Coping with Burnout…


In a comment, Todd wrote:

http://blogs.msdn.com/ericgu/archive/2004/12/09/278797.aspx#278985

I have a few thoughts.

First, it takes a while to get burnt out, so you can’t expect to get un-burnt-out in a week.

For me, there have been a few things that have worked well:

  1. Change the situation that led to your burn out. In my case, it was mostly job-created. If you can’t address the root cause, it’s hard to get better.
  2. Make a list of the things that you haven’t been getting done that you’d like to get done.
  3. Work at the list, slowly.

So what other advice can you give?


Comments (16)

  1. michkap says:

    I usually try to focus on #1.

    If you love what you are doing then you can’t burn out doing it; it is only when aspects that you do not like sap your energy so much that even the things you do like suffer, tht you have trouble.

    Obviously you cannot always do it 100%, but I always try to get as close to it as I can….

  2. Consider that all of the things that you have to do are balls that you are juggling. When you are "burn-out" it probably means that you have too many balls in the air.

    Balls aren’t just big things such as "Finish writing screensaver", they can also be small such as: "Get haircut", "Do tax", "Clean the x", "Fix the y".

    My advice is to sit down with a sheet of paper and list all of the balls. Try to identify as many easy targets to remove from your list quickly. Even if it means taking 2 days off work to get a haircut, see your accountant and clean the x.

    Then, with the remainder of your list… chuck off as many non-core-items as you can. I.e.: if you told a mate that you’ll build him a kick-ass screensaver ring him and tell him that you just won’t have time.

    Then, add 1 item to your list… take your kids to the zoo and enjoy the day!

  3. Sheeshers says:

    I usually get out with my family to a place where I know I won’t have distractions. Usually it’s a state park cottage with no internet connection, no real need for phones. However, I don’t indulge in the 500 activities around me. A book, some CDs and good company will do just fine.

    On another good day you can try boating and fishing ….. in short anything that puts the mind in neutral gear and lets it idle.

  4. Val Savvateev says:

    To me, the key is the diversity. Yes, I can say that I love coding, but that’s too broad of a statement. If you liked candies but had access to only MandM’s, well, that’d divert you from your passion pretty quick, wouldn’t it? The same with coding. Projects (or parts of the projects) that I am working on for too long are eventually becoming the old story, I’m just loosing interest.

    Again, all projects are different – there are interesting projects, boring projects, and I don’t have a formula to calculate what time span would be considered "too long" or "okay". Something tells me there’s got to be one though…

  5. Do something you enjoy daily. Even if its just for a few minutes. For me, I play enemy territory online with friends and also play the guitar. The latter is easier because my daughter likes to help me play my guitars. I almost never fail in doing one or even both of these for a short period of time each day, especially playing ET online, because then i can’t focus on anything else but the game, and I got lost in it, and things are ok for a short while.

  6. JavaKid says:

    Along these same lines I asked people what are the expectations within our field… and how do we avoid Developer Burnout.

    http://javakid.blogspot.com/2004/10/developer-burnout.html

    JavaKid.

  7. Rob Tillie says:

    Another really important thing is how the rest of your life is, and more importantly, whether there is a ‘rest’ besides working.

    If the rest of your life is of high quality, you can much better focus at your job:

    1. Sports. Software people usually sit behind a desk for long hours. This is not so good for your health. Make sure you get enough exercise, and make sure you pick something you like.

    2. Eating. Be sure you have a good eating habit! Eat healthy :).

    3. Love, family and friends. Get out and have fun!

    4. Get some hobbies which aren’t behind a computer

    A year ago I wasn’t burned out, but I couldn’t focus anymore on my job. These things helped me over the past year to regain my focus, and then some more.

    Remember, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work, it matters how much work you do in those hours :).

    Rob.

  8. William says:

    Coping with Burnout… Interesting title, however once you’re burnt out you’re already in a state of not coping and you will need help to recover.

    In my case, burn out was the result of months of working for long hours and weekends on a project from hell. The list of outstanding tasks build up, the questions keep coming seeking clarification on the ever changing requirements. To begin with, you think you can do it, no problem. But then, late one night you realise that you just don’t have anymore, all you want is to sleep, you’ve not eaten anything since breakfast and you stink of coffee. You suddenly realise that you just can’t do it anymore and then you break.

    I was off work for 3 weeks and my confidence was lost. Luckily, my wife and my company supported me and I got back on my feet.

    I learnt a lot from that experience and as everyone above has suggested, you can protect your self with a few simple rules.

    Get some exercise: I climb hills at the weekend, near my home in Lanark, and the effects of doing this can keep me going all week long. (However, I’ve not been doing enough of this lately).

    Limit your working hours: putting in that extra effort only works for about a week, after that your productivity drops and you start to feel the need to put in even more time to keep up with your own expectations. It never works.

    Get a life: There really is more to life than work and computers, try to do something that gets you away from all that, something for you that makes you feel good and keeps your mind wide open.

    One last thing, watch your colleagues and try to look after them too.

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