How not to burn out
It’s not rocket-surgery. You need Chill Time. But some people are so lost they don’t even know what chill time is.
Chill time isn’t time spent asleep, watching Netflix, or reading business books. Chill time is engaging enough to remove your mind from your everyday thoughts, and/or taking your body out of its usual position hunched over a laptop or mobile phone.
Chill time isn’t crossfit, spin class or hot yoga unless it is preceeded and followed-by a few minutes of silence and stillness.
After chill time, you don’t feel like you ‘smashed it’. After chill time you feel balanced, calm, focused and perhaps even joyful.
Nature helps because it’s beautiful, because it’s usually further than an arm’s span from your eyes (focusing on a horizon instead of a screen is great for your eyesight and brain) but mainly because it’s the environment your body and mind were designed for. If you can’t find any nature, then silent or nearly-silent places are good.
Chill time takes up time which could otherwise be applied to work, but chill time makes your work time more productive.
Find someone who can help you stop cheating yourself
Don’t do meditation, yoga or exercise alone, unless you’re very disciplined. You will eat into that time with work tasks/thinking or skip it all together because it’s cold outside or because you don’t feel up to it. Don’t do it in a large group either because you won’t feel accountable to a large group of strangers. It should be you plus one or two other people.
Knowing that I’m letting my training friends down if I don’t show up is enough to make me be accountable to them, which forces me to make time for it. Interacting with them during exercise means I can’t be distracted from being present and in the moment by thoughts of work or financial troubles.
How to actually spend time unplugged
If you have trouble working up to the commitment to find some time to unplug, book a cheap airfare (so it has a massive cancellation fee) to somewhere with very little access to internet and modern media (I highly recommend Leh, in Ladakh). Make sure the return flight is at least two weeks from the arrival date (decompressing takes longer than most people think, and you’re fooling yourself if you think unplugging for three days does anything).
What do you do while you’re unplugged? Chill time. You can find a lot of small yoga and meditation classes in Leh, but if that isn’t your thing, hire a guide and rent some gear and go trekking — let your trek guide hold you accountable for your chill time.
Come back from that trip and find that the world has not collapsed without you 24x7 holding up the sky — you will gradually build up the courage to go offline more often.
Check whether your friends or your partner are part of the problem
Choose a life partner or friend who has enough empathy and insight to step outside their own troubles, read your mind and tell you when you need to take a break.
Too many stressed people unknowingly choose to be with other stressed people because neither of you are aware that this constant level of stress is even there, but it is, and it’s doing harm.
Find someone who seems really slow, thoughtful, quiet and calm. Ask them to tell you when they think you need to stop. Gradually they will help you develop the skill to observe this in yourself.