Bye-Bye Burnout: How to Stay Productive and Stress-Free

We’ve all been there. Your boss is hounding you, you have papers due first thing in the morning, the kids are hungry, AND there’s that one really annoying chore you’ve been putting off for eons that’s still looming in the back of your mind, but somehow you have energy for exactly zero of those things. You’re burnt out.

What is it you need?

A vacation?

Motivation?

A glass of wine?

What you need is a mindset shift

Your sense of burnout comes from the idea that hard work = energy drain. The harder you work, the more it grinds on you and the more time you need to spend watching reality TV or scrolling through Instagram, right?

The best way to set you back on track is to change your thinking (although that glass of wine never hurt anyone, lol).

What if instead of feeling drained by your work, you felt energized and excited at the challenge?

What if instead of feeling miserable, you felt determined?

The truth is that you don’t need a vacation, Netflix binge, or burst of inspiration to do it all. You just have to rethink how you approach hard work. Instead of seeing it as something that gets in your way and rains on your parade, remember that this is a challenge that strengthens you and makes you a better woman (or man, or nonbinary badass). It’s your fuel to a better, brighter life. I think good ol’ Nietzsche had it right:

 

The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster; in the labyrinth… their delight is in self-mastery… They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.” -Nietzsche

 

Now, listen. I’m not saying that you can just go and go forever. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? What I’m saying is that there’s a certain amount of self-imposed stress that makes burnout happen a lot sooner than it really needs to. Maybe you don’t even realize it. Are you really out of energy, or do you just secretly want to veg out and do nothing? Are you really booked, or are you letting time-stealers like Facebook and video games eat away at your precious leisure AND productive time (in which case, you lose both)? (PS, check out my post on how to kill your bad habits for good here.)

The key is to know yourself and your priorities. Only keep on your plate the things that are necessary right now and learn how you can best take care of them. Are you a morning person? Plan your most important work for the mornings. Can’t think until after 10pm? You do you, night owl. Type that report overnight. Adapt your work routine to your life, not the other way around.

My Action Plan for Burnout

I’m a burnout veteran.

I used to be the crash-and-burn, work-til-you-drop kind of person who started a project thinking that if it takes 5 days of 4 hours of work, why not just work 20 hours straight?!

I was determined to be the best, no matter what the cost. Shouldn’t that workload be normal? Too bad it led to horrible health problems, a questionable caffeine addiction, and more emotional ups and downs than can be expected even of a young girl.

So what did I do?

As with most problems, the solution came with changing my mindset. I told myself the following:

  1. This work is making me smarter, stronger, and hardier and because of that, I love it. Ponying up and getting the work done is more than worth it, because the break I think I need is in no way contributing to my personal development.
  2. I can’t do all of this right now, or I can’t do it alone. I make way for what has to get done right now and schedule the rest for a different time or cancel it altogether. Or, I enlist help to accomplish these tasks if needed.
  3. I’m more productive at certain times than others. I block off those times to work, and not force myself to work at times where I’m typically more relaxed or more energetic. Also according to this, I’ve moved my exercise and my hobby times. Now I can finish each task and do it much more meaningfully.

Life will always bombard you, but it’s important to know that you control how you deal with it. You can choose to see this workload as an annoyance and a burden or as an exciting challenge that strengthens you.

Your Personal Burnout Be-Gone

Still find yourself watching the clock with dread? Here are my suggestions to help you bring out your inner boss lady:

  • For the next week, track your emotions and energy level hour-to-hour. Yes, seriously. This helps you see not just what your thoughts regarding hard work and busyness are, but what your energy levels are like. Maybe you didn’t realize that you get a mad rush of energy around 9 pm. Maybe you’re especially creative when you first wake up around 4 am. Turns out you hate your job overall, but love meeting with clients. Rate your opinions on a scale from 1-10.
  • Reframe your day to match your energy and emotional trends. I personally can only hit the gym around 12 m to 2 am. Weird? Perhaps. Works for me. Maybe you’ll do better in the morning just before work or at night just before bed.
  • Where are you losing time? Do you aimlessly surf social media? Are you a gaming junkie? Reality TV connoisseur? Always make time to relax, but ask yourself if you’re losing too much time to these things. Is it an entertainment source that’s actually entertaining and enriching you, or is it a way for you to turn your mind off?
  • What in your life is sapping your energy to make you more burnout-prone? What can you do to change your feelings towards it, change it, or remove it from your life?

And be sure to post your plans or your thoughts below. I’d love to hear what you think.

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