Regain Balance and Avoid Burnout


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.

There’s plenty more detail, tips and information in Boms’ article. It’s also worth checking out the discussion thread on A List Apart, too.

Are you feeling burned out? What steps are you taking to make sure you don’t get burned out?


Harry @ GoalsOnTrack

Agree. However, I think it’s important to know and decide what your goals are. Otherwise, all this effort in improving productivity will make little sense.

Dr Beverly Potter

Burnout is a motivational problem – a kind of job depression – where it becoming increasingly difficult to perform, which is why it is often called “emotional exhaustion. It is not caused by imbalance in goals or ideals, nor is it caused by working long hours. Steve Boms wrote an interesting article but he is not a psychologist and no expert.

Burnout is caused by “uncontrollability” – powerlessness, a sense of being trapped and unable to do anything about it.

Burnout is prevented or overcome by developing personal power, a feeling of I-Can-Do. The suggestions in the article are good ones, and would likely increase one’s feelings of control in one’s work and life.

The first step is to “pinpoint” exactly what is getting you down. Especially important is to study the triggers – what happened just before you got “that” feeling – because each person is different. Often, we can make ourselves into helpless victims or empower ourselves with the way we view our circumstance, for example.

I’ve provided corporate training since in the 1970s and authors a few books on overcoming job burnout.

Shanky Baba

Great article! I would like add few more scenarios when you burn yourself out.

You also get more burned out when you want to start your own company but cannot afford to quit your daily job (of course for financial and personal reasons).

You work 9-6 then you reach home by 7pm and then you just have few hours left to follow your passions/dreams. It is quite tiring and hard to keep up the motivation level.

Anyways nice article.

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