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11 Simple Ways To Avoid Burnout

11 Simple Ways To Avoid Burnout

    Are you exhausted, annoyed, and ready to throw in the towel on something that once made you leap out of bed with joy every morning? I know that feeling well. It’s one I suffered from often in the past and still encounter occasionally. It typically signals an impending burnout.

    Not the type of burnout you get from dropping your 93 Honda Civic into 3rd gear at 6,000 rpm’s. The type of burnout that makes you avoid work, question the value of your existence, and eat large quantities of Oreo cookies while watching bad television.

    How can you avoid burnout and stay in a productive rhythm? Here are 11 ways you can start safeguarding your life against burnout:

    1. Schedule regular social activities

    Remember when you used to spend time with people you were neither working with nor sleeping with? You watched movies, ate meals, played games, and went on trips. You were active and you had fun!

    You can regain some of that emotional fulfillment by contacting some of your old pals and scheduling regular activities. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Sure, rafting in Alaska would be fun but a monthly brunch with people you don’t see every day will do just fine. The point of this exercise is to expand your social horizon and crush the feeling that you’re stuck doing the same thing every day.

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    2. Follow a fitness plan

    Why we give up exercise in order to sit in a chair and work for an extra hour at a lower level of intensity is beyond me. I used to do it myself. I dealt with stress by eating and worked instead of working out. The result? Not only did I burn out but I got really chubby, too!

    If you want to avoid burnout, resurrect that New Year’s Resolution and figure out what it takes to get you exercising on a regular basis. Apart from all the physical benefits of exercise, you’ll enjoy the mental satisfaction of knowing that you’re taking good care of yourself again.

    3. Pursue a hobby

    Pick a hobby that has little or nothing to do with what you spend most of your week doing and pursue it with passion! A hobby that uses an entirely different skill set can provide your heart and mind with a satisfying break from the weekly grind and set you on a good path for increased productivity.

    You probably won’t even need to worry about picking a new hobby out. The one you abandoned when you sold your soul to the work week is waiting for you to return. Shine up those golf clubs, get out the fishing gear, or buy a new pair of boxing gloves and get moving!

    4. Volunteer

    Nothing brightens the soul or warms the senses like giving to another for no reason other than to give. If you’re feeling run down by life, I implore you to seek out somebody less fortunate than yourself and work to help them.

    Reach out to your local soup kitchen or professional organization and ask for referrals to local places that need your help. They’ll be glad to get you started and you’ll soon forget about badly you thought you had it!

    5. Write a manifesto

    Have you forgotten what you want out of life? It’s easy to lose track of time and even easier to forget about what makes us glad to be alive. What can you do to bring back that focus? Take a day or perhaps an entire weekend and write a manifesto, a declaration of purpose, for yourself.

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    The process will give you focus as you put your intentions into writing. You’ll also discover that stepping back and looking at your life as a whole has a way of putting the stresses of the moment into perspective.

    6. Ask for help

    This is a tough one, especially if you’re a resourceful I’ll-do-it-on-my-own type of person like me. But it’s worth the time it takes to ask for help making sense of something that’s been dragging you down. It’s worth the embarrassment of admitting that you can’t do something on your own to really get help.

    Whether your struggle is with a particular part of a project or with something general, like time management, asking for help will get you to a solution faster than you could ever hope to alone. If you want to avoid burnout, you’ll need to swallow your pride on occasion and reach out for help.

    7. Make others laugh

    Humor keeps us sane even through the most stressful of circumstances. Laughter is fun and a great way to reduce stress. Even better, finding ways to make others laugh doesn’t just reduce stress for all involved. It allows you to begin viewing yourself as a source of fun and laughter in your social or work group.

    You’ll find it hard to be glum and entertain unhappy thoughts when the people around you are excited and happy to be near you. There’s no need to be a genius comedian. Start out by learning a few good jokes and add as you go!

    8. Make an escape list

    An “escape list” is a list of everything you’d need to do in order to escape a situation that’s driving you nuts. In a work context, your escape list might include things like turning in a final presentation or asking for a raise. It might also include smaller things like submitting your resume to a new opportunity or drafting a letter of resignation!

    You might never follow up on the items in your escape list but the process of writing one will help clarify in your mind that you are not truly stuck. You have options. Perhaps not the best or most fun options, but you are certainly not stuck.

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    9. Embrace a morning ritual

    Are you starting your day on the wrong foot by waking up late, rushing about, and skipping out the door at the last minute? Try slowing down your morning instead. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual and spend the “extra” time sitting in a sunny spot in your living room with a cup of coffee and a good book.

    As you slowly add more to your morning, you’ll develop a fierce attachment to “your” time. Why? Because you’ve chosen to start your day with a focus on taking care of yourself instead of busting out of bed like a bomb squad.

    10. Stop making excuses

    Is everything that’s dragging you down right now because of something your boss, partner, friend, or client did? Getting caught up in how much everybody else is screwing up will put you on the fast track to gray hair and a stupendous burnout.

    The fix? Accept responsibility for your part of the problems that plague you. Then start digging your way out. Once you’ve given up on blaming others you’ll start seeing more of the good in your life and the sordid claws of desperate solitary thought will no longer draw you down.

    11. Be accountable

    Accountability is something we’re all familiar with but rarely put into useful practice. You can use accountability to drive your personal development and avoid burnout. The trick is find somebody you can trust to give the down and dirty on what you’re trying to do and how you’re moving forward.

    For best results, have your accountability partner NOT be a relative or somebody you’re dating. They typically won’t have the capacity for objective review of your progress. People who love you will often make excuses for you and you want to avoid excuses at all costs.

    “Accountability breeds response-ability.” ~Stephen R Covey

    Avoiding burnout is a matter of constant vigilance and regular maintenance. What are you doing to avoid burnout? Do you have any tips to add? I’m glad for your thoughts!

    Seth Simonds is an editor here at Lifehack.org. Have a lifehacking tip and want to be featured in a future article? Follow @lifehackorg on Twitter, say hello, and we’ll go from there.

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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