The trouble with not working a 9-to-5 office job is that often you work more, sometimes much more, than your cube-dwelling counterparts. The risk you run with an always-connected, always-working lifestyle, of course, is of getting burned out. And once that happens, not only will you end up exhausted, but both your work and your personal life will suffer.
A List Apart recently published a great article by Scott Boms, “Burnout,” that examines the stress, exhaustion and illness often associated with web work. Burnout is not just stress, he notes, but is caused by an “imbalance in an individual’s personal goals, ideals, and needs as related to their job.” So how can you regain that balance? Boms outlines several steps you can take, including:
Stop (or at least slow down). When you realize you’re suffering with burnout, it’s important to start taking steps to reduce the amount of work you’re doing. Cut down on the hours that you’re working, use sick days, or take a vacation.
Set boundaries and expectations. When you’re no longer working a regular 9-to-5 schedule you need to set boundaries between your work and home lives (see my previous post “Mark the End of the Day and Finish on Time“). It’s also important to manage your clients’ expectations. As Boms notes, when you start answering client email at 10pm, it sets a precedent that is then hard to undo.
Create a daily routine. Most people have a time of day when they work most effectively. Organize your day around these times (see our previous post “Change Your Work Hours to Get More Done” for tips on how to do this).
Make time for numero uno. Sometimes it’s hard to justify making time for yourself when there are so many demands on your day from bosses or clients, but everyone needs some “me time.” Spend time with family, goof off, visit a gallery, play a game — whatever makes you happy.
Change your situation. Changing careers might be in the cards, but there are also plenty of steps you can take to improve your current one. Shake up your routine (try working from somewhere else, perhaps), offload responsibilities, or learn a new skill.
Rely on a good process. If your current process isn’t working as well as it should, try another one. GTD works for me.
Are you feeling burned out? What steps are you taking to make sure you don’t get burned out?