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Dealing with burnout

I've got a fairly bad case of burnout.  I feel unmotivated, my work has little or no meaning for me, I have no energy -- all the classis symptoms.

I know the standard recipes for recovery.  But I can't really afford to take a couple months off work (and the company can't really afford for me to be gone that long), I don't want to change careers, and I don't have any choice right now on what I'm working on.

What I have been doing is simplifying my life, taking more "downtime", and just not doing much real work at the office.  But I need a little more than that.

Maybe I'm asking for the impossible -- but if you have any knowledge or experience in dealing with burnout that involves "non-standard" recovery mechanisms, I'd welcome your input.  Or any other input, for that matter.


Friday, June 20, 2003

You don't have to change careers. Just change jobs, to doing something you love instead of something you tolerate.

Brad Wilson (
Friday, June 20, 2003

I think your symptoms are more depression than burn-out based on what I read.

Change your job if possible as a previous poster mentioned.

I experienced burn-out back in the late 90's.  I think burn-out is characterized more as a sudden noticeable physical change - for me it was panic attacks out of the blue.  For a close friend he actually could literally not speak sometime for hours.

In any case extra sleep is an immediate thing to try since I know it works well for both :-)

Good luck.

James Nicoll
Friday, June 20, 2003

I don't know the details of your situation, so this may be way off.... caveat emptor.

In my experience, sometimes burnout results from just taking too much on yourself. It's easy for a dedicated individual to do this. In the long run, this is a good trait that will get you noticed and gain you respect. The problem is knowing when you've reached your limit.

One of the harder things to learn is how to delegate. I don't know if you have developers reporting to you, but if so, learn how to use them. You may find that the ones that you trust are already wishing you would give them more responsibility anyway.

Finally, one REALLY valuable rule we take from XP is: 40 hour weeks. Now I don't mean never work overtime. Sometimes you have to, but our rule is you cannot work overtime two weeks in a row. We need thinking people at their desks, not zombies. Eventually all those extra hours catch up with you. Instead, take those hours and find something to do that will help you decompress.

Good luck.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Try taking up a hobby.  Those who do often find that they get energy from their hobby, which gives them the energy to direct into their day job.

Note that a hobby can be anything from Tai Chi to watching old movies.  Just pick something that interests you and dive in.  Subscribe to a bunch of magazines.  Vhatever.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, June 20, 2003

Both from a depression and a burnout perspective I have some advice on things that worked for me:

(1) Little steps. Sometimes you just feel overwhelmed by it all. Try to pick one little thing to do at work, do it well and then sit back and really mean it when you tell yourself "Hey, you did good! Check it out :)". Then reward yourself with a coffee break. Then repeat the cycle. Make a to do list and slavishly execute it one step at a time. This may sound trite and dumb but it works and after a while you get back into the rhythm and you feel better.

(2) Get interested in other people's work. Chat over the water cooler and then follow up by going over to someone else's desk and talking about what they're doing / the bug they're working on / whatever. Try to avoid a group moan; the aim here is to get enthusiastic about something other than your own work. Do a little "show and tell" session for less experienced fellow-workers or talk about something you know about that they have never worked with and which has nothing to do with your current job.

Strength. It will get better :)

(2) Do nice stuff outside work. Spoil yourself if you can - not expensive stuff. Go to bed at 6pm instead of watching tv. Feel pampered and loved.

Friday, June 20, 2003

To add to what's been said, I burned out last fall (almost killed a company in the process) - I know that one of the root factors was being overloaded. I was the sole dev on a massive project and I was drowning.

I got out of it by whittling away at the tasks until I was out of the woods. Now I sometimes feel it coming on again, but recognize that it's the issue of facing large balls of mud - I deal with it by simply attacking them head-on. In other words, I just start *doing something.*

I'll also second the advice on taking up a hobby - preferably something active. Something to get your body moving and your brain free.

Good luck, and keep us informed!


Friday, June 20, 2003

I hope this helps.

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Friday, June 20, 2003

Bicycling - or the moral equivalent thereof (for some its running).

But something you can do, which is low overhead.  That is, you don't have to drive for an hour to do it, or pay a bunch of money.  Running is best in this regard; all you need are shoes.  But, its somewhat hard on us old farts' knees.

Anyway the point is to get you out doing something else.  Something you like.  Something that gives you a sense of freedom.  And something completely contracry to sitting at a computer screen.

If you find that you're less productive when you engage in your "distraction of choice" - that's OK, keep at it.  Your productivity will return in about 4 weeks or so.  Just get addicted to something other than work.  Something healthy.  Not Cheetos.

The great thing about bicycling is that you can ride into work.  The worst thing is that it costs money to get started.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, June 20, 2003

"my work has little or no meaning for me" - had the same feeling some time ago. But then, I considered that it might be legit to think about it this way, i.e. there is life outside the office building. So, I started fooling around, not taking my job too seriously, thinking: it really does not matter as it used to do.

I did not erase viable data during this process, of course.

Johnny Bravo
Friday, June 20, 2003

I believe you are suffering from burnout rather than depression.

Burnout is a common problem in our field and it is typically caused by working long hours under stressful conditions.

Seems to me you have four options:

* Ask your boss to cut back on your job responsibilites
* Goof off more at work without the boss' permission
* Pick up a physical activity (weightlifing, running, etc.) that will help you relieve some of your stress
* Look for a new job

Burnout has happend to me before and the only way I was able to overcome it was to switch jobs.

Friday, June 20, 2003


Friday, June 20, 2003

If you are into reading go read "Zen and the art of motorcycle Maintenance recently". and Reflect.

Prakash S
Friday, June 20, 2003

Do some exercise, meditate (concentrate in the present) and do what you enjoyed when you where a kid or a teenager.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I burned out April 2002 - August 2002.  My productivity dropped to two lines of code a day - I sat and stared at the code and felt like I don't know how to do it anymore.  It was a nightmare.

IMO, you only have one option: Take time for yourself.  Take days or parts of days to be by yourself, or spend time with friends or your family.

BTW, one upside is that I write better code now than before.  It's very hard for me to read my code produced before April 2002.

Hope this helps.

Todd Rosenberg
Saturday, June 21, 2003

A while back, when I was spending too much time staring at a computer screen (I work from home), my wife institiuted one day a week (usually Saturday) that was a designed "no computer" day. No switching on the computer, even for 5 minutes to check my emails. That helped a lot in switching off from work, meaning I felt fresher when I was at work.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I just went through one whole year++ of being burnt out.  With the same company.  My performance sucked compared to what it had been, but was good enough to keep me off the chopping block.  I think it was depression + stress related.

Not much advice to give other than don't just run out & get a new job.  I'm glad I didn't. 

Sunday, June 22, 2003

> If you are into reading go read "Zen and the art of motorcycle Maintenance recently". and Reflect.  <

Is it just me or is Chattaqua just another way of saying "I'm going to ignore plot and ramble for a bit."

Parts of that book are brilliant, but it's not exactly light reading. The ending of that book is mind blowing, but I've completely forgotten it.

Also, did you misplace that quotation mark, or is there a book called "Zen and the art of motorcycle Maintenance recently."

Lastly, I've always found books like that aren't best absorbed during crisis mode. It's not like reading that book will change his life today... unless he decides to quit his job and live simply as a travelling motorcycle mechanic.

Examining his life circumstance is important though - what other aspects of his life are keeping him in a job that's causing him stress. What decisions has he made - place to live, cost of living, building up debt, prevent him from changing jobs if his job is stressful.
Sunday, June 22, 2003

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