I love my job. I really do. Even though I’ve worked with some of the most demanding, annoying, pain-in-the-ass co-workers, even though I’ve been physically attacked, had my heart broken by seeing some of what I have to see on a daily basis, even though I’ve frequently had to walk into a room with absolutely no preparation and very little idea of what exactly was expected of me, I love my job. Three years ago, I couldn’t say that. Five years ago, I couldn’t say that. Now I can, but not then.
I used to get burned out at work. I’d get to a certain place within the company, I’d figure out everything within the company that I needed to know in order to be effective, and I’d get bored. Sometimes being really good at my job would backfire on me and my bosses would start piling work on me that I couldn’t handle. Again and again it would happen, and when it did, I generally would get fired within the year. Eventually, I read somewhere in some book that I needed to find mentors that would help me to survive being burned out.
I tried to find a mentor, I really did. The problem was that everybody I looked to as a mentor looked at me with suspicion. I don’t know whether they thought I was playing a joke on them, or if they believed I was somehow plotting to screw them out of their job. Point is, my choices of mentors didn’t really help me to survive burn-out. It wasn’t until I had my own employees that I realized that burn-out is a terminal condition, for which there is no cure.
So, are you completely screwed?
While it’s true that once you get burned-out, there really is little you can do to undo it (not in every case, but the majority of time), there are some things you can do to avoid burn-out.
“I don’t need time off.”
“I’m too young to need a vacation.”
“I can’t afford to take the time off.”
“I have too much to do.”
“Blah, blah blah.”
There are a ton of other excuses as well. All of them are BS! First, if you like your job and the people you work with, you need to make sure that you are bringing in your best self to work. That means taking a few days when the opportunities present themselves. Second, the company was doing just fine before you got there, they will survive a few days without you. JUST DON’T OVERDO IT!
Leave work at work: As a teacher, I am frequently called upon to do work for school at home. I do what I need to do, but I make sure I leave as much time as possible for me to have some kind of life. Besides, when you are too attached to work, your personal relationships will suffer, which will stress you out at work, which leads to…,? You got it- burn-out!
Manage your finances: If you are a normal, you work for one major reason. You need to pay your bills and survive. If you get yourself way out of whack financially, you are going to get frustrated that your job just isn’t cutting it anymore. Once that happens, burn-out comes quickly after questions like:
“Why can’t I make enough money to catch up?”
“How come I never have any money to do anything?”
“Other people don’t go through this, why me?”
If you are being financially responsible, saving when you can, spending when you should, and are not stressed out about money you don’t have, you aren’t stressing about what your job isn’t providing for you.
Stay healthy: Much like poor financial health will affect your job performance, poor physical health will make you have to work harder to achieve the same results. Harder work for which you will NOT be paid extra. If you are working harder, but making the same amount of money, your stress level and your propensity for burn-out will increase.
Have fun! Tied to several of these things, is the basic need to have fun. I teach, Monday through Friday. When I’m healthy, I also go to a gym and work out regularly for fun. On weekends, I visit with family and play RockBand with my in-laws- for fun! I firmly believe that being able to do something that allows me to burn off some steam where I don’t have to think about work allows me to go to work ready to work and ready to avoid burn-out.
Take a nap: Along the lines of staying healthy, stay rested. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t tired during your work day, and try to limit exertion late at night before you go to work. Of course, some exertion is fun, relaxing, and totally worth it, so use your best judgment here.
So, before you get to the point where you are burnt out, try one or more of these ideas, or if you know of some ideas that work as well or better, let us know. Like any other terminal disease, burn-out can be prevented. Take this holiday weekend, if you are able, and start getting to the point where you are able to relax and avoid getting burnt out altogether.
Of course, there is a stage that comes before burn-out, as our friends from Foreigner can tell you. Enjoy!