The weather outside seems to be consistently cold, and not in a cute, Instagram-worthy seasonal kind of way. There’s been rain, and lots of gray skies. If you’re a student, you’re in the midst of a heavy workload. If you’re working, daylight hours are decreasing, and you’re probably waking up when it’s dark, and heading home when it’s nearing sunset. Everyone is likely feeling the effects of burnout, a state of physical or mental exhaustion after prolonged exposure to similar stressors. Here’s how to fight it.
Take breaks throughout your day.
Personally, I know that I’ve always tried not to take breaks, both when I was in college and now. I worried that they would distract me and ruin my productivity. It felt like a sign of weakness. This is the wrong perception of breaks.
Taking brief breaks is proven to help with your focus during prolonged work and fight burnout. Breaks help you keep your attention on the task at hand. Now when I say “break,” I don’t mean leave for half an hour, or look at social media for a few minutes. You should step away from any screens and whatever environment you’re working in, whether it’s the library or the office. Take five minutes, walk around. If you’re snacking, make sure it’s healthy. A change in environment and some physical activity will help reinvigorate your mental and physical state. This should happen around every hour.
I know some employers might raise their brows at the thought of taking a break every hour, but five minutes for every hour is a small price for a significant increase in productivity. If you try to work or study in the same place for hours on end, you’re going to lose focus, and your efficiency will steadily decline.
Socialize, or at least put yourself near other people.
Plenty of us isolate ourselves in our cubicles or in our dorms when we’re working/studying. However, it’s crucial that we maintain human contact. It’s easy to lose yourself in a busy schedule, putting social activity and human interaction on the back-burner. Social interaction is crucial to your mental and physical health.
If you’re in an office, try to leave your cubicle for your lunch break and go to a communal space. Humans are naturally social beings. Even just being around other people helps your state of mind! If you’re in school, try to use breaks between classes to interact with friends more. Set up a recurring time/place to meet a friend every week, whether it’s to grab a cup of coffee or just meet and study in the library. This makes you hold yourself accountable for social activity.
Look at the reasoning behind what you’re doing.
No matter how pointless your job or school tasks feel, try to find a way to make it meaningful. Even if your assignment feels like busy work, if you find a reason to do it, it helps motivate you. After spending a while in the same job or classes, we question “what’s the point of all this?” Every task has a reason behind it.
Imagine you’re doing a lot of data entry at work. It might feel boring and tedious, but think of it in terms of what you’re doing for your company. Maybe you’re providing valuable information on new clients, or organizing marketing data that might shape the next big campaign. In college, if you feel like you’re just doing busy work, use it as an opportunity to impress your professor. Chances are other students might feel like the work is pointless too. If you go above and beyond, it might improve your standing with your professor, and maybe you could get a reference out of it!
Everyone is affected by burnout at one point or another. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. It just takes a few simple steps to improve your productivity and motivation. Power through, and know it gets better!