Oh the lovely burnout we often experience with work and other activities that keep us on the move at a constant. I’m no life expert, but I have hit burnout many times. This last time was different, and I want to share why. I hope this will reach someone who finds my own experiences helpful. I will go over the last two. One that didn’t work out, and one that did.
Burnout #1. I had been a non-stop volunteer for several years at a nonprofit. I was constantly on the run. Very little sleep, wasn’t seeing my doctor, wasn’t eating right (I gained about 100lbs thanks to fast food), and generally was running on caffeine and fumes every day. No amount of sleep helped, because my soul was tired. I was also a full-time college student, with four kids, four dogs, and a household to manage. I was hitting 100 hours a week most weeks, and not seeing my kids or dogs. That was hard. I ended up crashing and burning HARD when the burnout hit, I couldn’t stand the thought of doing one more hour. I trudged on until the dread in my chest absolutely collapsed my whole schedule and world I had built all around me. I was powerless to stop it. I quit. I slept for almost two weeks, and I don’t remember a thing about those weeks. After some R&R, I felt better. I became myself again, started eating better, spending more time at home, and my soul was recharged! I have not gone back yet. I plan to, but now is just not the time.
How does this fit in with my work now?
Well, I will tell you! In May-June-ish, I started feeling that same overwhelming feeling. I felt the weight of the whole world I had built resting on me. My soul was tired once again. I thought, “Man, I need to take a vacation!” So I planned one for July. It fell through. Now what? Well instead of letting everything crash around me and quitting again, I took a long, hard look at why I felt this way. After I established that time was once again the culprit, I sat down with a pen and paper and mapped out a schedule. I also looked very hard at why I do this job every day. I looked at what all has gone on in my life the last couple of years that has led me to this place of burnout.
These are the results!
I had tricked myself into thinking that I had to work many hours after I had reached the point of not knowing what to work on next. This led to time spent at the office that was not as productive as it could have been. The first thing I did was schedule my day. I got on the call at 8 that morning. I allotted 1 hour for the call. The call never takes an hour, but just in case. So the time left over from the call, I spend walking the office, or searching for things for the Facebook page, and scheduling posts. I also set a small goal for the day. I set the bar low for what to accomplish, and I have found that it makes it easier to accomplish more everyday. Some days, my goal is the call. I also thought about my role in the company and how to structure taking on more tasks. Before I did this, if a new thing popped up, I just almost had a meltdown. When would I have time?! Now, I know where that time is and what I can take on. I am back to being pretty booked up, but it isn’t overwhelming anymore.
Even the breaks have a place!
I even put a schedule on my breaks. I make them fairly generous. I also have the option to take a break and leave the desk, or use the break to do more social media tasks, such as blogging! I have typed all this out on my 2:00 break. It is now 2:10. I have 20 minutes left. I often end up using these breaks more productively. I know that they are there if I need them, but if I can get by without them and do something that doesn’t involve my regular scope of work for social media, I have made very good use of my time. But this still doesn’t answer why I love my job. I had to reevaluate why I am here. Would the company miss me if I wasn’t here? Am I still a good fit for this company?
Here comes the love!
I love calling someone and telling them, “Well, I talked to my boss, and you should start packing. You got the house!” That is what I live for! I live for that moment. It doesn’t happen every day, so I hang on to the moments when it does. The company would definitely miss me if I wasn’t here. It wouldn’t crumble and dissolve without me, but the other people I work with would have all of what I do thrown onto them. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like I do much, but I realized that I do more than I think. I also realized that I am capable of doing more than that. I am still a good fit for this company. I just had to get my mind right again.
I worked on me quite a bit this summer. I traveled through burnout without letting it win. More structure was the key. I don’t spend hours and hours at the office trying to figure out what to do next when my mind is so frazzled that I don’t know my own name. I have a work schedule, and when the work day is over, I leave the office. I still receive calls after hours and I still make appointments after hours, but it is on a schedule as well. I use some of my breaks to handle personal matters, and everything seems to be back on track now and moving forward.
Oh, and just a bit of news!
I live for the moment of telling people to start packing! Imagine how I felt to hear Chris tell me that we have about 2 weeks left to go on Rattlesnake…
Mandi, start packing!