I want to tell you something that you won’t hear in most self-development books.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s unlikely that you hear it enough.
And that is this; stop working so hard towards your goals!
Yup. You’re working too hard.
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with hard work. But what our culture perpetuates when it comes to long days is really the just glorification of burnout.
If you work a corporate job you’ll probably get honours and accolades for putting in 70+ hour weeks, and if you’re an entrepreneur you’ve probably absorbed a ton of ideas about how you need to hustle and work harder than everyone else.
But I’m here to tell you the opposite. I’m here to tell you that you need to take a break from your goals.
6 months ago I suffered a pretty heavy case of burnout. So heavy in fact, that at one point or another I experience all of the signs I’m going to share with you. My instinct was to keep working, harder, and harder. In the end, I literally had to tear myself away from the desk.
However, when I took a step back, made an effort to put my goals into perspective – reevaluate them and de-romanticise them – I could dive back into my projects with renewed energy and vitality, and even more important than that, a playful attitude.
Life goes in cycles. Sometimes it is time to push yourself, while sometimes it is time to pull back and relax. And the truth is that pushing yourself isn’t actually that hard, and neither is relaxing – though for some of us they can be.
What’s really difficult is to have the intuition and the emotional intelligence to be able to distinguish when it is time for one, and when it is time for the other.
What I’ve written here are 6 signs your body and mind will give you that can tell you that it’s time to take a break from your goals.
If you’re experiencing one or two of these it may be nothing, but any more and it’s likely you’re on a one-way train to burnout and if you really want to be productive, it’s time to get off at the next station.
1. Your memory is slipping
If you don’t typically have issues with your short-term memory but you’re noticing that you’ve started to forget things, it’s definitely time to think about taking a step back.
The stress hormone cortisol actually impairs the ability of the hippocampus in both the encoding and recollection of memories. If you’re experiencing memory loss it’s a sign that you may be under chronic stress.
2. You’re drinking more coffee
Drinking more coffee is a subtle sign that you’re overworked. You may rationalize it by saying that you’ve just got a lot on your plate, but the reality is that if you’re becoming increasingly dependent on caffeine to get through the day, this is a sign that your mind is fatigued and isn’t working as well as it usually does.
3. You feel nauseous or fatigued when you wake up
Feeling nauseous when you wake up is a likely sign that you’ve been anxious throughout the night. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can’t even let go of your goals when you’re sleeping, it’s definitely time to take a break. Pushing yourself is useful, but sleep is incredibly valuable and if you’re nauseous or fatigued, you’re probably past the point of diminishing returns.
4. Your attention is all over the place
When you’re struggling to focus on any one thing for a prolonged period of time then it’s another clear sign that your mind is tired. If you’re noticing that you’re giving less to personal relationships and you’re not making real progress with your work related goals, then you probably need a break.
5. Your weight is fluctuating (despite no changes in lifestyle)
Whether you’re putting on weight or losing it, this is likely a result of changes in appetite because of stress. Some people lose their appetite, while others will eat as a response to anxiety, either way, it’s not a good sign and particularly worrying if there have been no changes to your diet or exercise regime.
6. You’re being uncharacteristically anti-social
If you are naturally an introvert, then this may not be anything to get alarmed about, but it is if you usually derive energy from going out and being with people. When you stop doing the things that give you energy, such as socializing, it’s an indication that you’re on a downward spiral.
Knowing when to take a break and when to push on is a true skill, but one that is absolutely necessary to develop. If you think you’re nearing burnout, don’t be scared to take a step back, recharge and re-evaluate your habits!