11 ways to avoid burnout

work smarter

“At 99U we’ve long explored the best strategies for coping with, treating, and preventing burnout. Here are 11 of our favorites to help you create your own escape plan:

1_Figure out which kind of burnout you have. The Association for Psychological Science found that burnout comes in three different types, and each one needs a different solution:

A. Overload: The frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion, is most closely related to emotional venting. These individuals might try to cope with their stress by complaining about the organizational hierarchy at work, feeling as though it imposes limits on their goals and ambitions. That coping strategy, unsurprisingly, seems to lead to a stress overload and a tendency to throw in the towel.

B. Lack of Development: Most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to depersonalization and cynicism — a harbinger for burning out and packing up shop.

C. Neglect: Seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.

2_Cut down and start saying “no”. Every “yes” you say adds another thing on your plate and takes more energy away from you, and your creativity.

3_Give up on getting motivated. With real burnout mode, you’re too exhausted to stay positive. So don’t.

4_Treat the disease, not the symptoms. For real recovery and prevention to happen, you need to find the real, deeper issue behind why you’re burnt out.

5_Make downtime a daily ritual. To help relieve pressure, schedule daily blocks of downtime to refuel your brain and well-being. It can be anything from meditation to a nap, a walk, or simply turning off the wifi for a while.

6_Stop being a perfectionist; start satisficing. Trying to maximize every task and squeeze every drop of productivity out of your creative work is a recipe for exhaustion and procrastination. Set yourself boundaries for acceptable work and stick to them.

7_Track your progress every day. Keeping track allows you to see exactly how much is on your plate, not only day-to-day, but consistently over time.

8_Change location often. Entrepreneurs or freelancers can be especially prone to burnout. Joel Runyon plays “workstation popcorn”, in which he groups tasks by location and then switches, in order to keep work manageable, provide himself frequent breaks, and spend his time efficiently.

9_Don’t overload what downtime you do get. Vacations themselves can cause, or worsen burnout, with high-stress situations, expectations, and sleep interruption. Use it to help in recovery from burnout instead.

10_Write yourself fan mail. Seth Godin uses self-fan mail as a way to keep motivated instead of burning out on a project that seems far from completion.

11_Break projects into bite-sized pieces. Taking a task on in one entire lump can be exhausting and provide little room for rest in between. Breaking up your projects into set chunks with their own deadlines provides a much healthier, and easier, way of completing a large project.”

Sasha Vanhoven assistant editor and community manager of 99U

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