Second, have you spent the last year working so hard that nothing short of a physical illness will make you slow down? Do you regularly push through problems with sheer willpower? Do you crave the next "green" unit test result beyond all sanity?
If so, you're almost certainly burnt out. Don't try to push through it. Take a vacation. Get outside. Allow yourself to be distracted by a pointless and amusing hobby for a month. You can't fix burnout with willpower. You need to take time off and refresh.
If you haven't been mistreating your body, and you haven't been pushing yourself too hard for too long, then it's possible you're lazy, or depressed, or something else. If you think you might be lazy, commit to making some useful progress every morning for 30 days, no exceptions. Or try a Pomodoro timer. These might be enough to tip you over the edge and get you moving. But don't do this until you've ruled out burnout, because it will only dig you in deeper.
In fact if you're putting that many hours, you're probably also mistreating your body, doing little to no exercise and incurring in sleep debt. And I repeat, I know because I'm being this stupid. After two months of this ridiculous schedule I find myself fairly drowsy during the day, unable to resolve challenging problems. My body is acquiring fat very easily and I suffer from the stomach + a lot of headaches. And I just have been two months through this.
To be honest, the period in my life in which I succeeded the most was the one in which I had my needs completely met and I enjoyed every bit of my work, working as hard as I could.
If you're a coder mental clarity is one of your biggest assets, so either run out of that health destructive spiral (that's what I'm going to do as soon as this quarter ends) or just stick with physical and mental problems.
I was kind of worried about the context switching when I first started out, but it didn't turn out to be an issue. The breaks are a good breather and allow me to code for longer. The strict timing of the breaks also prevent me from slacking off and not going back to work.
The 25 minute quantums may be short for some people. There's no reason why you can't customize this and use 45 minutes with a 10 minute break instead.
I guess what I'm getting at is that people have forgotten that work is supposed to be hard. You're supposed to work your nuts off until you lose all track of time. "Free time" is a misnomer, because every moment that you're not working, you're costing yourself time, and time is precious, and should therefore be spent working.
If you can't hack back-to-back 80+ hour weeks, you need to keep throwing yourself into them until you can.
You call that just fine? This is not fine. This is not healthy and this is the attitude you should be fighting against. If you honestly think that you are a better person and you produce your best work when you're exhausted and depressed, you should probably get some other opinions on that, because I have a strong feeling that the people around you will disagree - whether that's co-workers or family members.
Or someone who has severely lost track of perspective.
You know it's done well when you really can't tell.
Posting self-loathing material is subtle for someone to come along and pick up their shoulders. They know what they're doing is unhealthy or irregular but won't outright admit it because it shows weakness. "My life sucks but I march on and continue to produce acceptable deliverables" is a pride thing.
tl;dr - start slowly, admit that you can improve your life and STILL churn out those code snippets and you'll find yourself happier!
I had been working way to much for the past 4years, and on the months leading to the melt down, it was just unhealthy, and i kept going at it, using drugs to keep up (i am deeply ashamed looking back...), barely sleeping and eating. And slowly it creep up on me, until i completely lost it. By my foolish attitude, i had not only burn myself (its been a month, i haven't been out of my place, i haven't written a line of code - i tried, but just the sight of it makes me sick -), but also hurt my co-workers and company, who in the process have lost their Chief Engineer and probably the project i was working on as well -months of work, and in the 6digits investment-.
There are people you can talk too, if it's not friends, professional help is there, i know how hard it can be to admit you've screwed up your life and health, but for your own sake, go get some help, before it is too late.
Because when your mind says stop, it'll be past the point where you can fix this "easily", and you'll be stuck with your decision for months, may be years. Take control of your situation, before your mind does it for you...
I definitely need help, and I know it, but in the UK, the social stigma attached to seeing a mental healthcare professional exceeds that of going insane.
You're literally killing yourself. You just don't know it yet.
Consider adding "deluded" to the initial list.
You mention hard work, but I would argue you are really not working that hard. Working hard (either physically or mentally) like you say you do is simply not sustainable long term. I have known people who have put themselves in the hospital through burnout. Sleeping at the office 6 days/week, living on vending machine food, and the stress of the whole thing is physically dangerous. This doesn't even address the quality of their work which went down over time.
It's similar to the overtraining concept when weight lifting. If you are only playing with the pink weights then it's easy to workout for hours each day, every day. Start messing around with real weight on the same schedule and your body will eventually start regressing. It simply does not have time to fully recover from each workout. I believe this also happens with tough mental work.
Keep in mind this isn't talking about a crunch time or short stints of crazy work. Burnout comes from long runs of working at a non-sustainable pace.
I can't decide if your post is a joke or if your lifestyle is the joke.
Some people really thrive on 80-hour workweeks, but if you don't (and I'd say most people don't), there's no particular reason to hold them up as a good thing. If you're starving and have to do it to keep from being homeless, then grit your teeth and do it, sure, but if someone's unhappy with their situation and has options, a rational solution is to look into those options...
What happens when you Win. I mean you're working on a project/business right. So heres the key question.
What was the person embarking on the journey after, what were her ambitions and aspirations. And should you manage to get there, what is next. Will there even be a next step for this new person. Or has the goal consumed the person?
One of the most important lessons I have learned from Nejc Zaplotnik, who was at the time of his death tied with Reinhold Messner in Alpinism.
"The Path is the Goal. There is nothing more important in life than the Path. Goals are mere means, since once you reach a peak its never over, you take a look around and pick a new Goal. Therefore Goals are meaningless. The only thing that matters is the Path."
So if the pain you are enduring is a vital part of your path, then it is actually good. But if this pain is not the path - then get hell out now. Don't loose the sight of your path by looking at the goal.
My observation has been that people working more than 8 hours a day for more than a week only overproduce for a very short time. 16 hour work days general degenerate into spending most of the early day fixing bugs from the day before, tiring you out so when you get those 'fixed' you spend the rest of the day introducing 'new' bugs, then repeat the next day.
There are certainly some companies with a culture of overwork, but the people that actually produce the most are not always the ones who work 16 hour days. I have worked with a lot of people who believe working hard is 'good enough', but I'd never hire them. You have to be able to actually produce something, or you're wasting your time.
It's a tough balance to find sometimes.
Yeah, right. Because we all know that the one thing most people regret on their deathbed is not having spent more time at work.
I like working just fine. In my "free time" I'd rather make music, write in my journal, see friends or go on dates, cuddle with a beautiful woman and smell her hair or maybe just take a stroll through nature and get a sense for the hardly fathomable Universe I am a part of.
I don't know you. But your posting makes it seem like you are working hard in order to distract yourself from the fact that you're a pathetic philistine.
I hope I'm wrong, for your sake.
I used to be passionate about the arts, passionate about enjoying nature, good company, good food, travelling, enjoying life, and all the rest that matters.
I've flogged it all out of myself, as if I don't, it just depresses me that I don't get the time to do the things I love. Instead, I've convinced myself that the only thing to love is work, which my slowly but surely insane-turning mind rails against, continually, as I've ended up finding it impossible to care about anything, either way.
This is something to be sorted out, and I hope you'll manage to do so sooner than later.
I'd be careful to consider whether it's the right course for you too, given you report feeling exhausted and depressed. Even if so, and you see it as necessary e.g. in the early stages of a startup, don't presume to think your situation is everybody else's. And even still, be careful with it.
I'm in the fun dichotomy of knowing damned well that I'm at the end of my tether, burned-out beyond belief, and not having the time or energy to do a bloody thing about it. I work, from the moment I wake to the moment I fall asleep on my laptop, to the moment I'm woken 20 minutes later by a client phoning or raising a support request, I've pushed friends and family out of my life completely, and I'm slowly but surely becoming an aggressive asshole who views anyone who doesn't spend their entire life as working as worthless.
These aren't my values. They don't even remotely reflect who I am as a person, or who I was, at any rate, but I'm helpless to do anything about it, as someone has to do all this crap, and I'm not prepared to inflict it on any of the guys we employ, as I'd rather fuck my life up than someone else's.
I was once in a situation similar to yours. The harder I worked, the more work got piled on me. After about two weeks, I started coming in at 8 and walking out at 4:30. Yeah, it was awkward to walk out when the rest of the team was still coding away. But a funny thing happened. I actually ended up contributing more functionality to the final project than the rest of the team combined. Why? I disciplined myself and made sure that the stuff I wrote worked the first time through, because I had set limits on my time and that set limits on the amount of rework I could do.
First, that's a terrible attitude to have, and it ensures that you'll always be in over your head. Second, I'm willing to bet $20 that not all of that work has to get done. If you're really burning out as much as you say you are, you're not doing high quality work anyway. It'd be better to meet with the client and have some very frank discussions regarding the status of the project than deliver something that's complete on paper but only half-works in practice.
It seems like you can't, but trust me. Step away.
If an organization rests solely on the shoulders of one man, it isn't running properly, and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
I'm desperate for us to hire someone else to at least share the devops/project management/administrative/account management burden with me, however my business partner runs the design side of things, and therefore doesn't see the problems (I never get to sleep, I don't feel like it's permissible for me to do anything but sit in the office waiting for the next crisis), just the symptoms (me being snarky and irritable), therefore assumes the problem is with me, rather than the fact that I'm doing way too much.
Aware of the problem, aware of a resolution, no path to it, however, so I'll probably just keep on cranking until I finally, completely and utterly, unmistakably, lose it.
If the business is to survive (and continue to support you & your employees), you have something like these two options:
1) You continue at the existing intolerable grind until you lose it. The entire mass of work that you're currently doing will suddenly be thrown to everyone else, along with whatever else is required to clean up after your personal implosion (will they even know where you are or if you're coming back? will you start throwing servers out the window or screaming at customers?). Somehow with incredible difficulty they may figure it out and rescue the business, in spite of you.
2) You grind up this bitter pill and start giving it now, in little tiny doses. Hand out chunks of responsibility to others, and answer questions but don't micromanage; let them make their own mistakes (and clean them up themselves) until they've got it under control; shuffle things around as needed until folks are comfortable; repeat. Either you will make your way to a business that is sustainable, or you will find that this cannot be, in fact, a workable business that doesn't ride entirely on your back. Which means you should try something else.
It think it should be obvious which path is easier on your colleagues/employees.
If this were me, I think I'd just say "we're going to start having "X got hit by a bus" drills, and you guys have to handle something completely without me". It won't be as good as if you did it yourself, probably, but there's no way in hell they'll get any better without practice.
But not desperate enough to explain this to your business partner? A working relationship is similar a romantic relationship. You can't just hope the other person will "pick up" on what's bothering you. You have to tell them.
Seriously, he's only seeing the symptoms because you aren't showing them to him. Step away is exactly the right advice. Leave the office. Don't handle a crisis.
That should trigger a proper discussion about unrealistic expectations and the fact that you've probably been doing your job progressively worse. A single crisis not managed is usually better than an increasing number of crises badly-managed because you were running yourself into the ground.
Hire some contractors or something to help you get things together to the point where you have emergencies once a week or less; This is a relatively low bar, but it will set things up such that you can sleep most of the time, which is key. Even if you have to pay full rates $150/hr or whatever, (and you should be able to get someone good enough to get you down to the 'failures once a week' bar fairly quickly at that rate.) do it. Have your hired gun bang on things for a week. Someone good and fresh should be able to get you down to 1 downtime-causing failure a week fairly quickly. (really. one failure every 7 days is an extremely low bar unless you have hundreds or thousands of physical servers. I probably get a bad disk a week, but those are 'fix as soon as you are awake' not 'wake up now' events. I get a downtime causing error maybe once every two months, and if you can only afford one sysadmin, chances are you are way smaller than I am.)
The important thing is to focus on bringing your failures down to reasonable rather than on making things perfect. Bring your failures down to humanly tolerable, recover, then start worrying about the failures that happen twice a year.
Next, you have a pager, right? sleep whenever you can. The caffeine makes this harder, but it's still possible. Sleep whenever you can. Set it up so that your pager wakes you, but also set up your alarms so that it only goes off if there is a /real/ problem.
Next, why are you staying at the office? I've bought one of those little verizon brand USB cellphone dongles for both my employee and myself. It's pretty great; you can be way out in the middle of nowhere, get a page, and you can do most of the things you could do in the office.
You need to set expectations. If you got woken up to fight a fire?
you put out the fire, but then you aren't showing up the next day.
So yeah, first priority? sleep. Depriving yourself of sleep is false productivity. Next? make your system more reliable.
Have you heard of saying that path to hell is paved with good intentions?
I have seen two major categories of "asshole bosses":
1. The ones who don't care. These are in it only for the paycheck and maybe they want to see how far they can take it before they get sacked.
2. The ones who care too much. They want to be successful, they need to be seen as good example and will work themselves to madness trying to prove a point. They are also trying to achieve some ideal of their own, for which they feel it should not imposed on others. They think that they are running the show, but they rarely realize they are riding the wheel. Until they just cant take it anymore and drive everyone away.
There have been many people in your shoes. Arguably everyone who is in charge of other people has to face this situation sometimes in their career/life.
Perhaps you have read this essay from Derek Sivers, if you have not it might help you open your eyes and he even offers a pretty good strategy for dealing with your situation (http://sivers.org/delegate).
You say that you don't want to impose on your colleagues. What if there are some that want to be imposed? Who will leave you just because you didn't give them a chance to go through what you are going through now?
There might be people among them, probably most of them, who are willing to help you and have no need to see you suffering. For mutual benefit. They might help you if you are willing to admit the situation you are in.
I really hope you will be able to work it out. Go take a break. The world can do without you. Really. It will have to deal with you leaving one way or another.
As to lumbering employees with this stuff - really, really can't. The guys we employ we employ as developers, not 24/7 unpaid support dogsbodies, which I am, as well as developer, accountant, project manager, salesman and all the rest. It's part and parcel of being self-employed, and at the end of the day I just see it as a failing in myself that I'm not capable of the workload required and demanded of me.
Anyways if you make it a communal affair everybody is going to like participating in it. People are inherently team players to the extent that we die or go mad alone.
I was in a team that was terribly overworked and there was shitloads of stuff needed to be done, which nobody did - since it wasn't anyone's job.
Here's what we did - everybody got a slice of work nobody wanted to do. A chore if you will. The system used to assign chores was simple - the guy complaining about some shit not being done, got to be the chief of this "department". He would set the standard, keep track of what is going on, report to the rest of the team and enforce the rules that we agreed upon collectively. We also collectively created a penalty system.
This the made certain that the shit that needed to be done, got done. The shit that didn't need to get done, didn't get done. Everybody got to participate in organization and got some hands on experience with how sausages get done, this is pretty important in engineering environments since a lot of people haven't really been in charge of anything in their lives.
for what it's worth, if i could send a message back to my past self, i would tell him to stop. 10 years down the line the bad has outlasted the good.
If you actually thought about what you write, I could belive you. Or even bothered to read what you just wrote. Depression isn't normal.
You are not serious, or you haven't been through a burnout. A burnout is probably not due to a lot of work, but to bad conditions/results/consequences. You can get burnt out without working (or working too little), and burn out is more than "I can't keep going". It's a mind disturbing thing and can be quite serious and lead to a depression.
As you get older and/or start a family, the thought of 80+ hours a week becomes laughable and even dread-inducing.
If work is hard, I'm probably going to look at a different career. Hard implies suffering and unpleasant obstacles to me. If it's challenging however...
I do too, but it does appear to represent a legitimate answer to the OP's question.
The reporter asked her about her 40-room mansion. What's it like to live there?
She said, "I don't know. I never live there. I live in an old wooden cabin in the woods"
This led to a cute exchange: "Are you eccentric?
"Yes, I am, but only because I have money. Before I was just weird"
I was laughing when she hit me with the real punch line. "I find that if I stay active, thinking, struggling with problems that I am the most happy"
I think a lot of what we might call "lazy" or "burnt-out" is really low-level depression. Are you struggling, thinking, actively engaging in some problem that you love? If so, the words "work" or "lazy" doesn't really mean much. If not, then can you allocate some part of your life where you are?
There's nothing wrong with not wanting to do things you don't like doing. The real question is whether you can engage yourself to struggle and think with some part of life that you encounter. If so, then do that. If not, then that sounds a lot like being depressed to me.
Not sure about the history of this woman but I am sure that she didn't inherit the money, she made it.
You are burnt when you pushed your limits over a long period of time without giving your body and brain enough rest. This means you do not have a quick fix. You cannot quick fix something you have done over months, years. It takes time.
In my personal case, I suffered a burn out (went several times to the doctor, hospital and specialists with scans etc.), because without even be aware of it I was pushing above my limits. I am still suffering from Tinnitus because of it, 2 months after clearing all the other problems.
I was pushing above my limits because it was a bit above but in all parts of my life. A stressful year, then when everything went back to normality, I was simply left smashed. I was annoyed because I finally reached the "life is good again" state, but my body simply said: "you gave me a hard time for a year, now I need to rest". This started end of August, I am still recovering so to speak.
So, you feel it could be a burn out? Take a close look at your life, what is not running as it should, then act. But again, no quick fix, it takes time.
Do not hesitate to contact me privately if you want/need.
He had a team of 10 interns and only one regular, and no interns would stay. He also had a specific way to breathe, like when you suffocate after 25 meters under the water in the pool.
He was so overwhelmed he grabbed a few set of random rules as his life buoys. For instance, use of <div>s was forbidden because once a <div> did float badly when resized. So we had pages with over 20 nested <table> and not one had a raison d'être.
Then he got mad against the big boss, and I replaced him. Result: he was sick for 6 months. His body had to take a revenge.
I believe he is still looking for a job.
Maybe this could be a counter-point to the guy above saying that only work is important, and that all seconds spent not working or sleeping are lost. I think it is a dangerous way to dispose of your life.
Moreover, if the goal is to succeed, I think it is wrong that all "great achievers" are necessarily 100% focused on their one tasks. Many of them actually had hobbies, and a very wide and deep general knowledge of Humanities (which can only be gathered through extensive reading).
So I would say to the OP, just stop focusing, read books, try for example "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", feed your "gumption". (And go fishing!)
"I am not getting work done, even though I want to. What aspects of this work are bringing me down? Do I have the resources to do this work properly? Can I think of any ways to make the work more appealing? Can I combine it with anything else that I enjoy, like by getting a friend/colleague to look at it? Should I take a break from it and come back to it later? Should I consider dropping the project entirely? Is it actually what I want to do?"
Or "I'm lazy, I should work harder."
I strongly believe that the idea of laziness leads to burnout. Every time you force yourself to do something, you're using up a little bit of your willpower. It's a stopgap, not a strategy, and it does run out if overused.
The primary engine that generates results in your life should be based on aligning your desires, goals, resources and actions. Good self-management looks like good management of others, and I've never heard of a good manager who calls his employees lazy.
The problem with asking about burn-out is that it's a spectrum. Life is full of little "just push through" moments: approaching a stranger, hanging out your washing, sitting down at your desk without opening reddit, being bothered to cook, not deleting your nearly-written comment. Any time you can't do it, your willpower has failed you. If you don't stop to understand why, it will keep happening. And get worse.
For me it started small: missing appointments, not eating well, finding it hard to get through my to-do list, even easy decisions got slowly harder to make. Ideally burnout is kind of self-regulating because as your productivity decreases your opportunities decrease as well. Unfortunately I was organising an event and getting less done only meant having more to do.
Afterwards... it's hard to describe, but even considering any kind of executive function felt like a cross between lifting a car and hearing a burglar walk up the stairs. I don't think I got out of bed for a couple of weeks, and I didn't show up to an Easter lunch with my family because figuring out which train to catch was too hard. Things got better slowly - probably about nine months in all before I really felt right again.
Since then, I've made it a point to think long and hard when I get that "just gotta keep pushing" feeling. Almost every time it's been preventable: the result of poor decisions, overcommitment, badly organised work, lack of reward, or just plain doing something I don't actually want to do. If you're feeling something like that, make "I might be doing this wrong" your first port of call, and only go to "I should work harder!" later.
As an aside, your comment about Reddit really hit the nail on the head. I've been trying to slowly phase it out of my life, and HN has filled that void without being such a constantly changing time sink. Not to mention that most of the stuff here motivates me and gets me accepted about CS, IT, and entrepreneurial stuff. Glad to hear you got it all figured out, though.
Have you generally been a hard working person your whole life but are now going through a tough spell where it's hard to find motivation? If that's the case you may be burnt out, or perhaps you are working on something that deep down inside you don't really believe in. Maybe you need to listen to that intuition, rather than beat yourself up and think "I'm the problem because I'm lazy."
I went through a pretty major burnout cycle in my career a few years back and was lucky enough to be able to afford to take a lot of time off - nearly two years - and dedicate it to just working on open source. Nearly 3 years later I suspect that financially it was a poor decision: I'm still majorly suffering the consequences of that lack of income for 2 years. But I was able to recover my passion for work and now have a job that I'm enthusiastic about, and willing to work my ass off for, even though it pays less than I had been making before.
At the time I quit my job I wrote a short post on it, take a peek and see if it resonates at all. If it does, you're most certainly not lazy.
Burnout is about stress and not necessarily about "overwork". You can get burnt out on a 40 hour a week job or even on a 10 hour a week job. Spending a half of your waking hours every weekday immersed in an ocean of stress is quite sufficient to screw your brain up and burn you out. Software development can quite easily be (and is typically) a very highly stressful job. On top of the normal stresses of coding you have the typical saga of trying to determine and meet the right specs, you have the drama of trying to chase bugs around at the same time you're trying to get work done, and you have immense schedule uncertainty and schedule pressure on top of everything. And that's the average case.
My advice, for whatever it's worth, is to try to find a way to reduce your stress as much as possible. Maybe find a position with less responsibilities that pays well enough. Then spend your free time slowly re-acquiring a passion for tech by taking on small, highly rewarding projects.
If all you want to do are the things you like then you're probably being lazy.
Not fool proof - but a starting indicator.
If I spend too long on a project that I just want to finish, I generally find myself looking at other more interesting projects and working a little on them.
Sometimes this is being lazy but sometimes you just need the change to get back on track with your mundane project.
In one hour with a good psychologist, they will generally be able to give you very good guidance on what you are feeling. It's not magic, it's just the power of having an informed, objective observer in a situation that encourages you to be open.
Otherwise, ask the people closest to you - your spouse, GF/BF, etc.
That's usually a bad thing; obviously you won't want to experience burn out again. However, sometimes it can have a positive yield in the long run. I've found that after my burn out experience, I've raised the bar in terms of the type of work I'm willing to do and how much crap I put up with. For example, I've always been passionate about home-run level customer service. As a consultant, that belief usually meant that I bent backwards anytime a client asked me to. I still have that belief today, but I tend to push back if they ask me to do things I won't be happy maintaining for the life of their product, or if it'll involve trying to hit an unrealistic time line, etc. So post burn out, I'm definitely more protective of my limits and happiness, I just wish I would've been this way sooner.
burnt-out: no activity provides enough fun to procrastinate the current activity
It's worth mentioning that it's very important to consider energy levels too. Not all tasks are equal, so for instance, it'd a be a silly idea to embark on a 3-4 hour coding binge at 1am, when I know that if I had a good sleep and was wide awake, I could get the same work done in maybe 1-2 hours with a higher level of quality. I'll do some lower energy work instead, or I might even decide to call it quits for a day, wind down and just read a book - and I wouldn't consider it laziness at all. At all costs, I want to keep the quality of work up - even if it means not doing it right now. I know myself, and I trust myself that I'll get up the next morning and hack and slash away in a much better state of mind, and produce better quality work (most of the time!)
For me, forcing myself to do work that my mind just isn't in the state to do is a fast path to fatigue, unproductiveness, burn-out and "far out there's not enough time in a day, the universe is against me!"-type delusions.
I was fired for being slow. I was falling asleep at inappropriate times, and was generally feeling stupid, to the point that I hated myself for being stupid and lazy. This was particularly hard working in a company that constantly touts the superior abilities of its employees.
When I was finally fired it was an emotional relief. I ultimately got treatment, and I don't feel stupid or lazy anymore, but I haven't fully recovered from being fired.
However I have met the brick wall with a certain amount of velocity myself (12 years ago and counting) and I think the difference between being too tired too work (literally falling asleep at work, throat thickens, certain parts of you body starts acting on their own, dreaming with eyes open etc) and burned out is that the burnt out thing didn't happen until at some point I realized this is not going to work however hard I work. (Coworkers were already preparing for a bankruptcy by stealing from the company.)
A few more details:
- Wasn't my company but a close relatives.
- For me the symptoms were: Crying without reason when no one could see me, people asked why I was depressed although I didn't feel that way.
- What helped me out wasn't no work but rather working at a place were I could get stuff done and take the night off. I worked at a farm with a friend of mine that summer and I was supposed to get paid but I never turned in my time sheets. Instead I have said "thank you" to him a couple of times afterwards : ) And I had free food and a bed.
- Learning to say "No." when I somebody asks me to do something that is a complete and utter waste of time. And "No." once more if once doesn't cut it.
- Doing whatever I do to be recognized by God, not humans. (This being HN where even top contributors gets downvoted for mentioning the G word, -feel free to read that in a way that pleases you. )
This happens to me every few months. Go do something totally non-technical, simple, and enjoyable. Last week I drove from Chicago up to Wisconsin to enjoy crisp country air, an array of cheeses (ack. no technical stuff...) and I got to yell at some sheep. I didn't check my email, text anyone, and I tried desperately not to think about my projects that had me on the verge of a melt-down.
Trust yourself to know; working more/harder is rarely a good choice. If you take a day off and you're still tired and don't want to work, take another day. And another. If, after 2 or 3 days, you're still right where you started, you're probably working on stuff you hate.
If you're just burnt out on working on what you enjoy, a couple days (or even a week) off will make all the difference
The interesting thing is that it's usually seen in poor and uneducated people, not big bosses that supposedly has to make alot of hard decisions. It's more the "shit, how am i going to pay my rent this month"-questions that tires your mind. The theory was that because their minds, unconsciously, are so hogged up with these questions they can't get themselves together and change job, start studying, etc and thus get stuck in an evil circle.
Don't know if this applies to you but make sure you have all your basics together before you start diving into more tough areas.
So burn-out can lead to lack of discipline, both because it saps your energy and because you stop believing that you're going to get something worthwhile out of it.
My simple productivity hack: be happy with doing less--but very frequently and very well.
if A much less than B you are being lazy.
if A is close to or equal to B then you are burnt out.
[The short answer of course is, if you are reading Hacker News you are being lazy]
As an aside; Pivotal Tracker - the feature / dev tracking software manages to define output using average number of work blocks completed over the past X weeks. How you measure your maximum expected output capacity might be more tricky to define.
Rest isn't enough to deal with burn-out. Something needs to change: work habits may need to change (for example, maintain separation of work of home), change the project you're working on, start another hobby, make an effort to be more social, etc. If you take a week or two off, then come back to the same ol' thing, you'll be in the same place.
This might be a personal startup that you know is already defeated, or a client that asks for a never ending series of changes and revisions that you aren't getting paid for, or a well-paying client whose project keeps growing and getting farther and farther from launching?
Just a thought.
It may also be that you're overwhelmed. You can use LazyMeter to focus on one day at a time, and measure your productivity to see if the problem is laziness or signing up for too much. http://www.lazymeter.com
Of course, this feeds back on itself, with further stress causing even more difficulty in fulfilling one's obligations.
If yes, then you're definitely just burnt out. If the answer is no and you're not producing then you're being lazy.
As animals we're built for a fast effort/reward loop. Look at most people and how they operate -- they desire immediate gratification.
Something that makes us special is the ability to push out that loop and make long term plans. Not everybody is able to do that.
I can count, to the specific decisions, among my friends, what things they decided to do in their lives where they had a choice of a long term plan that would have yielded great fruits, or a short term plan yielding immediate gratification (but with long term problems stemming from that) that ultimately ended up with them being impoverished, without health care, unable to get better jobs, save up for retirement, etc. As an external actor I know exactly where they made those decisions and what they chose instead.
But I can't really blame them or think less of them for how they ended up in their circumstances. They are simply acting the way we as animals are built -- they are acting normal.
In every case, I believe that the difference between a long-term planner and an immediate gratification fixer is willpower.
Doing something like what many people do here, starting up a company, takes extraordinary long term planning - it's not normal. A simple observation of large groups of humans shows that it's abnormal behavior. It takes mountains of willpower in most cases since we don't see the immediate benefits of what's likely hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands) of hours of work. The payoff, if there even is one, is an abstraction that even the smartest and most dedicated can have trouble using to reconcile their labors.
What you can try to do instead is find clever hacks to reduce the friction it takes to get a task done. For example, reduce your problem into very small steps. That way you feel a faster reward for your labors -- even if it's just the feeling of accomplishment at getting another step out of the way. Use lots of small arrows pointing to your goal instead of one big one.
Or try giving yourself an explicit reward for making small milestones, something proportionate to the magnitude of the step. Eat at a favorite burger joint, or hike a favorite trail, or watch a movie you really want. Whatever floats your boat.
You might even try a program of personal denial, don't allow youself to have certain pleasurable things unless you make a milestone. Pull at both ends, the "work hard play hard" system.
In other words, make the effort/reward loop as small as possible to help keep you motivated. This is especially important during tedious/grinding parts of your work that are often mistaken as burnout when in fact they're just boring and you're really desiring a reward at the end of it.