Burnout is real.
And he can sneak up on you quick, disheveled and in a bandit’s mask.
At first, you won’t notice him; you’ve been too busy, that’s how he slips in.
And once he sat down at your workspace, he wouldn’t leave, not of his own accord anyway. He’ll just sit there hoping you won’t notice.
The way to tell if he’s there is by looking in not out. If you’re getting tireder and tireder with each hour and each day, then he’s there. If that sense of accomplishment at the end of the day has been replaced by heavy exhaustion, layered on top of boredom, then you know he’s in the room.
Burnout has the upper hand because he’s got you in a double bind: you need energy to find a way to create energy. It’s insidious. No fair!
What you need is an old friend — Inspiration — but she can seem like she’s gone well past the horizon by now, hitching a ride with someone else.
That’s the first important piece: realizing that Inspiration is close by, right outside your door, sitting against the wall, chin resting on her knees, waiting for you to finish your endless meeting.
To break free from Burnout, you likely need to remove a task or two from your load, which is never easy because by the time Burnout comes to visit, those tasks are usually intertwined pretty good.
Here are some ideas:
Have someone else do the thing
Call a meeting to call in the dogs
Change your settings
Check your outgoing message
Take one less than before
If all this is overwhelming, start your change far away from work, where Burnout can’t hear. Make sure the coast is clear, then… Tell a friend.
(Don’t worry about what they say. By telling a friend, really, you’re just telling yourself; it’s amazing the power of saying something out loud!)
With a task or two removed, the other pieces will show their outlines. You’ll start to see how you can reshuffle and restack.
But before you get too carried away with the redesign of what you got, remember to bring in something new. Open a door or window: a class, a conversation, a new kind of appointment, something unrelated to everything else.
Burnout hates when we do that.
Because he knows it’s time for him to leave.
He’ll get up quietly, softly, just like how he came in. And you’ll politely see him out, no hard feelings. (I know you’re resentful now, but just wait until the goodbye; you’ll see there’ll be no need for vitriol.)
And just as you’re about the close the door behind you, not sure what to do next, Inspiration will jam her foot in there. She doesn’t bother with being quiet.
You’ll be surprised. It may take a minute to recognize her.
She’s there. You’re there.
No need for explanations.
Let her in.