Burnout

by Scott Boms

66 Reader Comments

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  1. Part of my problem is that I get all this “˜external praise’ for doing the things that lead to burnout! Lots of times people talk about my work ethic and how quickly I get things done — but inside I feel empty.

    d4kc brings up something that was a real trigger for me in my own experience with burnout. Getting things done is good. Getting things done in a timely matter is good. Getting things done too quickly, and consistently means that you’re probably not focused and jumping around from one thing to the next. It likely means that you’re being interrupted regularly by small fires that need to be put out and that break your train of thought in solving problems – in other words “context shifting”.

    You can think of “context shifting” like switching from one application on the computer to another – each time you have to load up a new set of rules and information before you can do anything. This means you lose focus, and once lost, can be really hard to get back.

    The question to always ask yourself is simply: “Does it need to be done right this second or can this wait until this afternoon or tomorrow?”

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  2. Wonderful article.  I am still in the midst of trying to get over burnout after getting my graduate degree and being unable to find steady work.  I found it to be really inspiring, hopeful and I’m looking forward to emerging on the other side a stronger person.

    Thanks.

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  3. For the past 6 months or so I have been noticing a real lack of disconnect. I wake in the morning and check email first thing before anyone wakes up. I put the kids to sleep and get back on after having worked all day. Burnout happened months ago but I pushed through it not recognizing what was going on.

    I really appreciated this article as it made me pause and take inventory. It is summertime and I am motivated to spend time with the kids at the pool and beach more than ever. Thank you for your insight.

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  4. Marcus – I was more of less in the same situation – before I realized that I was burnt out I was checking email at crazy hours and working long into the night and brushed the symptoms aside which I really should have just stopped and took a long hard look at what was causing them. Hindsight is 20/20 but the article has done it’s job if it’s helped you even if only in a small way.

    Enjoy your summer and keep making time for yourself and your family so you can find the balance that works for you.

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  5. I particularly appreciated the part “Rely on a good process.” For a person that often walks the line of burnout running a web agency it is refreshing to hear others speak up about this and push back. Thanks for the tip on the email usage Franckg. I changed my email to only send receive every 30 minutes and that was a huge help so I can only imagine that increasing this will help more.

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  6. Although, it was written a bit late. haha

    About 3 months ago I quit my 6 year design/front end development career and started going back to school for something entirely unrelated to design, media, development, and the web in general. I cant take the industry anymore. Now it’s just a super-selective (almost hobbiest style) freelance gig for me.

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  7. Thank you for the article. I am from Bratislava, Slovakia and have absoluely nothing to do with any kind of design.
    But I am burned out, just browsing the Internet to see what the hell is wrong with me as I am sooo tired, frustrated and have no interest in anything. We are having a great business month at work and I cannot care less, eventhough it is my team who brought the business in. I find it difficult to even talk, my husband does not understands what is going on and I do not feel like talking about it.
    But I obviously have to do something about it and I will take in your advice. I am glad I read the article.

    Thank you

    Michaela

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  8. Heck, that’s a brilliant article. I’ve never seen something like this targetted at web guys before but by the same token I’ve read we’re amongst the most vulnerable to burnout, alongside doctors and the like. Now hitting my 30s I’m seeing these troubles first hand. My daily dose of Escitalopram keeps me engaged in my work where previously I had a spell where I just wasn’t interested and took time off with depression. Playing a game to give my life a meaning shouldn’t be an actual life and death situation. When burnout arrives it’s like a sense of self presevation kicking in, like your body understands that it’s just playing a game and wants to move you out of harms way in the name of genuine self-preservation. You finish up sort of intentionally behaving in conflict with your own values and aims which makes the whole situation pretty darn rubbish to stomach.

    ‘A little is dangerous’ and ‘planning fallacy’ are the twin banes of the web developer. Tasks come to you with an expectation, usually very much below the mark because an inexperienced technician will not see the full complexity of the task in hand, and won’t be ready to recognise their own inexperience. Couple this with the fact that an experienced techician will have a better idea but generally underestimates anyway ‘planning fallacy’ and you finish up hurtling into the abyss. The end result being unattainable goals and a sense of personal failure when deadlines are missed that drives a developer to do their absolute best and put matters straight. That absolute best is not something that somebody can keep doing for any length of time. If I was to offer advice, it would be to learn to let people know you care when things run over, try to sort it out without overexerting yourself, but never panic and imagine your career or reputation is on the line.

    This is the first article I’ve seen where there’s an understanding that a vocational techy can’t really change roles. If I was sweeping floors I’d go tend bar instead but I’ve put a real investment into my career and want to keep it moving. Thanks for some good reading.

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  9. The creative industry is a tough business and it will always be a tough way to make a living. That said, I probably speak for most of us in saying that, “I wouldn’t have it any other way”.  I love my job and a periodic creative meltdown is not something that frightens me … In fact, I’ve come to embrace it.  There is no point in fighting the inevitable, especially when it gives me the best reason I can ask for to take a vacation. 

    Just plan for it and if you are the type who likes to “recharge” on vacation, notify your clients well ahead of time and get an iPhone to track “fires”. I recently disappeared for two weeks and saved three jobs with a few emails.  It’s that easy to enjoy time off.

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  10. A very nice article. But do people realize that they are on their way to a burnout? Burnout is not a depression, but in some aspects comparable. If you are depressed you can´t just think: “Yes, I´m feeling down, but that´s only because I have a depression. So nothing to worry about. I just have to wait until the depression is over.” Depressive thoughts feel real. One beleves at that moment that this depressive reasoning reflects the truth.
    If I no longer enjoy my work and are fed up with it, it probably wouldn´t come into my mind that this is just because I´m getting a burnout. Being tired from too much work and knowing that ones has to take a good rest, is not a sign of a burnout. I think it´s a mental thing. And one cannot be 2 persons at the same time. One person that is living a burnout and another one that watches the first person like a doctor and tells him what to do and how to better his behavior.

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  11. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve lost count of the number of occasions over the years, where I’ve felt like wanting to run away from everything. I wonder how many of us have been ignoring the signs? A lot of us are feeling pressured into getting work done, in order to retain clients. In a recession, the fear of being out of work raises the pressure even more. I’ve bookmarked this one for future reference.

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  12. Oddly enough, I had a teacher who would take on huge contracts, work non-stop for a few months to the point of burnout, and then take a few weeks off.

    Having gone through a burnout myself back in 2001, it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The smallest tasks seem like a mountain. Never again. Exercise, take time off, learn to say no. I’ve started martial arts, and the extreme workouts have not just helped against burnout but give me more energy, less sicks day and a clearer mind. Eating well is also important. Your body is a machine and needs to be taken care of the same way you would car for your automobile or computer.

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  13. Wow, this article is exactly what I needed a couple of years ago.  I had massive burnout, it was literally killing me.  I got out of the company I was in then thinking that would solve it.  All it did was lead to burnout in another environment.

    Luckily I was able to get things under control, even though it’s a constant struggle to keep from falling into bad habits that can lead to burnout.  The biggest help for me was to set very strict boundaries.  When it’s me time or family time, client phone calls do not get answered, period.  It’s amazing to me that today’s culture has become such that clients expect you to be there for them 24/7.  I even went through a period without a cell phone and the world kept turning and I was happier. 

    Today’s culture, especially in the U.S., seems to think that anything less than the type of intense work that leads to burnout is laziness.  It’s absolutely ridiculous. 

    Thanks for the article.  It’s a very important subject matter and you handled it very well.

    “Shiba Inu”:http://www.shibainupup.com
    “Shiba Inu puppies”:http://www.shibainupup.com

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  14. yes mate,  sometimes need to take rest and clean mind to :)

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  15. Neurofeedback or brain training is a great way to decrease stress and increase creativity.  My friend told me about it who was addicted to her Blackberry.  She was finally able to relax again in the evening and on weekends.  I tried it and it helped tremendously with writer’s block and creativity.

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  16. The article is well written for the most part; however, I disagree with the author’s comment regarding career change being rarely a realistic option.  Sometimes career change is a solution for those who may have exhausted all other alternatives connected to relieving his/her symptoms of burn out.  I am certain that most of us know people (if not ourselves) who have changed careers up to three or four times before finding the one that aligned with their personal values and goals. 

    Though career change may seem tough in the beginning, there are plenty of support services out there to help with the transition.  Also, in light of the current state of our economy, more Americans are using the effects of the recession as a means to pursue their passion or to find purpose, considering that job security is also a concept of the past. 

    From experience, a good rule of thumb for anyone considering career change as a solution to burn out would be to measure his/her personal values and beliefs against the values and mission statement of the company to which he/she is applying.  Sometimes a misalignment between employee and employer (company culture) may contribute to burnout down the road.

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