3 Frameworks For Burnout Recovery

You’ve probably noticed it too. The symptoms of burnout are everywhere in the workplace.

When I catch up with people I went to university with they’re quickly trending towards burnout. Work too much. And they’re not working a job they really like. Money reports Americans work 100 hours more a year than Europeans do.

The typical day last 8 hours (often times more). That’s almost a third of your life. Don’t discount against your future self and well-being. Don’t justify continuing to push through when the tank is almost empty.

I was talking to a Director of HR Technology at a baseball game. For 13 years he worked in the corporate world. Each year climbing the ladder until there was nothing left to climb at the company.

He spent years grinding to move up. Until he was stuck. Waiting for someone to retire to leave the company before any more upward mobility could happen.

The wisdom he shared with me cam from what I believe was his burnout recovery. He spoke from a place of revitalized passion for his work, a deeper connection with his new team, and more energy getting put into the things he cared about.

What Are Burnout Symptoms?

Burnout symptoms can manifest in various ways, including physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. The first step in preventing burnout is noticing when these burnout symptoms start to creep in.

Physical burnout symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Soreness
  • Headaches

Emotional burnout symptoms could be:

  • Irritability
  • Detachment
  • Feelings of cynicism

Cognitive burnout symptoms can manifest as:

  • Memory problems
  • Decreased concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions

It is important to recognize these symptoms in order to address them effectively and prevent further burnout.

Avoiding Burnout Early In Your Career

Getting burnout early in your career is the worst thing you can do. It’s the equivalent of running a marathon with a sprained ankle. No one wants to do that.

The beginning of your career is the time you sprint. You have to hustle to get yourself in a position to have flexibility. Flexibility puts you in a position that doesn’t make you desperate for opportunities to come. It’s a safety net.

In the beginning of your career it makes sense to trade some well-being for money so that you can increase your quality of life over time.

Avoiding burnout early in your career comes from knowing yourself. It requires self-awareness. Understanding your what you want out of a job, the type of people you want to work with, and the mission you want to set out to achieve is invaluable.

Having clarity on this will provide you with the discipline to work 8 - 12 hours a day as you fine-tune your craft. Without that sense of direction burnout is a guarantee (Don’t believe me? Go ask people in a retirement community about the work they did).

If you’re reading this and thinking, I’m already headed towards burnout, the same frameworks to recover from burnout symptoms also can be used to avoid burnout at work.

How To Recover From Burnout (in 3 steps)

1. Cast A Vision

I was very fortunate at 20 years old to find a mentor that drilled this idea into me. We meet at least once a quarter. He always ask me what my vision is. I constantly reference it in my decision making. It provides me with the benefit of long-term thinking.

My vision is a fuel reserve that I can pull from when I need it. You’re the captain of your own ship. A vision or north star is what you use to guide your sense of direction. Without it, you’re left drifting at sea.

To create a big vision for your life, you must start with the end in mind.

Write your obituary.

Imagine you have 6 months to live. There’s no hope that you can extend that time. But you have perfect health until the last second. With everything you have available to you today — what do you do? In 6 months, who you are is going to have to meet who you could have been.

Set a timer for 20 minutes, and just write. Don’t think to much about it. Just let the words flow and write in a stream of consciousness.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

What you wrote down are the things you really care the most about (my guess is it’s not making $1,000,000 or getting that promotion). This is the foundations your vision is build off of.

If it helps you, my vision is to enhance the way people work together, share ideas, and build on one another’s insights. I want to help enable people to act for a common purpose that expands the field of potential.

That’s why I spend so much time researching and writing for Pioneers Project.

2. Set Your Breaking Points

Like I mentioned earlier, avoiding burnout comes from knowing yourself. The conversation I had at that baseball game centered around this idea. Know your breaking points.

You burnout recovery comes from doing as much thinking as you can upfront. Setting your breaking points frees you up to do better work. It gives you the out when you start displaying the symptoms of burnout. It keeps you from quitting or going through all the doomsday scenarios too.

You know when you’ll quit from the start. What point will that be? Doing this thinking upfront remove all the emotions. It keeps you from reasoning with yourself when the time has come. Breaking points keep you from job burnout.

Why am I getting involved with this company?

When do I leave?

Why do I leave?

What gets me up in the morning?

What could stop me from getting up in the morning?

These answers matter for the big picture. It affects you in abstract ways, not necessarily in your day-to-day.

3. Don’t Move The Goal Post

Modern capitalism creates an every moving goal post. Expectations rise with results. Ambitions grow twice as fast as satisfaction.

At each step you move the goal post forward. You work twice as hard to try and reach your new goal and it leads right back to the same place. Always two steps behind.

An important skill is understanding when to stop moving the finish line. To accept the progress you’ve made in the past so that you can be satisfied with the current results.

If you don’t slow down you’ll always feel like you’re falling behind. This is what creates burnout in the first place. It comes from feeling like you’re on a treadmill 24/7.

Moving the goal post will drive you to take more risks. It will rob you of your passion. Eventually you’ll land right back at the start. Wishing for a different situation.

Burnout comes from the need to constantly surpass your peers. It’s this comparison that causes Americans to work over 2 weeks more than Europeans. Early in your career, it’s exactly what you need to avoid. We’re all running our own race.


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