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How to Keep Burnout at Bay

How to Keep Burnout at Bay

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    I write for a number of different publications and websites, largely about the same thing – technology and the Web. Much of what I write follows a fairly similar pattern, and fits into a relatively narrow range of subjects. I love writing that kind of thing, and enjoy doing it every time I sit down to do so.

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    Or at least, I did until about three weeks ago. Then, one morning, I sat down to write, and couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted to do less in that moment than write a blog post or article. I had major writing burnout, and needed to do something to recharge my batteries and re-juice my excitement and passion for writing.

    To do that, I tried a number of things, with varying degrees of both extremity and success. Here are the ones that worked for me:

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    Change Your Scenery

    It’s amazing the difference a coffee shop makes. For me, sitting in the same place every day, writing what felt like the same thing every day, got redundant and boring. By changing the part of that equation that was in my control (the location), getting things done became a lot more appealing. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something to be said for packing up, going to a coffee shop, and sitting down with a massive coffee to get your writing done. Rejuvenated and caffeinated, I was in a much better place (literally and figuratively) to write.

    Change Your Methods

    Up until my moment of burnout, it had been a surprisingly long time since I had done any real writing on paper. Everything was done on my computer, and that was contributing to my feelings of redundancy. So, I took the 19th century dive, and broke out a pen and paper. I wrote an entire post on a piece of paper, and then later copied it onto my computer. Then, I used the paper to draw a mind map of more post ideas. Using paper forced me to think actively, and concentrate on my writing – I can type without looking, but I sure can’t write without looking. It helped to center my focus and think a little differently, which brought me back to writing productively.

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    Debate Yourself

    The most fun thing I did during my brief stint with writing hatred was to pick a fight with myself. I picked something I believed strongly in – that the Web is a perfect place to organize your life and manage your applications – and began to argue the opposite side. I went on a tirade against everything I think is right, and it was a lot of fun! I finished, and wanted to tell myself why I was wrong. So I did, and that became one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. Picking a fight is the easiest way to get passionate about almost anything, and is a great way to beat burnout and get your fire going again.

    Get Away

    Getting away was ultimately the best thing I did to beat burnout. I was fortunate to have my burning moment just before going on a cruise to the Bahamas. For a week, I didn’t use a computer, check my blog, or even think about any of the work I had to do. By the end, I found that I actually missed all of that stuff. Sitting down to brainstorm ideas and get writing done was incredibly easy, because I was excited about it again. It wasn’t the rule anymore, or the thing I had been doing every day for so long – it felt new again, and found its fun once more.

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    Not everyone will be able to get away for a week, but we can all find a way to get out and get away. Turn off the computer and go for a walk, or go do something bizarre and crazy you’ve always wanted to do (I highly recommend skydiving). Even the shortest break or interruption in the routine can make it feel new and different again.

    We’ve all had those moments, even when we’re doing something we love to do: we just need a break. If you can’t take a break, consider finding a different way to do whatever you have to do – even if it means finding a pen and paper. If you can take a break, short or long, do it. Breaking a routine is the key to rejuvenating your love for your routine, and helping you revive the passion for your work.

    What do you do when you’re burned out?

    Photo: jessica.hawkins11

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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