Posted on August 7, 2020 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

The two important definitions of burnout are:

  • “A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.
  • “A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” – Herbert J. Freudenberger.

Between them, these definitions embrace the essence of burnout, with the first stressing the part that exhaustion plays in it, and the second focusing on the sense of disillusionment that is at its core.

Anyone can become exhausted. What is so poignant about burnout is that it mainly strikes people who are highly committed to their work: you can only “burn out” if you have been “alight” in the first place.

While exhaustion can be overcome with rest, a core part of burnout is a deep sense of disillusionment, and it is not experienced by people who can take a more cynical view of their work.

Even if you love your job, it is common to feel burnt out from time to time. Perhaps you just wrapped up a big project and are having trouble mustering motivation for the next one. It could be that your home life is taking up more of your energy than usual. Or maybe you are just bored. What is the best way to recharge? Are some forms of rejuvenation better than others? How do you know if what you are feeling is ordinary burnout or something else, like chronic dissatisfaction?

What the Experts Say

Burnout — the mental and physical exhaustion you experience when the demands of your work consistently exceed the amount of energy you have available — has been called the epidemic of the modern workplace. There is no question that we are at greater risk of burnout today than we were 10 years ago. In large part, it is because we are surrounded by devices that are designed to grab our attention and make everything feel urgent. There is a lot more pressure in our current life cycle. It can lead you to feel lethargic, stressed, and depleted — literally spent. So, you need to find ways to “put some gas back in your tank”.

Here are some ideas on how you could do that:-

Take breaks during the workday

Burnout often stems from a lack of understanding about what it takes to achieve peak workplace performance. We tend to assume that it requires trying harder or outworking others, which may get you short-term results but is physiologically unsustainable. To perform at your best over the long term, you need regular opportunities for restocking your mental energy. Take a walk or go for a run. Have lunch away from your desk. Stepping away from your computer gets you out of the weeds and prompts you to re-examine the big picture. It is often in the intervals between thinking really hard about a problem and then stepping away that solutions becomes apparent. But take your breaks at the right. When your energy is highest – often in the morning – you should focus on work and maximize your productivity.  Tackle your toughest challenges at those times. Then step away for a rest.

Put away your digital devices

Before the Blackberry era, leaving your work at the office was a default. If you wanted to take work home with you, that required effort and planning.  That is no longer the case. Today we are all carrying around an office in our pocket in the form of a smartphone, so we are both psychologically and physiologically still attached. The remedy is to actively limit your use of digital devices after office hours. Place your smartphone in a basket or drawer when you arrive home so you are not tempted to pick it up and check your email, or you might devise a rule for yourself about turning it off past 8pm. Put away your phone. Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow.

Do something interesting

Instead of concentrating on limiting or avoiding work in your off-hours, schedule the restorative experiences that you look forward to. Making plans to play tennis with a friend or cook a meal with your spouse compels you to focus on an approach goal – doing something pleasurable – instead of an avoidance goal – not checking your email. Research shows that approach goals are easier and more enjoyable to achieve. Studies also indicate that doing an activity you find interesting – even if that activity is taxing – is better for you than simply relaxing. What you do with your downtime matters. Sure, it is appealing to laze on your couch with a tub of popcorn and Netflix, but try engaging in something more challenging instead – like a crossword or game of chess. Even though it is difficult, it will give you more energy.

Take long weekends

Feeling mentally and physically exhausted may also be a sign that you need to take some time off. The break need not be a two-week vacation; rather when it comes to stress-reduction, you get a much greater benefit from regularly taking three-day or four-day weekends. While you are away, though, do not call the office or check your email. You need to let go. Every one of us is a little less vital than we would like to believe.

Focus on meaning

If your job responsibilities preclude immediate time off, focus on why the work matters to you. Connecting your current assignment to a larger personal goal – completing this project will help you score that next promotion, for instance – will help you fight the temptation to slack off and will provide a jolt of energy that will give you what you need to barrel through that day or the next couple of days. Be aware, however, that this may provide only temporary relief. If you are burnt out from working too hard, you need to stop and take a real break.

Make sure it is really burnout

If none of these strategies work, you could be dealing with something more serious. If you are listless and fatigued but still feel effective on the whole, then it is probably just burnout. But if you feel as though you are not making progress and that the work you do does not seem to matter, it is a different problem. Is your manager giving you what you need to work at your best? If not, you may need a different position. Is the very nature of your work sapping your energy? If so, you may need to rethink your career.

Principles to Remember


  • Set boundaries around your use of digital devices during off-hours
  • Incorporate regular breaks into your workday
  • Focus on why the work matters to you if professional obligations preclude a vacation

Do Not

  • Check your email when you are taking a vacation or on a long weekend
  • Spend all your downtime vegging; engage in activities that challenge and interest you
  • Mistake constant fatigue and apathy for a temporary case of burnout; if you feel ineffective on a daily basis, it might be time to look for a new job

As usual, we remind you to take your Memo Plus Gold daily. It will help to keep you alert and mentally sharp.Natural memory enhancer