Reigniting the Fire When You’re Burned Out

By July 16, I was a puddle. After a very busy spring term, a move to a new home after five years in our previous abode, travel to Chicago for a week with five PR students, teaching summer classes and lots of client projects, July 16 was the final day of my first summer workshop. Even though it was just a blimp, a (very) small milestone, it felt like a much needed end. After I left campus, I barely got off the couch for two days.

I realized as I shook off some of the fog of that crazy busy season was I was totally and completely burned out. I didn’t want to teach, I couldn’t get excited about client work and everything I was supposed to do felt like a giant drag. I wasn’t sleeping well at night, but wanted to sleep all day. My normal productivity is pretty high, but man, it was hard to get anything done. I spun my wheels. A lot. It’s taken me most of the summer to feel like I’m even remotely back on track.

It’s helped to set some boundaries (“I’m not going to be on campus this week, we’ll have to meet next week.”) and enjoy my time with my family. I’ve been reading a lot of advice from others on dealing with this state of mind and here are some of my favorite tips:

Do Only Three Things. I love this idea from an Entrepreneur article with a handful of “lesser known” tips. A big to do list can be totally overwhelming and when productivity is nil, it is impossible for me to get going. But committing to doing just three things a day for the next two weeks feels good. And a little momentum can go a long way. (I also like the “watch cartoons” advice in this article… I love cartoons.)

Create Outlets. Zen Habits suggests finding an outlet – maybe a side project or a hobby that can clear your mind. For me, it’s horses. I’ve also recently gotten involved with Stella & Dot as something completely different than everything else for me to focus on when I need a break. Sometimes “totally different” is a good thing.

Be Assertive. A PsychCentral post says to say “no” and don’t feel obligated to offer an excuse. Oh man, I’m bad at this one. But I’m working on it. I am saying “no” more often, but I totally try to explain myself. I was talked to our director of student advising just today and she was giving me a total out on speaking at an event and I still offered an explanation.

So I’m headed into the new academic year not feeling very motivated and inspired, but at the end of the day, I love my job and that matters a lot.

How about you? Ever felt burned out? How did you cope?

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  • Sam

    Kelli,
    Thank you for the thought provoking post- as I near the end of my college career I find myself losing steam with projects and classes. The number one thing I do to help combat my slumps is grab my roommates and watch a movie on Netflix, probably one we have already seen 100 times. This clears my mind and helps me regroup after a few hours of hilarious entertainment. The “Three Things” tip you mentioned also seems to be helpful- I will have to give it a try.

    Thanks again!

  • Sam

    Kelli,
    Thank you for the thought provoking post- as I near the end of my college career I find myself losing steam with projects and classes. The number one thing I do to help combat my slumps is grab my roommates and watch a movie on Netflix, probably one we have already seen 100 times. This clears my mind and helps me regroup after a few hours of hilarious entertainment. The “Three Things” tip you mentioned also seems to be helpful- I will have to give it a try.

    Thanks again!