I remember finding myself completely collapsed after another missed deadline right before my favorite day of the year — my birthday. In October last year, I worked as a content writer at Lemon.io (and I still do). Aside from that, I was picking up some freelance projects from time to time. Also, I was attending different marketing and business conferences to keep my mind sharp and to keep up to date on new marketing trends. I know, it is totally unfair that project deadlines and awesome events are always happening simultaneously.
Pfew, it was a busy month. At first, I took great pride in my productivity, marveling at how much I could squeeze into 24 hours. But after a few weeks of running on less than 4 hours of sleep and working 12 hour days, I fell, quite suddenly and spectacularly, into a procrastination loop.
To my horror and my employer’s consternation, I realized I couldn’t do anything. I would create a new Word Document then proceed to stare at that white screen for hours, quite unable to get past the article’s title.
For a few days, I repeated the same cycle: waking up, opening the laptop, closing the laptop, feeling bad about myself, opening the laptop, closing the laptop, feeling sorry for myself, and so on ad infinitum. That’s when I realized — it was burnout.
Given all that’s happening worldwide right now with the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine, I bet many people felt the same as me a year ago. It certainly isn’t easy to switch to a work-from-home routine, let alone worry about your health.
Perhaps in telling my story of escaping and overcoming burnout, you can find some tips to help you during the coronavirus quarantine times.
How to get out of the burnout?
To answer the question above, I decided to look for the answers in books. I’ve read Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’ and Hal Elrod’s ‘The Miracle Morning.’
Yes, I know, many of you might think that reading such literature is a waste of time. But for me, it was quite useful. Of course, the ‘miracle’ didn’t happen after I finished the books, but they showed me a way out of the burnout.
Improve your daily agenda
‘The Miracle Morning’ suggests a few important things, which worked for me perfectly:
- Wake up together with the rise of the sun (or at least earlier than you are used to);
- Spend at least 10 minutes for yourself in the mornings.
I decided not to try all the author’s tips (not like I think they are unhelpful), but rather to create my morning routine. (30 minutes every morning for breakfast while blasting my favorite music, then practice my yoga).
I’d suggest designing your own routine, but be sure to include:
- good 8-hour sleep
- regular workouts
- time spent with family and/or friends
- education or self-improvement
- taking time off and unwinding
The most important thing which ‘The Power of Habit’ taught me was — never try to change all your habits at once. Do it step by step, implementing changes slowly and gradually. Try different things for 10-15 minutes per day, search for other tips, experiment and enjoy it.
Learn how to deal with negative feedback
As negative feedback is the most significant source of self-deprecating thoughts, you have to manage it. Working with different clients all the time has taught me one thing — you can’t satisfy everyone. There will always be that person who will leave a one-star review with a comment, “This company sucks!”
Even if part of you says, “C’mon, you did a great job. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” another part is always hesitating, “What if he’s right? What if my job truly sucks?”
Well, this mindset isn’t helpful. Negative feedback should encourage you to improve but not to spread self-destroying thoughts. My strategy of dealing with it is easy and consists of a few essential points:
- If you are as sensitive to critics as I am, you should better focus on positive references for the work done instead of concentrating on negative ones. Give yourself a high five every time you hear something nice about your job. Good words are always a great motivation boost.
- Don’t take negative feedback too personally. Always remember it’s only offered to improve your performance, not to offend your personality. If vice versa, maybe you are working with the wrong people.
- Think of negative feedback as another source of knowledge necessary for professional growth. It is impossible to progress without working on your weak spots. Don’t get obsessed with occasional little mistakes. But in case you see a pattern, that’s when you have to take negative feedback seriously.
Reconsider your work strategy
Unfortunately, bad reviews are not the only source of anxiety at work. If your job is not valued and fairly paid, if your brain thinks about work 24/7, if you feel too much pressure on your shoulders and don’t have support, any bad word might be the last straw.
Here are some simple rules to avoid this:
Respect your time and never work for free
Very often, people who work for a startup tend to undervalue themselves, their skills, and their time. If you don’t have years of experience working for a big corporation, you are ready to do anything to impress the colleagues: to work all night on the article, to give up on your favorite hobby, to work extra hours without being paid for it.
Honestly, I was exactly the same. But the truth is that at some point, you will lose motivation to go the extra mile if nobody values it. That’s when the burnout knocks on the door. Don’t let this happen to you.
Avoid overloading yourself by setting priorities.
If you see that your workload is growing faster than you can handle it, maybe you should give up some of them or hire an assistant. You can’t do all the work by yourself, even if you think you can do it better than anyone else.
To help your future self, you should only be working on the highest priority tasks, leaving all others for later.
Optimize the working process
After prioritizing your tasks, you’re ready for the next step – doing the actual work. Easier said than done. Distractions are everywhere. One notification from Facebook, and you are back in the infinity pool.
To help yourself, turn off all the social media notifications and download Pomodoro browser extensions. This program will help you to track your working time according to the 25 to 5 work-rest cycle.
Find out what you want from your job.
Be honest with yourself and your colleagues. If you are unsatisfied with your work conditions, salary, job duties, you should talk it out.
Worst case scenario, you will find another job which will match your desires perfectly. What’s the point of wasting your time on something you don’t enjoy doing?
Have a break from work
No matter how important you are to your company, you need to have some rest. The longer, the better. If you can’t manage a proper extended vacation, take at least a couple of days off.
The one thing which helps me the most is going on a short trip. It can be anywhere you want a visit to your family, a hike through the woods, or a bike ride to the neighboring city.
A change of scenery will do you a world of good. Amidst new surroundings, your brain will hit the refresh button, and you will come back to work charged up and completely reinvigorated.
Get out of the procrastination cycle.
You have to accept the fact that nobody but you can break the loop. If you think that your boss, your partner, or your therapist can do it for you, you’re dead wrong. The sooner you realize this, the faster you’ll escape:
- Get rid of a toxic you-can-do-better attitude and respect yourself.
- Analyze what and then address the causes of the burnout.
- Define the things your job lacks and search for the ways to get them.
- Set up your priorities and follow them.
- Consider hiring some extra help (here are some advice about hiring freelancers (lemon.io/best-freelance-websites), independent contractors, and extra tips on how to outsource in general).
- Have a nice vacation!
Make sure this never happens to you again!
While working on this article, which I was supposed to finish more than a week ago, I was reminded how easily one can fall back into the procrastination cycle. But this time, I knew how to deal with it right at the beginning, not letting the problem get any worse.
If you face the same issue, I can assure you that the recipe above works. If it helped me (more than once!), it’s definitely going to help you too. The main thing is to start slowly, taking baby steps. Take care of yourself!
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