During my service as a Navy officer aboard an aircraft carrier, I piloted the ship so that there was enough wind down the deck for planes to take off and land. Sometimes, the wind speeds would gusts up and down. When necessary, Navy aviators would use afterburners to increase the thrust to launch their planes off the carrier deck.
Afterburners inject extra fuel into the jet pipe after the turbines have burned the fuel for the engine. Using afterburners produces a tremendous increase in power. Aviators limit use of afterburners for launch and for supersonic flight. However, afterburners consume fuel at a greater rate. Using them all the time is not necessary. Additionally, the fuel consumption of afterburners greatly shortens the operating time of an airplane between refueling and puts extraordinary stress on the plane itself.
There are times when turning up the afterburners on ourselves is helpful for getting a job completed. We all have projects with deadlines. Working with more intensity is important, even necessary. Operating on adrenaline to work faster and for longer hours for a short period is often productive. Working under constant pressure from our self or our supervisor to finish a project is often necessary. Taking shortcuts by eating at our desk, reading email on a smart phone during breaks, and trying to go from task to task without breaks may help can help a great deal in a short time. Short term, we may find that achievements soar.
However, operating on afterburners all the time makes us less effective, even incapable of working. The real risk is job burnout. Job burnout can end your career. Herbert J. Freudenberger and Geraldine Richelson co-authored a book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, 1974. Freudenberger described job burnout as being like a burnout building.
“If you have ever seen a building that has been burned out, you know it’s a devastating sight. What had once been a throbbing, vital structure is now deserted. Where there had once been activity, there are now only crumbling reminders of energy and life. Some bricks or concrete may be left; some outline of windows. Indeed, the outer shell may seem almost intact. Only if you venture inside will you be struck by the full force of the desolation.”
Turn off the performance afterburners when you do not need them.
- Take breaks.
- Find emotional support through friendships and family.
- Try new things.
- Make a list of your work priorities. Do one thing at a time.
- Get regular physical exercise.
- Learn techniques for resting your mind from work: meditation, pleasant and interesting reading, watching or listening to positive television, radio, or video programs that are relaxing, motivational, or inspirational.
- Change jobs.
Having a successful career begins with you taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. Turn on the afterburners when you need them, but do not use them for day-in and day-out-work.