The path to succeed is never linear.
Let me start by saying that I’ve been feeling extra guilty for not being able to update here much lately. Work has taken a big chunk of my time, leaving little wiggle room for much else for me, including things like sleep and showering. Our first family vacation is just around the corner now, and I’ve been scrambling to get the last little bits of stuff together before we drive away and shut the world out for a week.
But I’ve been here before. Actually, I’ve been in worse situations, where there was too much work and not nearly enough down time. Not too long ago, I managed to graduate college debt-free by taking 18 credit hour semesters, working three jobs, and actively participated in two other student organizations. All while helping a family business get off the ground.
Now that was hell. 60 hour work weeks feel like vacation to me now.
There will be periods of time where I’ll have a sort of mini existential crisis. This is when I’ll wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life (not fully utilizing my bachelor’s degree is one example) and whether it is beneficial to me in the long run. Sure, things can get depressing while pondering the above, but it is an important thought process for me to have.
You see, people like to think progress is like A, then B, then C. When in reality it’s basically jsGjdkslHkdnskd- (literally slamming my keyboard) then maybe you get money for it. God, if life was really that predictable and stable looking, I feel like people wouldn’t be freaking out about nearly everything as much.
Running out of money and dealing with severe burnout was not in my master plan of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. I don’t think anyone finds any pleasure nor strives to work themselves to the point of sleep deprivation and forgetting to do things like eat, sleep, and neglect basic hygiene things like showering. No wonder people are all smelly and depressed these days. Fortunately for me, the resulting crashes from overworking myself had positive outcomes. I learned to slow down to stop and smell the roses without feeling guilty about it.
Growing up, my work ethic was born out of necessity (for things like eating) and at the same time trying to keep up with the kids that had money to do extracurricular things. School field trips, social activities, club fees, you name it. Sure, I could work long hours and suck up the pain associated with that, but I was smart enough to know in the long run that working this way 24/7 is just plain unsustainable. But I wanted a lot of things. And the only way at the time to get myself those things was to work my ass off for them.
While it takes a certain degree of madness and dedication to accomplish any big goal in life, the best advice I can give anyone with a full plate is to make sure to come up for air every once in a while. All the work, bills, and general chaos that is life will still be waiting for you after that much-needed break. Don’t let the little things kill you.
Now here’s the part where you really came for – How to not die of burnout? Maybe you’re in the thick of it and need some tips on how to manage when breaks are apparently not an option? Now let me stress this – please take time to take care of yourself. You are useless to others if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first.
Anyway, here are my somewhat embarrassing and sometimes nasty things I did to get by during the worst of it.
1. Be resourceful and find many uses for everyday things.
Is it day 7 of dirty hair and the dry shampoo decided to run out? Baby powder to the rescue. Don’t have the money for shaving cream? Conditioner works wonders. Not only does this save time and avoid stressing about the little things, it is also very frugal and can save money down the road.
2. Be efficient about time management.
Use notes. Calendars. Reminders. Auto-payments. Anything that can help clear up some mental capacity in your head is great. I’m not ashamed to say I will always use calculators to check my work when crunching numbers. I don’t always trust my math skills, and it saves brainpower for worrying about other silly things.
It is also known that simplifying parts of your daily routine helps to keep that mental space clear. School and work uniforms actually do us a favor – they require little effort or thought in the morning to throw on, and they help reserve that mental energy for working or studying.
3. Don’t be picky.
If things don’t go to plan or play out like you’d like them to, don’t fret. Also, don’t spend your precious energy force to fix things that were perhaps never meant to be fixed in the first place. Focus on what you can do yourself. Don’t allow the actions of others or anything else outside of your control make you feel stuck in a loop.
This is something that is also easier said than done for me. I’m still learning how to let go and let live. If this starts to overwhelm me, I give myself a mental “time out” and start to focus on my actions and how I react to certain situations.
Taking a day off for a breather isn’t the end of the world either. Those things that need to be done or conquered will still be there the next morning. So please rest if needed!
4. Start saying NO.
Imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table during the holidays with some distant relative who keeps insisting you haven’t had enough to eat, but you’ve eaten enough to feed a whole village in one sitting and you just can’t take anymore. You politely have to decline or risk your stomach rupturing.
Simply apply the same visual in your work, your personal life, or whatever when that plate is overflowing. Those who mind won’t matter and those who do matter won’t mind. Your health and sanity is what matters most at the end of the day.