If you struggle to wake up in the morning, feel constantly drained of energy throughout your day, and go to sleep dreading the next day because the cycle will just repeat itself, you might be burned out. You could be experiencing this right now or you may have experienced this in the past and want to prepare yourself for the future. Whatever the case is, this is the post for you.
Below, I’m going to outline for you my five step method to speeding through your current or next burnout. All you need to remember is SPEED: Source, Prioritize, End, Execute, and Develop.
This, of course, is only my recommended method. Take what you like and individualize it to your own needs. Everyone is different, but I think this encapsulates all the necessary basics and is a solid starting point for most people.
With that out of the way, let’s hurry up and SPEED through your burnout.
It’s vital that you first figure out what’s causing your burnout. You might be stressed about deadlines, you might be overwhelmed with a lot of sudden changes, or you might be overworking yourself on a certain job or goal.
A simple test I recommend is measuring your internal batteries and correlating them with your actions. If you find yourself doing things mostly to avoid one thing or a number of things in particular, then you might only be burnt out on that activity, whether it be work or a hobby or whatever it may be. If, however, everything is draining you, then it might be some larger issue like an overburdened schedule. It’s also possible to feel drained by everything because you're avoiding one specific thing, so it might be hard to tell the difference.
Now that you hopefully know what you’re burnt out on, you need to understand why. Start by looking at the big picture: what are your goals, both short term and long term? You might find that your answers conflict with what you’re actually doing. That’s okay, we’ll address that in the next steps but for right now just figure out where you’re wanting to go.
Next, make a list of life priorities. I’d recommend writing them down somewhere accessible and visible, but do whatever works for you. Start with the essentials (food, water, shelter) and work your way down to what’s least important to you (like your outfit, for example. Your list order will be unique to you).
These priorities should center around yourself and be actionable, otherwise you might be overburdening yourself with stress over things outside of your control. Try your best to focus on things you could take immediate steps on today because those are the areas where you can make actual change.
Using the list of priorities you just created, decide what to do about the things you're burnt out on. You have three options: quit, pause, or organize. To elaborate, you can stop doing what you're doing, take a break from what you’re doing, or try to create boundaries around what you’re doing. Either end it, temporarily end it, or create “bookends” for it, hence why this step is called “end.”
If it’s a hobby, consider taking a break. If it’s your job and you depend on it to pay the bills, you're more likely going to choose to organize it. You can still decide to quit, or go on vacation, but not everyone has that luxury. In which case, try to set time periods when you do that work, let others know you’ve set those time periods, and only work during that allotted time. Try your best to leave work at work and focus on the other priorities in your life. An easy way to do this is to set days of the week when you work and days of the week when you don’t.
This step is not just about executing on the decisions you just made, it’s about executing according to your priorities. Start by doing what you decided needed to be done. Quit your hobby and find a new one, go on vacation, organize when you read and exercise in your day, whatever it is you said you’d do, do it. But, more than that, start acting with your goals in mind and choose your actions based on your priorities.
It’s possible that you're experiencing burnout because of a larger issue like an over-busy life or too many unsatisfying activities. Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do, but if you find yourself stuck or annoyed with most things in your life, you might need to reevaluate your life path. It’s okay to make changes, even big ones, that are in your own interest.
Consider looking at the tasks in your life and asking yourself if that is actually in your best interest. As a general rule of thumb, you need to take actions that help you enjoy the short term but also assist you in the long term. Choosing one or the other isn’t good enough, you need to tackle both.
Hopefully, the previous steps have helped alleviate the stress. Simply having set a plan and taking action will probably help, but it will take time to fully recover from a burnout. Potentially months or years even. The intention of this method is to hopefully make that go by quicker, and part of that is by creating a more sustainable work/lifestyle. Now is when you need to start doing more of the things you like doing and setting aside time for the things you’ve been avoiding. Put more energy into your hobbies, for example. If you need help finding one, we wrote a piece on how to do it here.
Also, take action but don’t push yourself too hard. Take things one step at a time and leave room to rest. Short bursts of hard work can only get you so far, and overworking yourself can only make things worse. What you need is discipline in the long run and that takes practice. So, with that in mind, find a way to move forward without dragging yourself along because that is ultimately unsustainable.
Source: Figure out what’s specifically causing your burnout.
Prioritize: Create a list of what matters to you in order from most important to least important.
End: Decide what to do about the things you’re burnt out on. Either quit, take a break, or set boundaries.
Execute: Take action according to what needs to be done. Don’t be sorry about it, and don’t be afraid to put your own needs ahead of others. Keep your goals in mind and stop doing the things that don’t work for you.
Develop: Find new activities that excite you and give you energy. It’s not enough to temporarily resolve the issue, you should try to create a new lifestyle or path that is more sustainable for you and will decrease the chances of a burnout in the future.