How To Deal With The Temptation Of Checking Out
Because it's summer and the urge gets pretty intense.
I've got a long history of checking out of various things. High school, college, most jobs... I just get to a point where I don't want to be there anymore. It's not as if I actually check out and leave, but I do tend to check out and produce less than stellar work.
Call it spring fever, senioritis, or whatever. I've had it, and I'm betting that you've had it too. Maybe you're dealing with it this summer.
It's not like I'd blame you. I've been out of high school for practically 20 years and I'm still terribly nostalgic for the pure freedom of summer vacation.
But let's be honest, if you're the kind of person who battles the urge to check out with this change of season, it may not be limited to the summer months at all.
There's also every other holiday that comes up over the year. Not to mention whatever random thing is happening in your personal life at any given moment. I've been in relationships that led to me checking out of everything else in my life.
There is always a reason to check out of work, school, or any other serious endeavor. But if your urge goes uncurbed, you could have a real problem.
Burnout is real.
The World Health Organization now considers burnout a legitimate syndrome with serious repercussions.
WHO defines the syndrome as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
Hmm, that sounds a lot like checking out, don't you think?
Never checking out is not the mission. But avoiding burnout? That’s an important goal.
It's unrealistic (and unhealthy) to tell ourselves that we shouldn't check out. In some respects, checking out might be a good thing as long as we are mindful when it happens.
And then, of course, we have to manage our impulse to check out of things so we don't just shoot ourselves in the foot.
Lately, I've been feeling the urge to check out and quit working. As a single mom with big goals and none of the traditional job perks like insurance or a 401(k), I can't afford to completely check out.
Instead, I'm managing my impulse to check out, and here's what's worked for me:
1. Adjust your goals.
After nearly 14 months of writing constantly and finishing multiple pieces every day, maybe it's not such a bad thing if I take more breaks this summer. It might be a good time for you to shift gears too.
It makes sense to recalibrate our goals from time to time and to take into account those periods where we're starting to feel like checking out.
How can you get by with working a little less? Can you change your focus at all to work more on passion projects? There are many ways to keep working but give yourself a sort of breather. Especially for writers.
2. Schedule more breaks.
I am not big on impromptu breaks because I find that they make it too easy to fall into a bad pattern of constantly putting off your work.
That said, it's important to listen to your body and mind about when you need a break.
For a few weeks, my sleep hasn't been the greatest. When my daughter woke me up unusually early on Monday morning, I had a feeling that it wasn't going to be a great day.
I wound up writing, but I wasn't productive enough to finish a piece. At that point, I had to call it.
I admitted to myself that I was too tired to keep going, saved my work and took a long (and guilt-free shower). And then, I decided to spend half my Tuesday at the library and park with my kid.
Wednesday? We are going to run some errands with friends.
Oh, and on Thursday, I host my first blogging class with Shaunta Grimes.
See what I did there? It's summertime and I feel like checking out, so I decided to schedule more breaks away from my usual writing. More breaks despite knowing that my daughter and I are taking a week-long vacation at the end of the month.
3. Don't give up on hard work.
So, I'm taking more breaks from writing... but here I am, writing in between some of those breaks. Why? Because working hard matters. Especially in the writing world, because you can't get anywhere by not writing.
You need to try to balance your breaks with your work time. It doesn't have to be perfect--it only needs to work for you.
Hard work sometimes gets a bum reputation, as if it's not enough, or even superfluous. But I think practically every successful person will admit that you can't avoid hard work.
It doesn't matter if you're writing or going after any other goal. You have to work hard to accomplish whatever you've set out to do. That's not hype or hyperbole.
That's just life.
4. Set yourself up for success by minimizing distractions during work hours.
Emails and messaging apps tend to distract me when I work. If I'm busy writing, and already getting interrupted by my daughter, I can't afford to respond to everyone else who's trying to talk to me.
To deal with this issue, I frequently turn off notifications on my tablet and phone. I set my office hours each day, and then do my best to stick to them for my own sanity.
Boundaries like office hours are probably even more important when you feel like checking out. Distractions are everywhere, and they'll wear you down at certain times more than others.
Consider yourself a high risk for distraction when summer (or whatever thing) makes you want to be anywhere but here. And then figure out how you can make it work by setting yourself up for success.
5. Don't lose sight of the big picture.
Perspective is a lot like magic when you are trying to build a great life. It means you keep the big picture within your vision rather than getting bogged down by the details.
The big picture helps you determine when to take more breaks and how to adjust your goals.
It also helps you avoid losing your cool if you happen to get overwhelmed.
Honestly, perspective can make you happier and more positive, which makes a pretty big difference anytime you have to work hard. It keeps you going, so you don't just give up when you do feel like checking out.
You're not lazy if you feel like checking out, you're just human. Knowing that and accepting it will go a long way to help you achieve your goals without falling victim to burnout.