Burnout is a systemic problem not a situational/circumstantial challenge. And, so overcoming burnout is more about how to build systematic “down time” and renewal into your life and work for sustainable productivity. Here are some suggestions for both rest and rejuvenation.
Rest comes in two flavors: inaction and sleep. I have a working hypothesis that inaction, or simply not doing anything, is not a very good form of rest unless you are physically exhausted, not mentally or emotionally drained, and can actually be a contributing factor toward burnout. On the other hand, “down time,” or stopping to rest if you are physically exhausted, is usually a prudent act. Further, research over the past 20 years has solidified the importance of a good night’s sleep every night so that you can be most effortful and productive throughout the day. I’ll discuss sleep in more detail in future episodes, but it’s important to note here that without sleep burnout is inevitable. And, if you are burning out on a regular cycle, start tracking just the number of hours you sleep and see if you can notice a pattern in relationship to your productivity.
Once the body is rested now is time to rejuvenate the mind and spirit. Rejuvenation goes by many names–renewal, recharging, revitalization, and more–but the essence is internal power-generating action. And, this will be different for almost every individual. Rejuvenation requires getting to know yourself and what drives you. Are you a sports fan? Do you love to bury yourself in the prose of a good book? Are you a runner, yoga practitioner, cyclist, or another fitness enthusiast? Do you get recharged by hanging out with friends and engaging in hearty dialog with good laughs? Dissimilar to inaction, rejuvenation is thoughtful, effortful action to recharge the mind and spirit. For most people, I recommend that you make the time for at least two hours per week, pre-booked in your calendar, for such rejuvenating activities.
With rejuvenation and rest (read, sleep) being a part of your productivity system, you can be on your way to overcoming burnout and sustaining your personal productivity.