I don't think I want to do this anymore...
After three or four decades of being immersed in the digital lifestyle and blogging on a continual basis for 15 years, I found myself puking at the idea of spending more time in front of the computer outside of work. It's not that I don't still like technology and content management, but I didn't recognize until it was too late that the lack of topic diversity would eventually lead me to digital burnout. To fix this, I seriously tried not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In the end that's exactly what I did.
Having walked away from CMS Report earlier this year, it's taken me months to recognize that the problem wasn't being bored with content management systems. The problem is I didn't do it in moderation. Between my day job working in information technology and the evenings spent blogging and running personal websites, there were days I spent close to 16 hours in front of a computer screen. For someone like me that can be over enthusiastic in pursuing my interests and activities, I never considered my computer time as work. As odd as it sounds, it became a great shock to me that my body both physically and mentally still perceived it as work.
I know there are others that have dealt with job burnout, but this wasn't just my job it was my hobby. Until recently, writing blog posts always brought me great joy and satisfaction. Steven Dâsouza in a recent article published at Harvard Business Review wrote about going through something similar. In the article he discusses the dangers of not recognizing work we love as still being work.
Why was I so oblivious to being on the edge of burnout – or, more accurately, descending further into burnout? Perhaps because I love my work and often don’t frame it as “work.” If this is a “problem,” I reasoned, it’s one lots of people would love to have. I feel very lucky to do work I am passionate about, and I like the people I get to work with.
And yet such positivity, I’ve learned, can backfire. Because I love and appreciate my work, my mental “immune system” had nothing to reject. It had become too much of a good thing; the axiom “a strength overplayed can be a liability,” leaps to mind.
There are a number of articles focused on job burnout that suggest a number of methods to fixing this. For instance the Mayo Clinic suggests to resolve job burnout you "take action" by doing such things as:
- Manage the stressors that contribute to job burnout.
- Evaluate your options.
- Adjust your attitude
- Seek support
- Access your interests, skills and passions.
- Get some exercise
- Get some sleep
Frustratingly, none of this worked for me. It's not that I didn't try. Long time readers know I love the outdoors and this year I upped my game. I've done some really cool stuff this summer including hiking up to Grinnell Glacier during a 10 day family camping trip in Glacier National Park. Through the summer, I regularly rode 25 to 30 miles on my city's fantastic bicycle trails. Nothing. I'm still burned out from blogging and unable to do so with any consistency.
So why don't these burnout solutions work for me? Most of the prescriptions to burnout actually encourage you to "run away" from the problem. On my return, I still found when I resumed to my work that I still suffered from burnout. I've reached the conclusion that I can't rediscover my love for blogging by not blogging. Running from the problem might offer temporary relief from burnout, but it's not a solution in itself. Perhaps it's all about getting down back to basics for why we originally blogged and did social media in the first place. We originally did this for ourselves and not for marketing purposes.
Recently, I came across Bryan Collin's article, 4 Simple Remedies For Burnout Backed By Science. Three of the solutions presented I've already tried, but the remaining solution resonated with me.
1. BECOME MORE SELFISH
In 1943, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow explained an individual can only be happy if they are able to express themselves and achieve their potential.
He called this self-actualization and cautioned that "the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short."
If you spend your working day responding to the demands of other people or if you work only on projects only because you are told to, burnout is inevitable.
Leaders of successful companies recognize the importance of self-actualization, and this why many of these give employees time to work on their favorite projects through hack-athons and "20% time," which allows employees to take one day a week to work on side projects.
I've decided to start blogging again and this time I will be selfish. How is this going to work out?
First, I'm not going to accept advertising revenue on my websites nor do favors for anyone. There are just too many marketing traps that remove you from the joy of blogging when it's being done quid pro quo. Secondly, I've decided not to write articles for others but solely for my personal blog mirrored perhaps on Medium (I have some work to do before this happens). That's not to say, I'm not open to seeing my articles republished elsewhere by request...but it won't be my primary motivation to write a post.
I think if I do these two things, I might just recover from this horrible digital burnout I've been facing. I'm also curious if others have found themselves in the same situation? If you've ever dealt with burnout, how did you deal with it yourself?