Burn out vs Breaks
Original article published on 9/5/2016 by Georgie-Ann Getton-Mckoy
For a long time, I confused being burnt out for taking a break. How did this happen?
The simple answer is having a lack of boundaries, an unclear understanding of my limits and flat out lying to myself. I would work myself so hard, literally day in and day out to complete my tasks and then I literally couldn’t go anymore and I would say to myself “okay now I’ll take a break” but it wasn’t really a break because I literally couldn’t continue even if I tried. It wasn’t until recently when I came to the realization that if I continued on this path, I would not only be less productive but I would ruin my health along the way. Here is how I solved this very unhealthy problem ( and you can too).
Step 1: Differentiation
Recognizing burnout (Unhealthy)
- You don’t want to do anything
- You find yourself doing very unproductive things that cost energy (randomly scrolling through emails and social media but not interacting)
- You don’t eat or sleep properly
- You start tasks but can’t focus then shift to doing very unimportant tasks
Talking Breaks (Healthy)
- Purposely setting aside times to relax
- Still having energy to direct in your break activity
- Sleeping and eating on time and properly
- Doing things on purpose
Step 2: Boundaries
I used to take on tasks, and roles that I was good at even though I wasn’t necessarily passionate about doing them. I thought “it would help build my skillset and resume”. But as time went on I realized that not because I am good or even great at something means I should do that thing. Passion is one of my biggest drivers and when I do things that I am not passionate about I can’t show my full self. I decided to create a list of 4 topics (industries) that I was passionate about AND I was good at. Then I went on to create a list of 4 emotions I wanted to feel about any new role/task I was offered. Creating this topic and emotion mash up allowed me to limit the things I said yes to and only participate in things that I could show up and be fully 100% present in.
Step 3: Honesty
Be honest with yourself and those around you. If you’re tired say so. If a project is due in two days but you know you need 3 days to complete it, say so. You must be honest because if you burn yourself out or push too far beyond your limits you will end up producing half assed work or worse not completing the work at all.
These three steps have helped me to separate Burn out from Breaks. It’s important to take care of yourself. Take breaks, relax, hang out with friends and family. Go on social media to socialize sometimes and not to just market or do research. Because as we all know “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
Now ask yourself
- When was your last break?
- When is your next break?
Other ways to set boundaries
- Set times specifically to reply to emails. Ex: No emails from Friday night to Sunday Morning
- Set times to watch tv or do something fun
- Have a Me day. Ex: One or two days out of the month take a day for yourself. No phone, no computer, no work, just kick back. It may be hard at first but trust me 24 hours isn’t going to set you back as much as you think.
- Do not disturb phone/laptop feature. Ex: I set my phone on do not disturb every night from 10pm-6am. I had a bad habit of thinking that every notification I received needed my immediate attention ( it actually doesn’t). On “do not disturb” I don’t hear or see the notifications (Self-manipulation it helps).