This is what happens when you log one too many Red Bull-fueled 80-hour work weeks:
I remember coming home and curling up into a ball. I was so emotionally and physically exhausted, I couldn’t even move. My productivity was cut to nothing. The next day at the office, I found myself just staring into my computer, for hours. No movement, just staring.
The foremost expert on burnout is University of California psychologist Christina Maslach. The Maslach Burnout Inventory, a diagnostic psychological tool, is named after her. It breaks burnout into three factors:
- Exhaustion: feeling over-extended by your work
- Depersonalization: feeling alienated from your work
- Personal accomplishment: feeling like you can never get enough done
If any of these are creeping into your consciousness, you might want to realign some parts of your working life. Let’s go over a few quick ways to address the physical and psychological risk factors.
John Coates’ book, The Hour Between Dog And Wolf, goes deep into the physiology of stress. In it he observes that exhaustion, fatigue, and anxiety are all “messages sent from our body telling us what actions we should take”–which means that we need to listen closely. To get an idea of how, read our excerpt.
As the Burnout Inventory suggests, burnout isn’t only physical, but also emotional. It happens when we don’t see ourselves in the work we do. An antidote, then, is to do work that’s meaningful.
Thing is, you won’t have time to ponder the meaning of your days if you’re filled up with meaningless tasks. If we don’t carve out the time to reflect, we sure won’t. And remember: busy is the new lazy.