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I love my career. I don't necessarily love my job, like everyone. However, my job is very stressful (software startup) and I'm excited about the work that I'm doing and the possibilities that possibly could arise from it and I want to continue working hard and doing good work.

The thing is - my personality leads me to be a very anxious person and I get burned out fairly easily in my field. I want the energy and enthusiasm of a college freshman but it is hard or near impossible for me to maintain that.

Sometimes I feel neutered - like my drive is gone in the workforce.

How can I avoid burnout and get my energy back?

  • Do you own the startup? – bobbyalex Jul 10 '15 at 6:20
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Short answer: Don't be afraid to take time away from work to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

When you are working in your own business, and in particular a start up, you often throw yourself in 150% to the new challenge. You can maintain this for a while, but sooner or later you start to burn out, unable to maintain the enthusiasm.

What you need to force yourself to do is to step away to maintain your work/life balance. Take up a hobby, or ensure you don't skip the ones you enjoy. Exercise. Spend time with your family. Live. :)

If you expend all of your energy into the business, you have no time to recharge, and more importantly, no time to miss working in it. Often it's the time you are not working in it when your brain ticks over in your subconscious and things get worked out while you weren't actually thinking about it :)

  • 1
    This is very true. Productivity can actually skyrocket with balance. Its not about just long grueling hours of working without breaks, but finding that "sweet spot" where productivity is maximized and burn out is minimized. Its all about the law of diminishing returns. – Alex Jul 10 '15 at 12:42
  • alternet.org/story/154518/… – HLGEM Jul 10 '15 at 14:50
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I treat a software engineering project like a marathon race.

No one ever won a marathon by running a marathon like a continuous sprint. You are bringing the mindset of a sprinter to a marathon, and the consequence to you is that you will break down very quickly and very early in the race as you force yourself to run at top speed as your lungs run out of air and your arms and your legs and your legs give out. Marathon racers not runners - all that runners care about is finishing the race - strategize their race, husband their energies carefully throughout their race, and reserve surges in speed for key points in the race especially the finish line sprint into which they throw everything they've got left. And you have to work for months to condition your body to run steadily at a pace that would kill most occasional runners (and sprinters).

Your throwing in everything you've got right from the beginning and asking how you can maintain it - that's probably the kind of question you shouldn't be asking because it bespeaks of a manifestly wrong approach to getting it done.

Marathon runners don't get anxious, by the way. To finish a marathon race is not only about the body, it's also about the mind. The mind of a sprinter gives out at a time when their race is over. But then, sprinters run much shorter races than marathoners. You can't bring the mindset of a sprinter to a marathon and expect to win that marathon. And you are not going to win a marathon race if you don't have any idea how to strategize to win.

I take it back. Winning a marathon race not about body and mind, it's about body, mind and brain. You are mismanaging the whole thing, starting with conceptualizing it wrong.

  • Hmm, why the down vote? While some of the wording is perhaps a little harsh, there is a reasonable analogy here. – Jane S Jul 10 '15 at 10:41
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    @JaneS Not to worry, the process is usually self-correcting. Thanks for the upvote :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 10 '15 at 11:29
  • I like your analogy quite a lot. The way I usually look at it is, I am going to be in the workforce for around 45 years, so I have to work at an average pace that I can sustain for 45 years. – Bjarke Freund-Hansen Jul 10 '15 at 11:37
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I wanted to answer this because I have been in similar situations and have experienced full burnout. What others said about life-work balance is right on. After many years, I'm still not all that great at maintaining that balance, but I have found a few things that help rejuvenate my enthusiasm. Maybe some of them will help you also.

  1. Variety at work - I find something to learn or a project to work on that, while it will usually benefit my employer in some indirect way, it will greatly benefit (and interest) me. I am extremely fortunate in having an excellent boss, who understands that happy, healthy employees are productive employees. In my case, I volunteered for a favorite non-profit doing some GIS stuff (that is what I do). My boss allowed me to use my work computer and software, while most of my time was volunteer. However, I was able to spend some work time learning remote sensing for my volunteer project - since it benefited my work indirectly. It gave me a nice change, opened up new ideas and opportunities, and it made a few hours of 'work' seem like 'not work'. The variety helped a little with burnout.

  2. Find some sort of mentoring program, or for where I work, we are allowed to use work time to help at a science education non-profit. Teaching kids/others can really be rejuvenating for some people - and just getting away from the office for a few hours and outside can help also. This is similar to #1, finding 'variety', although getting out of the office and 'service' is a big part too.

  3. sometimes you don't need to take a lot of time off to rejuvenate.... taking an afternoon off, coming in 2 hours late after a nice breakfast - those kinds of things are usually pleasant and relaxing, and can make the day go really fast, but you haven't really lost a lot of work time. (Again, I am lucky that flexible schedules are well accepted at my job). This helps when you really just need to leave early after "one of those days/weeks".

  4. teach - I was lucky enough to be able to teach (using what I do at work as examples) at university level for a semester while working almost full time. For me teaching is wonderfully stimulating - but obviously not for everyone.

Good luck! (But try for that balance!)

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I've been in the same position, some of the answers posted will help but only in the way a bandaid helps - it's a temporary solution and just keeps your mind a little more interested. The real problem isn't up there, it's in your body.

You need to do something physical outside of work that you enjoy (everyone has one, you just need to find it). Sitting in front of a computer all day is TERRIBLE for your body, you have to move, build some muscle, get your blood flowing. For me it's rock climbing, I had the same issues as you - I love programming and coding but it just wears you down if that's all you do then you go home and say watch T.V. or play video games or just lounge. That's means your body is in a constant degrade and isn't doing what it was formed to do. Your body and your mind are one and the same, you need to use your body as much as your mind - at first you'll have low energy because you haven't been using your body in so long but after a bit (not even that long, for me 2 weeks going climbing 1-2 times a week) you'll find you have a ton of energy, your mind works better, and you are more efficient at your job and your social skills and everything else.

Get hiking, biking, climbing, swimming, push your body past where it's degraded and you'll get it back to where it was before. As a college freshmen your body is still insanely adept and fit and grows - you were probably walking around a lot, moving from class to class, maybe you biked to class or walked to school - all of this ontop of being younger made things easy for you so get your body and your mind back to a balanced state like they were when you were in college. It's that simple.

Diet as well can be a source of this problem and comes down to the same factors - a lot of people in software industries eat a TON of sugar and aren't physically active after (the amount of donuts I've seen consumed is astronomical). It's fine to have sugar, it's fine to eat junk food but you have to use what you are eating, if your not it clunks up your body and slows down not only your physic but also your mind.

All you have to do is be active and eat better and you'll find you have the wisdom of an older person with the energy of your youth.

Have fun, enjoy your body and thus your life.

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