7 Habits To Prevent Burnout

The term “burnout” was first used in academia by Herbert Freudenberger in an article he wrote in 1974. Before that a novel by the name “A Burnt-Out Case” was published by Graham Greene. Freudenberger said that burnout is a ser of physical and emotional symptoms based around exhaustion from excessive work demands. He noted that those presenting with burnout appeared similar to patients with depression.

There are several theories as to the causes of burn out and ways to deal with it. One postulates that it is a disconnect between the an individual and organization they work for in six key areas: workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values. This would mean that treating burn out would be both individual and organizational. From the individual stand point the psychological treatment for burn out has focused around cognitive behavioral therapy and stress reduction.

Burnout can be insidious, slowly creeping into your work and life without you even knowing it. A lot of times to correct it you’ll have to have both personal and organizational changes. These habits are things you can do for yourself to prevent burnout from ruining your life and career.

Episode Breakdown

10:49 Learn to say “no”.

Far too often, the cause of your burnout can be that you do too much for the benefit of others. Charity is great; charity by obligation is slavery that lies about being slavery. It’s not just about saying “no” to things that don’t provide value to you, but about saying “no” to things that you don’t do well, because of the emotional toll of feeling like you aren’t making a difference.

19:00 Pay attention to your own attention.

“In other words have a meta attention monitoring process.”

You can often detect impending burnout and triage it earlier by watching where your attention is going. If your attention is rarely in the present moment, but instead focused on some future or past moment, that’s a strong indication that you need to consider getting out of a situation.

20:33 Learn to delegate.

“One of the things I’ve had to learn to deal with is passing things off to other people.”

If you feel like you can’t trust other people to “do it properly”, whatever “it” happens to be, you need to start training them where they can. Not only does this give you a fallback where you can actually take a break, but it also reduces the risk to your employer if you have one and allows you to scale better if you are self-employed. You may also see improvements in your own process as a result of showing others how to do it.

25:35 Keep your health in order.

This includes sleep, diet, exercise, and stress management. This will insulate your from at least some of the risks of burnout. It will also force your to take better control of your time, which is helpful. The health and quality of life improvements that this provides are also substantial.

28:25 Start at the bottom and work your way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

“You want to approach your life like this, worry about the most important things first.”

Think of it as a triage process. Handle the things that pose the greatest risk to your well-being, then move up a level. Understand that most of the stuff that developers take pride in tend to be in the Esteem/Self-Actualization part of the pyramid. You’ll find that much the cause of burnout is skipping one or more of the levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

33:28 Practice good relationship hygiene.

It’s like depression. Be sure that if you are feeling burnt out that you are actually burnt out and not simply surrounded by jerks. Set good boundaries, especially with people you are trying to help.

“It’s shocking how much this happens.”

There is a good point in the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. He helped the guy who was hurt at the side of the road, but you notice what he didn’t do? He didn’t put the guy up in his own home; instead he put him up in an inn. Good boundaries help keep other people’s problems from being your own. You must maintain a refuge for your own sanity somewhere, especially under your own roof.

37:15 Think about what you’ve learned from the experience.

Your internal narrative about how you got burned out, what you learned, and how you got out of it can help you tremendously in avoiding a recurrence. It’s also the way you are going to explain it to people who come to you asking for advice later. If you have a mindset of having continually been challenged by life and having overcome them, instead of one of having constantly had challenges that broke you, it will help you maintain perspective when the next one comes.

IoTease: Project

Smart Mirror


The idea is for a low cost, easy to build project you can do with common parts. {No need to custom order or build specialty parts for this project.} The project uses a picture frame with mirrored window film set on a monitor. It runs on a Raspberry Pi and can even be incorporated with Alexa. If you want to get really fancy you can use something like a Kinect to register hand movements for controlling it. The project itself is pretty straight forward but you can add on to it as you see fit.

Tricks of the Trade

Understand that there is value in preventative maintenance. It’s not always the best idea to “push through the pain.” Stop, back off a little bit, and assess what you are capable of accomplishing. You’ll get further by acknowledging how much you can do than by just trying to do more.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,