Defeating Burnout

A very timely post over at Zen Habits about avoiding burnout.

The highlights?

Achieve in increments

For me – this becomes as simple as breaking down project lists to their smallest possible constituent parts (a philosophy borrowed from David Allen and GTD).  This way, I get many little  victories over the course of the project, and that helps to keep me moving.

Define success realistically.

Often, this boils down to a very frank conversation with myself, or (more often) with my wife.  What’s realistic?  What would be “good enough” (not easy to determine for someone who loathes “settling”)?  What makes sense in this situation?  Let suggests the following steps for doing this:

Get a piece of paper and write down your big, ambitious goal. Then write down at least 10 specific, concrete steps that will allow you to achieve that goal. Be as detailed as possible. If you can’t come up with a series of down-to-earth steps to get you from here to your dream, that’s a sign that you need to either redefine your goals or rethink the way you’re pursuing those goals.

Next step:

When you’re working, focus.

When I really need to get work done – I break out my 8/2 split.  What’s that?  It’s 8 minutes of work, followed by a 2 minute break.  During the work period, no web surfing, no twitter, no email windows, inboxes, chat, or anything else.  Just work.  Then – after 8 minutes, you get 2 minutes to dink around, tweet, read emails, whatever.

In an hour, you’ve done 50 minutes of true work with a 10 minute break.  Or, more often, you hit the groove after the third or fourth 8 minute session, and skip the break to keep on working.

Quick win: using Egg Timer online.

Know when to power through it.

Sometimes, especially in graduate school, these things must simply get done.  Personally, I jealously guard my sleep and my evening hours.  I would rather get up extra early to work rather than staying up late (unless I’m in the groove – I’m hesitant to break out of a productivity groove under nearly all circumstances).  But – when it must get done, it must get done.  Try to avoid finding yourself in this situation if at all possible.

Never accept defeat.

Ultimately, the reaching of a goal is up to you.  You may encounter setbacks, you may need to re-focus or re-state your goal, or simply decide that you have met enough of the goal to move on in life.  It’s up to you, it’s not easy, but sometimes, it’s best to go this route rather than “accepting defeat.”

Read more strategies from the original post, and keep up the good work everyone.

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