It worries me how familiar the symptoms of burnout are, both when I read about them and when they actually hit me.
I have the unfortunate habit of emotionally overcommitting to a project or a job. It isn’t a problem in general. It’s the only reason why I sometimes solve problems and figure things out that others had given up on.
Persistence is usually a major asset. Intelligence is overrated as a tool for solving complex problems because the problem usually doesn’t lie in the complexity itself. Rather, the problem is often a symptom of one or more “unknown unknowns” lurking within a larger system. And since the system is too complex and too unknown to for you to maintain a working model of it in your head, there’s a limit to how effective raw reasoning skills are at fixing it.
So, you test it. You probe the system and the problem area. You explore it in a structured, piece by piece, and poke it until you isolate the problem and figure out what’s going wrong.
To stick to this process and follow it through to the end you need overcommitment and stubbornness.
But when you apply this level of emotional commitment to a project and its problems and then it turns out that nothing important in the project is under your control—that you can’t apply a basic problem-solving process to the situation—you run the risk of burnout.
Recognising the symptoms and knowing how to manage the situation when it arises is a skill I’m still trying to master.
The #1 cause of burnout is a lack of control over your work life.
And, as evidenced by my story, you can do it to yourself, even if you enjoy your work.
The only solution is to stop working and let yourself recover.
Burnout. by Amy Hoy (1078 words).
What causes job burnout?
Job burnout can result from various factors, including:
- Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.
Job burnout: How to spot it and take action by Mayo Clinic Staff (889 words).