10 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Burned Out
Have you ever caught yourself feeling burned out, as in too much to do one more thing to move yourself forward? I certainly have! It’s only natural to feel like you’re not capable of giving it your best effort when so much of what you have to do each day is the same thing over and over.
In this article, we hope to get you past those inevitable feelings of burnout. We’re going to do it by sharing 10 of the most effective tips that have helped us out over the years. But don’t feel limited by these. Use them as a jumping-off point for some of your own. Let’s begin!
1. Investigate the Why
The first thing to do when you’re feeling burned out is to get to the bottom of what’s causing it. Put on your special investgations hat. It’s time to do a little digging.
Go back through the day, week, month, or even year. When did the malaise begin? Was it a single project or event or a mixture of things? Figuring out the cause of your burnout can help you identify real solutions.
Of course, the identification process is only part of the solution. You have to take action as well. Maybe that means implementing a new journaling method, giving your workspace a nice deep-clean, or confronting individuals who eat up too much of your time.
2. Observe Your Behaviors
The next thing you need to do is to observe your own behaviors. It could very well be that you’re the cause of your own burnout. This is where you start to place a closer look on your processes and workflow.
Task-tracking is an especially good way of doing this. Try to create “checkoff” items that you can cross off your to-do list throughout the day. They can be work-related or non-work-related.
The act of observing when you do something non-work-related will get you into a clearer headspace. You’ll realize how much time you allow yourself to be misdirected throughout the day. Awareness will give you the tools you need to work your way back into a state of sustained productivity.
3. Adopt Individual Coping Mechanisms
Coping mechanisms differ from one individual to the next. You want to be focused on productivity, but the constant focus on it can be a double-edged sword. This leads to even more burnout.
Find balance. Identify little “stops” in your work process that allow you to briefly escape and reenergize. Otherwise, you’re going to crash against the wall of work and expectations.
What are some activities that you look forward to doing that don’t take up too much of your time? This could be anything from playing a new game on your phone to checking your social media feed or even journaling a page.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it doesn’t take over your day. “Reward” yourself with it only after you’ve put in a good, solid 50 minutes of work. You can spend the next 10 doing whatever it is that you enjoy. After that, it’s back to work!
4. Lean On Others
One of the big reasons why you may be experiencing burnout is that you are trying to do too much on your own. You’re not using the resources that are available to you.
Yes, even as students, you are part of a team. When you go to high school or college, the institution and all its resources and representatives are designed to set you up for success in life.
That means your teachers, library, online resources, and fellow classmates. You all are in this together. You have to learn to look at it that way because that’s largely the way it is in the “real world.” You go to work for an employer, and your success is the employer’s (and vice versa).
So sit down to make a list of where you’re struggling. Then, make a list of resources that could be relevant to those struggles. From there, you can figure out a better game plan for how to address them. And you won’t be doing so in a vacuum.
5. Accomplish Something
Sometimes the easiest way out of hell is to go straight through it. You just have to get a win on the board, so you can build that momentum towards more and more wins.
What are the things on your plate that absolutely need to/have to be done? Choose the simplest ones. We’ll call them your LHF tasks, or low-hanging fruit. Pluck them off the tree so you can start getting busy accomplishing things again.
Sometimes that will mean choosing something really simple that doesn’t have a lot to do with what your major tasks are. It doesn’t matter. Just getting “on the board” will help.
6. Reward Yourself
Rewards don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they really shouldn’t be. That’s because you should be giving yourself A LOT of them to cope with burnout, and expensive rewards could leave you penniless.
So how do you find things to reward yourself with and keep those things going so they offer a constant state of renewal? Unfortunately, we can’t answer that for you. However, we can tell you where to look.
What are the things that bring you joy? We all have a list of things we’d rather be doing in our downtime? As long as “spending a lot of money” isn’t at the top of your list, you should be okay.
Some fun suggestions: strategy games that you can play on your phone which only take a little bit of time to update. Boxing Manager is a favorite of mine. Yours could be sports-related or something more akin to Farmville. Maybe you enjoy playing friends on Words With Friends or the UNO app.
The key is to choose something that gives you a slight break in the responsibilities. Something that keeps your mind active and working when you’re not focused on work.
7. Retool Your Workflow
Reexaming your workflow is another essential part of overcoming burnout. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something that worked for you in the past will still work for you a year from now. My own personal struggle with this is detailed below.
At the start of the year, I adopted something called a 5-minute journal” method I picked up in one of the various books on productivity that I read from time to time. The 5MJ method is a good idea, and it worked for me for several months.
It consisted of identifying my feeling at the start of the day, what I could do to get more energized, what my top project was for the day, and one thing I could do to get started. At the end, I kept a rolling to-do list that I could easily check off the app in my mobile phone.
It was perfect until it wasn’t. And as it started to break down towards the end of the year, with more things not getting done that should have, I realized that it wasn’t the problem. I was.
My mind had grown tired of the daily workflow technique, and I found myself more and more bored with it. Repetition is a great thing, but it will burn you out pretty quickly if you let it.
I’m now looking to switch gears to a new daily workflow method. That’s not a knock on 5MJ, and there’s no guarantee I won’t go back to it. Realizing when you’re stagnating can keep you from getting burned out, and I hope an early-year switcheroo will be just the ticket!
8. Let Something Go
There is an old saying in love that also applies to work. If you love someone, set them free. If it’s meant to be, it’ll come back to you.
Obviously, you have to adjust the meaning a little bit when it comes to work and school responsibilities. There are certain things that you are obligated to do. You can’t very well let those things go, but you can make lifestyle adjustments, major-changes, or other tweaks to handle the responsibilities of your life.
That’s why college has a system of electives versus required courses. It’s designed to let you explore while keeping you on a viable degree path. You’ll find the same needs elsewhere in your life.
The choices that you make might need to be readjusted, especially when you are feeling burned out. Look at your current life, and make a commitment to ending those things which draw you away from your core responsibilities and objectives. Saying no to some things will allow you to say yes to the right ones if you are careful and discerning.
9. Talk to a Superior
People who are in positions of authority over you should be consulted if you are feeling burned out by your daily chores and responsibilities. That might not be something you’re eager to do, but that’s what those people are there for.
Just go to them in a spirit of wanting to do your best. If that’s a teacher, tell them what you’re struggling with, and ask for their expertise. They want you to succeed. They’ve also probably been where you are. Same thing for a boss.
Most people in positions of authority will appreciate that you are being proactive. They’ll be grateful that they have someone in class or on staff who cares enough to push past the discomfort and become a more valuable and productive asset.
The number one thing to remember is respect. Don’t go to them in a spoiled state of entitlement. Instead, approach them with the sincere desire to be the best you, both for yourself and for the overall objective or organization.
10. Change Your Environment
The last tip we have for overcoming burnout may seem like a small one, but it can make a huge difference. Look at the environment where you do most of your work.
Is it a cramped dorm room? Maybe a large table at your campus library? Even the cleanest, most comfortable, most familiar space, can seem claustrophobic if you get too used to it.
Of course, cleaning up your work area will always provide a welcome boost to your feelings of productivity. But it may not be enough, especially when you grow bored of where you are.
The way around this is to keep a list of the places where you feel the most productive. If you get tired of one, shake things up. My personal favorite hotspots for productivity are any local Starbucks, a regional chain coffee shop similar to it, the public library main branch, and my house. Where are yours?
Do your best to identify as comprehensive of a list as you can. You will want more than one inspirational location at a time to guard against unexpected closures/adjusted hours of availability. Having options will keep you from getting knocked off-track.
These Steps Will Help You to Stop Feeling Burned Out
We know feeling burned out can leave you feeling lost with no sense of direction. Even so, the responsibilities that you encounter in life are not going away. You have to find ways to cope even when you don’t want any part of it.
Hopefully, following the 10 tips that we’ve laid out above will give you the tools necessary to overcome. But in case there are any great ones we didn’t cover, please feel free to share your coping tips in the comments section below. And here’s to a happier and more productive 2022!
[Featured Image by Pixabay Creative Commons License]