Over the last 2 years, working from home, a lot of boundaries between work and life have disappeared. A lot of us work to achieve our goals, realize our passion and sometimes we work tirelessly. But, what if, in between all of this, we end up losing all the happiness associated with those achievements? What if we become tired by the time, we reach our desired goal?
Over the web, we can find an endless series of posts and influencer articles on how to be more productive. How sleeping for 4 hours a day is cool and working your ass off should be the goal. Or work hard in these early years and the later ones will be a breeze.
Over the last year, this is what I realized. Life and career are a never-ending race. There is always going to be something else to achieve. One higher level, or more money. But in between all of this, we forget one of the most important things, our own mental state.
Let me say this,
“Burnouts are real“
Like many other people, I am no different. Focused on the career, looking to achieve the next level in what I do. Add to that working in a job that also aligns with my passion. All of this sounds great, but what I missed to realize was, I am too much invested in my passion. I wasn’t taking breaks, at least enough of them. As the year progressed, I found myself reaching a stage where I started losing my interest in doing things that earlier seemed exciting. And the cycle started from there. Instead of realizing that I am not giving myself enough breaks, I started reading “Inspirational” articles on how to be more productive. How sleeping 4-5 hours a day has made people achieve remarkable success.
Whoops, and here started the mess. Pushing myself way beyond what my mind and body were ready to accommodate.
As I pushed myself more, the consequences also started to show up. Although I thought I was achieving my long-term goals, something didn’t feel right. The whole thought process became hazy. I was overcommitting and underdelivering and even on days when I was delivering, there was no happiness. The quality of output suffered, and sleep patterns started to degrade.
When you have ten things lined up, don’t worry, you won’t need any inspirational post, the pressure itself won’t let you sleep 🙂
I was losing my motivation, and the things I enjoyed earlier, I started feeling tired of them. Instead of being happy, I felt burned out.
So, how did I get out of it?
Recognizing and Realizing
Getting out of this cycle of burnout starts from identifying that you are indeed in a burnout phase. Sometimes you will realize this yourself, other times it takes outside input. For me, it was the latter one. I must say, I feel lucky to have a partner and colleagues who provide a constant reflection on whether what I am doing is sustainable or not. This is where I got hints, that maybe what I am doing is not sustainable in the longer term, and what will matter is consistency over time.
This feedback proved to be a reflection point. I started to recognize that although things were making progress, the state of my mind was regressing. I wasn’t thinking right and a lot of decisions I was taking were driven by impulse rather than thorough logic.
I must say, as much as it is important to have people in your life who will motivate you to achieve the next level, it is equally and even more important to have people who will tell you when what you are doing is unsustainable.
So, the problem is now recognized, it was time to fix things up!
Breaking out of the cycle
Once you enter the cycle of burnout, it can be hard to get out. This happens because most of the steps you take, or plan are reactive and do not consider the end goal. For me, the first thing I did was to hold on to committing to new things. The goal was to finish the things which were already there without raising additional expectations. Several times, when things felt like a stretch, asking for help was a good option.
As things started reaching completion, the stress gradually reduced. I wasn’t focused on moving to the next thing, all I wanted to do was complete what I committed to.
Once things were sorted, it was time to take a break! and a long one. No matter what you think, the mind does need a cool-off. During this break (an extended one to be honest), I refrained from doing anything technical. Rather, I caught up to all the sleep I missed, focused on working out, cooking things on random days, or just hanging around with friends. Was it productive? In a traditional sense, probably not! But for once, this period of not being productive was much required.
Now, as I plan to resume back for work, I feel refreshed, more focused and this time armed with the lessons for what not to do to make sure this burnout phase doesn’t repeat.
The Lessons Learned
From the whole period of gradually going into a burnout zone, to being burned out and getting out of it, there were a number of lessons I learned.
- Life and career goals are a never-ending chase, sometimes a break is important
- What matters is long-term consistency and not short bursts of energy
- When you start hating things that are your passion, it is a time to reflect on yourself and what you are doing to see whether it is correct or not
- Asking for external help should not be looked down upon, sometimes people observe things earlier than your own self-realization
- Breakout from doing what you do on a regular basis is important and is something that will help keep you going for a long time
Overall, I feel, and I hope the concept of taking a break becomes as mainstream as the concept of increasing productivity because your goals are as much important as being happy when you end up achieving them 😀
Also published on Medium.