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Burnout and Boredom: How to Stay Inspired and Motivated (Even When it Feels Impossible)
Burnout is normal. We all suffer from it once in a while. It doesn’t necessarily reflect on your level of passion for what you’re doing; in fact, it often happens because you’re so emotionally invested. The more you care about something, the more exhausting it can be – but that level of care for what we’re doing makes us better at it as well. You shouldn’t feel bad for feeling burned out! So the question is, how can you overcome these stressful feelings and push on with your work?
Break your work down into small tasks.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of your work; in fact, it’s perfectly normal. But nothing is as big as it seems if you can break it down into smaller, achievable goals.
Amita Patel, owner of AlignedHolistics.com, puts it perfectly:
“I’m willing to bet that there have been times when you worked all day, but at the end of the day, you felt frustrated that you didn’t get anything important done. You spent time putting out fires, taking care of others, but not getting any big things out of the way. Am I right? The secret is that achieving your goals isn’t about how much you get done, it’s about doing the right stuff.”1
So how do you “do the right stuff,” so to speak? Make yourself lists of each component that goes into getting something done. Checking off those smaller tasks on your to-do list feels great! You’re accomplishing things again, and the burden of feeling like you’re still so far from accomplishing the larger picture fades.
Create opportunities for rest.
It’s tempting to just grind on through your work no matter what and strive to deliver at all costs, but it IS tiring. You have to create time for mental breaks from your workplace if you want to avoid reaching the point of burnout. Many people only take breaks once they’ve reached the point of feeling burned out, but regularly taking breaks actually stops you from reaching that point at all.
“We tend to assume that it requires trying harder or outworking others, which may get you short-term results but is physiologically unsustainable.” Ron Friedman, founder of ignite80.com explains.2
See – time AWAY from work leads to more productive time AT work.
Don’t worry about things you can’t control.
Although you may want to, you can’t control everything – especially when working collaboratively with others. If a task depends on someone else delivering first, don’t stress about it! There’s nothing to gain from anxiously tapping your pencil while you wait for something you don’t have control over.
Stacia Pierce, author, coach, and entrepreneur has some insight about this:
“Don’t allow yourself to become so emotionally entangled that it paralyzes your progress. Things may not always work out perfectly, but the sooner you get over them, the quicker you move on to your next victory. Only you can control your own actions and reactions.”3
Put away your smartphone.
I can just see some of you shaking your head at this one; I mean, come on, we live in the digital age! We use our smartphones for everything! But trust me – your smartphone is one of the easiest ways to get distracted from the task at hand. How often do you pick up your phone to check a notification and suddenly find yourself, 20 minutes later, browsing articles on the internet?
This doesn’t just apply to dedicated work time, either. Having a smartphone essentially enables you to carry your work with you everywhere, and like I said before, you need to be able to take breaks – whether that means a 10 minute break to stretch, a long weekend, or a two week vacation – you need time to be yourself outside of your work.
Heidi Grant Halverson, social psychologist and author, strongly agrees.
“Put away your phone,” says Halvorson. “Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow.”1
Focus on staying positive.
This may seem pretty obvious, but often people don’t realize how much negativity they have in their thoughts and mindset. Negativity can be as simple as watching the clock tick and silently telling yourself that you should be further ahead in your work – but what does that accomplish?
There are plenty of simple things you can do to train yourself to think more positively, too. Take the time to write down a list of things you appreciate in life (that coffee shop down the street that has the best lattes – why not?). Put up a picture at your workspace of your loved ones to look at when you’re starting to feel down.
Trust me, changing your mental outlook can drastically affect your ability to stay focused, motivated, and inspired.
Give yourself some credit.
How often do you give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished? When you finally finish something you’ve been working on, do you sigh in relief, or do you give yourself a mental pat on the back? If you’re not mentally patting yourself on the back, you should be! You deserve it!
Finishing a task shouldn’t just be about moving onto the next one. Stop for a moment and remind yourself that you’ve just accomplished something – and remember that it’s just one more step towards whatever unknowns the future holds for you.
Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group, has some inspiring things to say about this:
“When you encounter naysayers, just keep forging ahead. After all, who would have thought … that the guy who needed to borrow a secondhand plane to launch an airline would one day help to create the space tourism industry?”4
Be committed to the process, not outcome.
This ties in with breaking your work down into smaller tasks. When you read a great book, do you think about the process that author went through to take an idea and forge it into a physical object in your very own hands?
That great book probably took years to end up on the shelves of a bookstore! It probably took countless revisions, countless late nights, countless crumpled up pieces of paper, and hours and hours leading to years and years of work – all so that you could one day read the back cover, decide to buy it, and be immersed in the story.
And that principle applies to all work, no matter what it is. Everyone starts somewhere. Everything great that is ever created has a whole history behind it.
In the wise words of entrepreneur James Clear:
“Fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.”5
Next time you’re feeling burned out, keep these things in mind and cut yourself some slack! Take the time to take care of yourself, and get back to work when you’re feeling fresh and motivated again to accomplish – one step at a time.