Overcoming Burnout

Last fall I experienced a bit of burnout with Web design and development. I had so many different projects all going on at the same time, and shifting responsibilities and roles in my position that I had a hard time discerning up from down. I came to a point where I just wanted to quit and take up farming, or become an auto-mechanic, or anything not involving sitting in front of a computer all day.

Relief came over time as I learned to groove with my new responsibilities, cut back side projects (I’m not taking any currently), stopped answering my phone every time it rang, implemented “inbox zero” for e-mail, and generally simplified life in other ways.

I also started reading more frequently, spending more time away from my CrackBerry and other methods of being plugged in, and spent more time with my wife and daughter. Suddenly I found a new well of hope and inspiration.

I have heard of several others who are on the verge of burnout. It is good to work hard, and there are seasons in life where we must put our nose to the grindstone and simply keep plowing away. But there are other times to rest.

Have you experienced burnout like this, and how have you overcome it?



13 responses to “Overcoming Burnout”

  1. Russ Avatar

    This is something I struggled with a lot as well. I was very nearly burned out (to the “I hate computers” stage) a year ago.

    I’ve fully recovered now. Though I’m a bit wiser about time spent randomly dorking with machines.

    Breaks are needed, and there’s a limit to how hard one can push constantly. I’m enjoying my point of life right now (grad student, random freelance stuff) – I could be making more money elsewhere, but I really enjoy what I do, and I’m making more than enough to live on.

    Taking time to sit and read is very nice as well.


  2. Scott Avatar


    A big part of success in a highly networked world is controlling connectivity rather than letting your connections control you. I think you made a big step forward by shutting down some of your access points (phone, email, messaging, etc.) and spending time with your immediate family (a good place to regroup and find your calm). The next step is generally to be more judicious as you open yourself up to networking opportunities and design contracts. Success at design work generally requires long hours… but that simply reinforces the need (in my mind) to gauge your energy levels. Those paying for your work should understand that you’re protecting your own reputation by defending the quality of your output. Capisce?

    Scotty K

  3. jbdysart Avatar

    I totally agree with Russ. Working in the IT industry, it is very easy to become burned out by computer problems, programming, and even the everyday use.

    What I find useful when this occurs is to simply take a break, step back and take a few deep breaths.

  4. Craig Avatar

    Hi Matt,

    I was facing exactly the same thing in my business before Christmas. It felt like I was constantly working and never achieving.

    This year, I have:
    * Realigned my work to my strengths so I’m mostly doing the stuff I’m good at and enjoy.
    * Decided on my 3 main priorities and work on them every day.
    * Changed my email from checking every minute to every hour.
    * Started leaving the office at 8pm every night (I start late too).
    * Started spending more time with friends and relaxing.
    * Banned myself from even working on the fun stuff on Sundays.

    Now, I think my productivity has quadrupled and every day I seem to be ticking important tasks off my list.

    I feel great, and life a lot more fun now.

    It’s ‘nice’ to hear others are going through the same and coming out the other side as well.

    Best Regards,

  5. Greg Frey - Web Designer Avatar

    I quit my job and became a lecturer for a year. Fortunately they rehired me.

  6. James Creare Avatar

    Matt, don’t worry your not alone.

    I started working for the company that I work at now, and I don’t know exactly how it happened, but over the course of the last two years, I have gone from working Mon-Fr 9-5 to now working Mon – Sat 8am – 8pm.

    My pay has gone up over the last two years, but i have just felt snowed under for the last 2-3 months in particular. It really takes it out of you, and you start to lose your grip and ability with your work, especially with designing.

    I find at the moment, I am cutting corners, and just generally getting fed-up with the dense and long projects that we are undertaking.

    Like you said, you have to take time out to just, remember what is important in life.

  7. Chris Avatar

    Great blog entry. I had a case of extreme burnout about six years ago. I had to really re-prioritize my work life and in an odd way it made me a more competent designer / developer. I’m pretty broke now LOL! so I can’t say the decision has been the best for my finances, but at the same time I enjoy life more, my work seems that it’s more precise mainly because I enjoy it more. I actually work to make myself happy with the work rather than just satisfying the clients need exclusively.

    I wanted to say that you did a great thing by acknowledging yourself and your own well being and that you and your work will only be better for it.

    Take it easy.

  8. Jason Marsh - Website designer Avatar

    Howzit Matt It’s scary how quick it can happen when swamped with multiple projects going at the same time, especially when you are dealing with clients with limited vision, even less constructive feedback and unrealistic ideas. A lot of good designs never see the web cos of this, so it’s important to find an alternative creative out let where you aren’t constrained by clients

  9. jamie Avatar

    i think sometimes you just have to go home from work and forget about it, think about yourself cos if you don’t you will make the same mistakes again.

  10. […] awhile about a year ago, out of necessity, not insomnia. Use carefully, however, as it lead to burnout for […]

  11. Free Article Resources Avatar

    that’s really a fantastic post ! ! added to my favourite blogs list. .

  12. Myspace Layouts Resources Avatar

    that’s really a fantastic post ! ! added to my favourite blogs list.

  13. […] awhile about a year ago, out of necessity, not insomnia. Use carefully, however, as it lead to burnout for […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *