“Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system.”
― Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man
I couldn’t tell you the last time my phone went flat. Completely dead, no battery, black screen.
I can recall a few instances. A day trip to the city where none of us remembered a power bank. Dinner at Nanna’s where my cousins and I realized that Nanna lived right next to a Pokestop and promptly drained our batteries. A road trip in a friends old car that had no aux cord and no charger — we actually had to use CDs to listen to music.
I can’t tell you which was the most recent because my phone dying is a rare occurrence. For the most part, I don’t allow it to happen.
I have two chargers, one that lives in my bedroom and another that lives in my handbag, along with a power bank (just in case). At work, there’s a charger at our lunch table. In the living room, we have a veritable HUB of chargers for all kinds of devices. The car, the kitchen, the office — chargers everywhere.
Because a dead phone is useless. So, we avoid letting them die.
Simple. Them’s the rules.
And yet, we struggle to apply that same rule to ourselves.
I am well-practiced at dealing with burnout. I am not well practiced at avoiding burnout.
Avoiding it altogether is just so much harder.
For years I’ve been in the pattern of work, work, work until I physically can’t anymore and then I take a break until I’m ready to go again.
You know when your phone dies completely and you're faced with the black screen of death and then when you put it on charge it needs some time before it’ll turn back on again?
That’s taking a break only after you’ve burnt yourself out.
Does it work? Yeah, sure. Eventually, you’ll be refreshed enough to get back to work. Eventually your phone will turn back on.
But it wastes time.
When do you put your phone on charge?
Whenever mine hits 20% and the battery bar goes from black to red, that’s my cue. That color strikes the urgency in me.
I also whack it on charge if it’s under 50% and I know I’m going to go out and be away from a power source for a while.
Even though it’s not close to dying, better to charge it while I can.
Then, no matter what, my phone goes on charge at the end of every day, so that the battery’s full for the next morning.
If we translate that to burnout it becomes this:
- I should charge myself when I hit 20% or under. I’m nearing complete burnout and need to take a quick break before I continue.
- I should charge myself if I’m feeling a bit low and know I’m not going to be able to recharge for some time. i.e. if I know I’m going to have a few hard days of work, maybe I should take today off while I can so that my battery’s full.
- I should charge myself every night by making sure I get enough, good quality sleep. This ensures I’ll be rearing to go the next morning, fully charged.
Using this analogy to take breaks when we can and need to, hopefully, we can avoid burnout altogether.