How do you avoid burnout? I’ve been asked this question a million times, and the older I get the more I think I’m equipped to handle this question. By the way, age is an important factor in all of this, which is why I brought up the fact that as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at this. When you’re younger there’s less likely a chance you’ll even try to spot burnout (we’ll get into that).
Part of the reason I think I know how to handle burnout now more than ever is a function of me being my own boss, but another is that as you age you tend to listen to your body more. Which is to say that before I even go into my strategies for not burning out, I would suggest that the earlier in life you learn to spot burnout, the better off you will be. Not to mention the “younger” you’ll feel, even as you get older
To me there are two basic strategies to avoid burnout:
1. Heading it up at the pass
This method is much easier said than done but if you can learn to master this one I suspect you’ll have very few if any burnout issues. It’s a simple strategy but we more often than not, completely ignore it our lives. The key is NOT to. Again, it’s extremely difficult but if it were easy, no one would ever burn out.
Ready? Good. Here it is: when you feel any kind of of burnout, you have to take a step back, and you need to pay attention to how you feel. That’s it. That’s your answer. Feeling tired? Take a nap. Are you in pain? Rest. Are you feeling ridiculously stressed or know that you are about to? Take a deep breath. Use whatever strategy works for the stress you feel.
But as I said before, this is easier said than done. Why? Because most of us don’t have the kind of freedom and schedules in our lives that 100% allow us to act on these feelings of burnout. And unfortunately this tends to start at a very early age.
Early in our careers (and even earlier than that as we begin to play sports and engage in competitive activity), we’re told to “push through.” We’re taught to max out our limits and do things to the best of our ability. Unfortunately that ends up meaning pushing ourselves too far.
No matter how tired we are, we’re taught to give it another rep. No matter how much we think we can’t go on, we’re told to take that extra step. Do NOT get me wrong. There is absolutely a time and place to push ourselves. But remember this: Pushing ourselves is WAY different than being burned out. The sooner off you can make that distinction the better off you are.
For example, pushing yourself to the max in a workout is extremely different than trying to workout when you are injured. In one example you’re sustaining maximum effort to get the best results. In the other example you’re just being foolish and dangerous.
So, if this method is so hard, is there an easier way? No, but it’s a surer way:
2. Forcing yourself not to burn out
And when I say “forcing yourself” I mean setting up a specific system that will prevent burnout. In essence we’re talking about a routine and very specific things at very specific times of day that you do in order to keep yourself healthy in a physical and mental way.
There are a million things you can do to create this system, but that is something you have to figure for yourself. It usually takes some trial and error but once you can get into a groove, you’ll find it easier. But let’s take me for an example. One thing I do religiously in order to avoid burnout is taking naps.
I nap every single day at around noon…. a half hour to an hour every single day, without exception (to the best of my ability). I’ve instructed my wife and kids to never, ever bother me during this time. I shut the door, lie down, and let it happen. Again, it doesn’t always work out this way but it’s pretty darned good.
After my nap I feel refreshed, ready to go, and it’s just a huge help to me physically and mentally. But as I mentioned before, I think as I’ve gotten older I have a greater ability to pinpoint when my stress levels are too high and to take that step back, take a walk, do something, else watch TV, I mean, it doesn’t matter what it is, when I need to.
I think the more you can hone in on your “inner self” the better off you are, but a way to control that is to set up a system where you don’t burn out and don’t give yourself the chance to burn out. Unfortunately if you work for a company and you have a boss that won’t let you nap, well, that sucks. And that’s something you really need to look at.
Luckily these days work places are beginning to adjust and the whole “face time” economy appears to be waning.
And again, it doesn’t have to be a nap. That’s just my example. For you it could be meditation. It could be making yourself take a walk every hour. Honestly it doesn’t matter. But there needs to be a “preservation” system in place.
Think of yourself as an athlete saving up energy for that final push. You’ve got to maintain yourself as best as you can for those moments of extreme exertion.
Good luck out there!