Career Burnout: When Working Less Becomes a Priority

Career Burnout: In a culture where people believe that working hard can overcome any obstacle, reality teaches us that we have limitations. We burnout. ~

I am a few days late writing this article on purpose.  For the past two weeks I have had trouble writing.  During that time, I sensed that I needed a break.  Career burnout is not new to me.  I have learned from my experience that relentlessly pushing through obstacles leads to not being able to work at all.

Now that I feel better, I want to talk about the trouble that career burnout has caused me.

When Relentless Effort Becomes Destructive

The term “burnout” in reference to job performance comes from an article “Staff Burn-Out” by Herbert J. Freudenberger, first published in January 1974  in the Journal of Social Issues.
In 1980, Herbert Freudenberger collaborated with Richelson Géraldine to write the book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.

My Experience with Career Burnout

I am a high achiever who believed for years that I could work past any obstacle.

Whatever the job requirements, I would exceed them.  I believed that exceeding requirements would always create greater success. When my results did not match my expectations, I worked harder.

Pushing myself this way has led to periods in my life when I just could not work.

For me, recognizing the difference between a challenging period in my career and real burnout are hard to see. Here are some of the symptoms of I experienced during career burnout.

  • Depression
  • Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion
  • Inability to engage mentally in my work
  • Apathy
  • Fear, anger, and uncertainty
  • Despair of achieving my goals
  • Inability to be present for my work or my family
  • Inability to accept that my relentless pursuit of success was self-defeating

Today, I try to watch for these symptoms to know when I am starting to burnout.

8 Steps I Take to Prevent Burnout

Here are 8 simple steps I take to prevent going over the edge into career burnout.

  1. Taking breaks.
  2. Finding emotional support through friendships and family.
  3. Trying new things: new routine, new skills, new tools
  4. Making a list of my work priorities.
  5. Doing one thing at a time.
  6. Getting regular physical exercise.
  7. Using techniques for resting my mind from work: meditation, short breaks, meeting or calling friends to relieve stress.
  8. Watching or listening to things that are relaxing, motivational, or inspirational

I continually work on balance in work, entertainment, exercise, family, and quiet time.  Experience has taught me that balance more than relentless effort leads to long-term success.