I have a really hard time resting. When I get into “work mode” I summon all the resources available in the moment and keep pushing forward. Obviously, it’s not unusual that I very often have to face a hard reset – either voluntary, or involuntary.
There is probably more than one cause for this behavior. It might be that I’m having an overachiever complex (hiding, obviously, other problems not yet solved), or it might be that I am really, really passionate about what I do, I like it a lot. Add to this the fact that there are also emergencies, or situations when resting is simply not a choice (not all of them, of course, but sometimes there are). So, while getting to the root cause of this constant ‘crash by work’ attitude may be a longer process (and harder to brainstorm in a blog post), talking a bit about how I managed, in time, to control this resource allocation failure, might be more appropriate.
Without further ado, let’s go.
The first sign of getting in it too much, is, a bit counterintuitively, the mere excitement I feel, paired with some big expectations. When I have that specific feeling, when I get into that exhilaration state about a new project, or a new task, I know it will end up suddenly, with a hard reset. So, one way to manage it is to curb my enthusiasm. I try to get into tasks or projects with a little bit of distancing, regardless of how much I love them (or not). If I’m getting in it with too much enthusiasm, I know I will want to see it all done instantly, to finish it as soon as possible, and I will obviously stretch myself too much in this process.
Another way to avoid the burnout was to split the day in one hour chunks (or smaller). It’s not related to the Pomodoro technique, in which you write down, or cross off, some “pomodoros” for each finished task. It’s simply an interruption of the work flow, for 5-10 minutes, or a switch to a different task. Sometimes I just get up, stretch a little or even walk for 5-10 minutes outside the coffee shop or coworking. Other times I simply pause the thing and relax for 5-10 minutes by reading some short, nice stuff (being it a newsletter that I saved specifically for this) or just some blog posts. After that, I get back to work a bit more refreshed and relaxed.
And the third thing that helped me (to a certain extent) was journaling. It helps me not only to clear my mind, but it acts as some sort of self-referencing observation agenda. For instance, I can look back at some days and see I was very productive. If there are 3-4 consecutive days, I know I am approaching some sort of a wall, so I try to slow down a little. It’s like a “heating alarm”. If I see in the journal too much stuff (or, on the contrary, too little, meaning I was so caught in that I didn’t even manage to journal anymore) then I simply take half of the day off. Most of the time that’s enough. And most of the time I can even wait until the weekend, and decide not to work during the weekend.
As you can imagine, I wrote today about that because I felt a little bit of overheating. Luckily, it didn’t get bad, so I was even able to distance myself a little and share some parts of the process.
With the hope they’ll be useful to someone, somehow, someday.