There is the false assumption that creativity occurs in big waves. One minute everything is normal and the next minute there is a tsunami of creativity and life changes so fast that the pants you put on in the morning go out of style by noon.
So I completed a little quiz on how “burned out” I was in my position. According to the quiz I should be seeking professional help quickly. Of the three different areas covered I was at the extreme end of the scale on all three.
So, thinking that this was an anomaly I completed four additional tests on whether I was burning out. (Oh, the lengths I go to in order to write one of these morning notes.) I was pleased to learn that only two of the five tests said that I should be seeking professional help while the other three pegged me as “moderately” burned out. That kind of made my day.
Although each test I took was different there were some common threads that seem to be woven through them that were indicators of whether or not you were susceptible to burnout or in a role that was susceptible to burnout. Guess what? My role, indeed the role of my team, was a prime candidate for burnout. If you are in an operational role, responsible for the operations of almost anything on a day to day basis you are in a role that is more susceptible to burnout. That is simply just the nature of the work that we are in.
So, what can you/we do to reduce the risk of burnout?
Reduce the number of interruptions you experience throughout the day. Interruptions include text messages, email, phone calls, instant messaging, drop by visits, etc. The more interruptions the less likely you are to feel that you are accomplishing something.
If possible, plan your day out to the hour. If you are in a position where it is possible to plan your day on an hour by hour basis, do so as soon as you can. The feeling of order and accomplishment is magnified by the fact that you were able to successfully complete your schedule. You may be in a position where this is impossible and if you are, don’t even try this route as it may exacerbate the problem.
Take a walk at lunch and while you are on your walk listen to music or an audiobook. Take you mind away from your work so that it has time to relax.
Reduce the number of “work in progress” items you have going on.
Do something different. Sometimes routine is what contributes to the burnout. Do something different like going to a convention or write a novel. Do something different with the intent of experiencing something new.
Talk to someone. It is amazing how much talking to someone can actually reduce stress.
Or, if you’re like me, you read and read a lot. Starting in July I was aiming to read a book a week until Christmas. I finished reading my 25th book on Sunday, almost four months ahead of schedule and I am reading all sorts of books. I’m doing something different and it feels pretty good.
Last year my family went on a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. Since we were already in Florida we thought we would spend a week at DisneyWorld as well. While we we there my oldest daughter bought a largeStitch plush. It was so large that in order to bring it back with us she had to stuff it in a large carry on bag. Needless to say, Homeland Security had a good time searching the bag for other contraband.
Why does she like Stitch so much? I’m not sure. The thing that really sticks out for me, however, is the following quote from the Lilo and Stitch movie:
Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.
In one quote the writers managed to sum up part of what it means to be human. Collectively we are all part of a giant tribe of people. When someone goes missing there are people out searching for that individual and even though they don’t know them they feel compelled to help search. When a building collapses there is a tremendous amount of effort into searching for survivors and then recovering the bodies. There is a “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” located in many countries around the world. There is an interconnectedness between people that extends beyond familial, cultural or national boundaries. We cheer on our heroes because they are an extension of ourselves. Their success is our success. Their failures are ours. We encourage those who reach for the stars because we know that we ourselves would like to be doing just that.
There is a dark side, however, in that this same attitude can be twisted for harm. While the vision of angry villagers swarming Dr. Frankensteins castle in order to kill the monster seem laughable, they are not far from the truth. The same desire to help can be twisted into the desire for vengeance. The passion for helping can easily be turned into a passion for revenge.
But that is what it means to be human: we experience the ups and downs of life and move through them. Sometimes we do it alone, but often we do it in the company of others.
I am very happy and proud to say that the group of people that I am moving through life with are a great group of people: my family, my friends, my co-workers. You are all part of my tribe and I thank you.