4 Lessons That Burnout Can Teach Us About Productivity

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Jack Seeds @Unsplash

Have you ever considered stepping away from something you love? A task that you previously enjoyed — but in the present not as much? A team? A role? An organization?

I realize the question may seem counter-intuitive. Why would we consider doing that? Yet, this is precisely what may need to happen.

Most of us deliver value to our clients or customers because we love our work and are committed to progress. However, loving an element of your work life is not synonymous with a vaccine against burnout. In fact, it may leave you vulnerable. (Writing always checked this box on my side. But that process no longer fed my work life core, as it once had. Looking back on the impasse, I hovered near “burnout” for quite some time before scaling back.)

What does burnout look like? How does it present? It’s not as if it sends a note, letting you know of its arrival — and crossing into that territory is often undetected. Yet, there are clear signs that we’ve arrived: Apathy, where there was once passion. Anxiety, where there was previously anticipation. Exhaustion. Dread.

Stepping away or slowing down may be needed.
This will serve you longer-term — helping you to re-engage more productively with your work.

What I’ve learned:

1. When to stop isn’t discussed. We are offered an abundance of advice about how to start something. How to do more — deliver more in less time — be more. But, there is not nearly enough discussion about when and how (and why) we should walk away. We conveniently forget that remaining productive over the long-haul requires balance & rest.

2. Don’t wait for a savoir. Know this: It is unlikely that someone will approach you to say, “Stop what you are doing, you seem mentally exhausted.” You must be the governor of your own psychological resources. Monitor feelings of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism. Pay attention if one has fallen precipitously.

3. Restructure/re-imagine your work. Becoming inflexible concerning how you contribute can become a player. When we pigeon-hole our contribution into one form — we can become very, very weary. We fail to explore modifications that might support our energy level.

4. We cannot ignore evolution. When people do something reasonably well — we naturally assume we should continue. We also assume that we will remain motivated indefinitely. That’s not always the case. As contributors, our needs and motivation can subtly shift.

We cannot always step away completely from important aspects of our work. Yet, we can acknowledge how we feel about them. I encourage you take a step back and take the temperature. Explore the options. Talk with someone about how you feel — and brainstorm solutions.

Is there is an aspect of your work life that you no longer enjoy, in the way you once had?

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Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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