobs, not just one.
Take a sabbatical. If you have the financial wherewithal, take some paid or unpaid time off. Don’t think of it as a vacation. Use it to renew your zest for work. Take a class or volunteer for a cause you care about or teach yourself something new. Maybe you’ll come back refreshed; maybe you’ll decide you’re ready to quit that job and find something new.
What do you do when you feel burned out?