The Art of Burning Out: How Stay Productive When You're Exhausted
In the twilight hours of most nights, I lay in my bed and think about work. My obligations, my expectations. If you have the kind of brain that never turns off, you know that every day you're on the cusp of burning out.
Here's how to keep on keeping on when you don't feel like you have anything left in the tank.
Exhaustion is something that happens to all humans. And you have to deal with that. You're not the energizer bunny and that's okay. First thing's first: You must recognize you have a limit.
I spent a lot of time tip-toeing around the fact that I was human. In college I thought I was a machine. I didn't need sleep, I didn't need friends hell...I didn't need anyone. My idea of "productivity" was to push my limit as far as it could go without dying.
And it nearly killed me.
Realizing that I had a limit helped me make a lot of hard decisions. If I had a long week and went out partying, I had to understand the consequences. Once I really looked at why I was so tired it helped me get the support and rest I needed.
It's hard when you're young and hungry for success. You want to be the best. You want to make everyone proud, but that shouldn't be at the expense of your health.
Then, force yourself to take a break.
When you are on the verge of burning out everything isn't working. It's like there's a block in your brain preventing you from working hard. Things take longer to accomplish. You type slower. Your eyes can't focus. Things get harder. That's how you know you've reached your limit. In order to avoid a total burn out and get your work done, you have to take breaks. Stressing yourself out will not help any. You can't work when you're all freaked out anyway. I've learned that the hard way. Do yourself a favor and walk away from your work.
Do not work like you're a robot. Every two or three hours, get up...walk around...find something to look at that isn't your computer screen. Nobody can deal with that much continuous labor, it's just not possible. No matter how indestructible you feel, you have to take breaks.
Okay, you're exhausted, you've taken a break and still, you know you're totally burnt out. What now?
Drop the work and do something for pure joy.
For people who enjoy working really hard and living fast, this can be a huge issue. Safety isn't attractive for those who want to transcend normal and make something amazing, but it's necessary. Trust me. If you're falling all the time it becomes harder and harder to get back up. You will burn out.
Now, when you have a full time job or are at school there isn't a lot of down-time. So when you feel like you're hitting your breaking point, whatever you love can kick in and save you.
Whether it's reading, writing, looking at gossip magazines or just sleeping. Doing something for pure leisure can really help with burning out. It's like a charger of sorts.
In college, when my schedule got really hectic I would take one hour per day to do something I really loved. I'd use my break to play the guitar, draw or do some free-writing. It opened my mind.
The act of doing something you love will free you from the sense of falling, and will ultimately become your safety net. Although knowing your limits, taking breaks and re-charging don't necessarily play into everyone's big plans, they are necessary measures. We have to take time to recognize our limits.
Humans have expiration dates. And as much as we don't want to confront that concept: it is the truth.
When you're young and hungry for success it's easy to fall into the perpetual burn-out stage. With a little more consciousness and a little more care we can leave the flames behind and really succeed.