How to Beat Burnout and Boost Motivation

By the time you’re cursing at your alarm every time it goes off each morning, you know something is off.

You throw your pillow across the room and swear you won’t go in today or any other day for that matter. But somehow, you get yourself out of the house and into the office. You slide into your chair and fire up the computer; you know what you need to start working on, but you just can’t muster the energy. You’re listless and bored. You’ve lost interest.

You’re burnt out.

Even when we love our jobs, it’s natural to hit a wall sometimes — especially in today’s 24/7 business landscape where we are psychologically and physically attached to the job. Why? Because we take the office with us, in our pockets, wherever we go. Our mobile devices and tablets keep us constantly connected via phone calls, texts and emails.

Without adjusting our work styles, we are in danger of becoming over-stressed and depleted— totally burnt out.

Here are twelve tips to revive your passion and beat burnout.

Take breaks

Working non-stop is no way to be productive. You must recharge your battery by getting up and out of your chair to do something else.

Spend at least 10 minutes a day in a quiet place, away from distractions. Breathe. Turn your mind to other matters, or meditate. You’ll be surprised how these short and quiet moments will clear your mind and boost your interest when you return to the work at hand.

Take walks or go running

I’ve never been one for “going out for lunch.” Funnily enough, it took me a long time to take any kind of lunch break at all. But then I discovered walking.

I’d walk around the campus exactly twice, which was nearly a three-mile trek. Great for staying in shape, getting your vitamin D, and refreshing your mind, heart, and soul.

Put away your digital devices

Come on, you can do it. I know you can! Sure, on those days you’re expecting a call from the dishwasher repairman or the principal from your kid’s school, keep you phone handy. For all other calls, you can wait until your next break to check out what’s going on.

Pare down your to-do list

Okay, you’ve got a long list of things to do. So, get out your highlighter and color the three tasks you plan to get done today. Check off those three items at the end of the day, and notice how productive and accomplished you feel.

Do something creative and fun

Do you have any hobbies?

I used to take pottery classes right after work, or yoga, or drawing classes. These healthy distractions gave me purpose outside the job, and they were something to look forward to while on the job.

Take long weekends and vacations

Americans don’t get a lot of vacation time from their employers. If you’ve got some banked away, take them. Take off a Friday, if only to sleep in late and attend to some chores. Or, take off three weeks to visit the Maldives Islands.

Your job will still be there when you get back, and most of your work will have been handled by others. I promise.

Take naps

I once worked in a small office. Very small. There were only three people— my boss, a programmer and me. The “boss” would take a 20-minute nap, every day. He’d just go into the back room, turn off the lights, and lay on a blanket. Not all office environments are conducive to, or look kindly upon, that kind of activity. And not all people can fall asleep on a dime for a 10-20 minute stretch in the middle of the day (like me, for instance).

However, if you’re among those who have the means and the wherewithal, I say go for it. Naps are known to refresh your mind and body, and give you that new perspective you may need toward the end of the day.

Celebrate the small stuff

If you’re working on an unwieldy project that is expected to take months to accomplish, chances are this project is composed of smaller clusters of tasks that lead sequentially to the final product. Treat those “sub-projects” as milestones; recognize and celebrate their completion with your team.

Get more sleep

Anyone will tell you this, but if you’re a night owl like me, it’s not easy advice to take. One thing I’ve found that helps is turning off the TV — even when I’m wide awake and could watch another 3 hour’s worth. I’m always surprised that I fall asleep pretty quickly when the room is dark and quiet, despite my yearning to stay up and watch the 11:00 news!

Question deadlines

Whenever I was given a deadline at work, I never questioned it. I just accepted it as gospel that came from high on Mount Olympus. I’d race against the clock, tear my hair out and make myself a wreck just to finish on time. Only to be told later “Oh, the product team is postponing the launch until they conduct a little more research.” At the end of the day, the sky didn’t fall.

The truth is, some deadlines are pulled completely out of thin air. They can be absurdly unrealistic, and set you up to fail. Take a close look at the assignments you receive. Look at the schedule, and each step leading to the final delivery date. Is there really enough time allotted for each task? If not, meet with your supervisor and present a case that explains why the schedule needs revising and how. Chances are your boss will agree and get the schedule amended to reflect a more realistic timeframe.

Set clear boundaries

Burnout happens when we are too nice: We say “yes” to too many people and take on too many tasks outside our primary job function. So set strong boundaries. The clearer the better. In writing, if possible.

Hold onto your dreams

If you started your job with passion, and a love for what you do, don’t give up. Your burnout could be a temporary setback—something that will pass, especially if you practice the tips above. If you still believe in the work, don’t surrender, no matter how apathetic, exhausted, or frustrated you might feel.

In addition to these tips on what to do to avoid burnout, there are a few habits to avoid as well:

  • Don’t check your emails while on vacation: If you do, you’re not really on vacation.
  • Don’t become a couch potato: It’s cool to take some down time on the weekends and when you get home from work each day. But you need to stay vital and explore new passions, new hobbies outside of work. If your work has left you paralyzed at home, something’s not right.
  • Don’t stay in a job that’s not “you”: Maybe the job never suited you from the start. Maybe the work is tedious, lacking challenge, and beneath your skill set. Or maybe you took the job in haste, because it was a buyer’s market at the time. If you feel like a zombie “punching the clock” each day, that would explain why you are feeling lethargic and fatigued. That’s not ‘burnout,” it’s depression. It’s time to start looking around for new work, either within your company or elsewhere.

What kind of things do you do to keep your passion at work? Share them with us in the comments section below!