The times are a changin' and the pace at which things move can mess up with the individual. This touches every corner of our society but having placed so much importance on work, and self-actualization through work, our careers fill the spotlight.
Where everything changes in a staccato-like sequence, the lifespan of a single career shrinks. Modular career arcs start to emerge, and singular occupations are receding the foreground on the expense of project work and ever-growing need for multitasking. The lifetime of a career is noticeably narrowed.
Aside from what we do, the way we do it undergoes changes too. We are starting to work in bursts, or to put it mildly, as the project dictates. Working late hours, spending whole weekends staring at the screen, sacrificing what is known as quality time while exalting the importance of some project or another.
Shifting between projects, we are losing the sense of being productive. Constantly checking stats, bank accounts, preoccupying with the minutia of mundane work"¦ I see now, thinking in straight lines, it was only the frosting of the cake. We start working for the sake of work. Predictably, life stops being fun.
Diagnosing the burnout
Before addressing an elephant in the room, I must say that I'm typing this partially for myself. It's been two years now how I took upon this internet projects thing, and opportunities have been piling up ever since. Success, at least in the loose sense of the word, started to manifest as well.
But whenever automation and multitasking take the wheel, as happens increasingly, manic-like symptoms start to pop up. For opportunities, as the number tends to grow create deadlines, work load, anything but narrowed focus. The higher it goes, the slippery it becomes.
A burnout, aside from neutering creativity, brings along a plethora of psychological problems; anxiety, stress, negative energy, a misguided perception that you lose control of your time and consequently your life.
We've build a society where working for the sake of working has become a virtue. A badge of honor, if you so prefer. And romanticizing over the idea of work, we are dwarfing everything else in significance. Happiness, in the full symbiotic sense of the word, is scheduled for later.
The stupid thing one usually does when awareness of a possible burnout rushes in, is trying to artificially create balance. And I'm no exception to this.
When one project was nervously stomping my nerves, I would open up another, and another, and another. You never saw a man taking more pride in multitasking and refusing to quit. There wasn't snowballs' chance in hell for me to cave in.
I tried to diversify the projects, accepting, for the fun of it I guess, to work in a different niche with every next one.
The same goes for thinking about work in bed, under the shower, even when out on a date with a girl.
How to prevent a burnout or restore sanity?
If you are still naÃ¯vely doubting the seriousness of the effect a burnout can have, then all the better. I wish I've paid more attention to detail.
As the project careers take over singular job descriptions; as our daily rotation gets crammed as a consequence of affluence, we shall before long begin to see how serious of a condition a burnout can be.
1. The 80/20 principle (Parreto's law)
We are getting used to work for the sake of work; To be productive for the sake of being productive; A matrix where everything has to be moving for the sake of moving"¦
Adding importance to trivial detail, only to avoid the sense of guilt that we are not in the productive flow.
It is a form of procrastinating and laziness, reinforced by years and years of habits and society defined dogmas which value busyness before productivity and meaningful work.
Without the distraction of deadlines and co-workers, the big questions start to emerge and become harder to fend off for a later time. In a sea of infinite options decisions also become harder "“ What the hell should I do with my life? It's like senior year in college all over again. ~ Tim Ferriss (excerpt from the "The 4-Hour Workweek")
Working only on what matters and what brings you the best results leaves you with plenty of time. Do I just sit around then and do nothing? Not usually, no. But time can be filled with other pursuits as well.
Identify what brings 80 percent of results with only 20 percent of your time, and do the work. If you don't know what this might be, try tackling the work that always gets postponed. Usually, these two are the same.
2. Guilt free fun
For sanity to be restored, life has to have two sides of the coin. Or three, five, more"¦ You see, happiness goes, more or less in tandem, with diversity. And as antithesis to work, irrespective of how fulfilling and fun it is, you have to try and do something totally unrelated.
Sports are usually the best bet, since moving your body can work both as an agent of diversity, as well as tip the chemical scale in your favor. All the feel-good chemicals like dopamine, endorphin and serotonin are released in your brain as you are physically active.
I've, long since, become a fitness addict, and try to introduce diversity by playing sports, going to the gym as of recently, and enjoying home fitness routines such as the cize workout, or any similar home dvd workout. Find a program, make a pattern, and stick with it. Diversity is hard to achieve, unless you are making some effort to spice things up.
3. Morning ritual
I don't get up early"¦ but when I do, I have a whole ritual.
Having your morning organized, if anything, makes you more prepared for the day ahead. It provides rationale in a hectic schedule, an important day at work, peace of mind when you need to type over 2000 words for a project.
Some would love to spread the newspaper while taking sips from a cup of coffee; others find yoga mats more appealing.
Searching for the optimal routine, like anything else, is a form of work. But, everything else being said, it seems a work worth doing.
Personally, I try to do some form of yoga (mostly stretching), and just sit in the quiet afterwards. It helps me gain perspective on some important issues I know I have to deal with later in the day. Then, after a shower and half an hour of reading my favorite blogs, I'm ready to hit the stairs and start the day.
Start getting up earlier one day at a time, and fill the minutes with something that makes you comfortable, but at the same time alert and on the edge.
4. Alone time
This might work in juncture with the morning routine, but if you find yourself in need for more of it, start to plan ahead. Walking your dog, going for a run, taking your bike for a spin, or simply finding a place in your home where you can sit down and relax. I made fun of my girlfriend when she described her meditation as just staring at the ceiling, but if you continue searching for peace of mind within the orthodox format, you might never find what you are looking for. Therefore, find your own idea of "˜meditation', be that in some sort of a hobby, listening to audio books or podcasts, or simply, well, staring at the ceiling.
5. The informational diet
Curiosity, hunger for knowledge and access to mass information- they are all in league against your sanity. For it is custom to the human experience to always seek more, crave more.
Reading and educating yourself more and more on daily basis, aside from being a form of procrastination can easily turn into a symptom of a burnout. When a huge discrepancy creates between how much you consume and how much you implement into your life, frustration eventually builds up. For the odds against success, the more you read, may prove overwhelming.
My advice is to cut the information consumption time in half, and use the rest of it to see how you can apply what you've learned.
6. Baby-like sleep
Seven to eight hours, every night, no philosophy around it. Sleep usually doesn't carry endorsement with the hectic rhythms of today, but the more you fix the frame of when your day starts and when it ends, the better it gets in between.
Think about your stage of burnout
The faster we live our lives, it seems as though we lose control over what is happening and when. Shifting between projects, confusing social with whatever new and distorted version we have at the moment, progressively blurring the line between work and fun and sacrificing habits and routines because of it"¦ we are all in some stage of a burnout. The more aware we become, the better we can replace the garden variety of anxiety, stress, and pessimism, with the sense of balance, confidence, and happiness as a result of it.