“The land of burnout is a place I never want to go back to.” - Arianna Huffington
Burnout will happen to you. Even if you have your dream job, there will be mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed. Days will come when there is nothing left in the tank and the work becomes monotonous.
I have a theory that burnout comes about because the mind isn’t being challenged or stimulated anymore. For example, a CPA early in his career may have been fascinated with the puzzle of a complex tax return. But after five years on the job, he has mastered tax law so thoroughly that he can file the same return with no sleep, half drunk while watching Netflix with the same accuracy.
Human beings have a natural ability to be creative and the mind can be pushed to new heights. Without constant challenge and stimulation you will inevitably suffer burnout. In order to avoid burnout or cure it when it creeps along, you need to find ways to push your mind out of stagnation.
Here are 4 techniques to break out of a rut and kill burnout:
One - Get out of your comfort zone
We build safety nets in life and at work. A few years ago, I started to keep a journal. I forced myself to sit down and write for fifteen minutes a night before bed to detail the events of the day. After a week of doing this, I had a horrible realization...I had a concrete routine and even though I lived in San Francisco (one of the most beautiful cities in the world) I really only went to a handful of locations.
I’d wake up, make coffee, go to work, come home. Sometimes I would go to Trader Joe’s or a coffee shop on my commute. On Sundays, we’d go to the same restaurant for brunch and I always took the same bus lines. It dawned on me that I went to 5 maybe 6 places over and over again without variation: Coffee Shop, Grocery Store, Work, Restaurant, Apartment. Looking into this further, my work life was just as limited in scope. I’d used the same software, talked to the same people and worked on similar projects over and over.
I bet your life looks similar. There are variations as you are different than me, but if I’d be willing to bet that if you took a step back and mapped out with journaling where you went and what you did you’d find a comfort zone, a routine. It’s my theory that these comfort zones can be mind numbing.
The mind needs change and shifts to avoid burnout and stay alert. Tip number one is to bust out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Subtle changes go a long way. Go to different restaurants. Talk to different people. Use different software. Try to get your work done in new ways.
As silly as it sounds, I switched from my electronic calendar to an old-school paper and pen planner. Introducing this new habit of looking at my paper planner every day helped to boost my interest and keep me engaged with my work.
Two - Absorb Art
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” - Pablo Picasso
While reflecting on my life and work routines, I noticed something missing. There was a serious lack of “culture” and “artistic” activity. Sure, I’d go to the movies a lot with my family and the park was fun...but a museum?
The mind needs art. Art works mental muscles that don’t get used in routine work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel I’m exercising my creative juices when working on a balance sheet or punching something up for the boss on excel.
Injecting the mind with art in a high volume can create a mental frame of mind where productivity and art blend together. Some of the best business people are also artists who pushed the boundaries of their industries. Not all artists are painters or writers. Some of them develop new financial products or software.
I’ve found that reading novels, making time to go to the theatre and traversing museums does wonders to not only calm my mind, but sharpen creative muscles so they can be employed at work. Taking in large volumes of art can bring about an artistic mindset which we bring into our work and can open the door to getting rid of burnout.
Three - Take Risks
A good cure for mental burnout is to start taking risks. I’m not advocating you up and leave your desk in the middle of the day to go skydiving, but there are more conservative risks you can start taking risks within the workplace to get motivated again.
Do you feel you deserve a promotion? Long overdue for a raise? Stretch yourself out of the box on the job. Take a look at the future and put together a proposal to your supervisor or boss asking for a promotion or raise. In my experience, the best way to do this is to also provide a detailed plan of how you are going to boost your productivity, bring in more income and expand the company. Asking for handouts doesn’t usually go over too well with management, but usually requests for promotions or raises coupled with plans for the future are well received.
You might not get the promotion or raise right away, but there will be a response on how you could go about being promoted or earning more from management and this can be exciting. You could find yourself with a roadmap on how to earn and do more!
If you feel you deserve more, ask for more. If you aren’t there yet, get the message across to management that you want more and find what you need to do. Is there a job possibly outside your current company you’ve always wanted, but don’t feel qualified for? Apply for it. The worst that could happen is they say no, but the risk might just pay off.
Four - Plan for the future
One of the common denominators of a mental rut is repetition and routine. Repetition and concrete routine can be mind numbing. Comfort and being content can kill your dreams. Hitting a comfortable income bracket and locking in a salary can be stabilizing, but it also removes the necessity to grow or work on your dreams.
A simple way to break out of mental burnout is start planning for the future. Set goals. List out your dream career and write out an action plan to make it happen. These goals don’t have to be professional. Some people have goals like buying a condo or taking a trip to Europe. The point is to put something in the future to go after and achieve.
A solid action plan that can wake you up. It can be something you work on within your current job to do better and earn more. Your goal may be something you create on the side which could someday result in full-time work like an online store or something more personal like a fitness goal.
A step-by-step plan gives you actions to take which add new actions and changes to your routine. These small additions can work wonders and boost mental health making burnout a thing of the past.
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