Burnout in IT – Coping mechanisms

In my previous post, ‘Burn Out in IT‘ ,  I went into some details about my recent struggles with burnout at work. It was very uplifting to hear people’s response to the post and heartening to hear so many share their experiences.

In this post I end by recognising I have some way to go and put plans into motion. I’d like to take you through some of those plans/techniques that I am adopting, to make a start in helping to alleviate the symptoms of burnout.

Disclaimer
Let me start again by putting a disclaimer in place. What works for me, may not necessarily work for you. I am not a councillor, a psychologist or a qualified professional. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

 

I haven’t read the book with the same title as above, it is on my ‘to read list’, but I can certainly get behind their message. You see I am an over thinker, always have been. I try and try to think about every possible outcome of an event or conversation in my head

What if <x> happens?”

or

What if <y> says <z> about <A> <B> and/or <C>”

I guess it comes from a sense of not wanting to feel like a fool when someone asks a question or when an event unexpectedly happens.

So I would lay in bed at night running through potential conversations or scenarios for the following day, running them over and over in my head in an attempt to cover all eventualities. All this ever accomplish was to heighten my anxiety and rob me of precious sleep time.

Now I am trying to adopt the mantra “Can I do anything right now about <x>,<y>,<z>?” if the answer is “No!” then it is discarded, and will be dealt with if/when it arises again. I do find this is helping clear my mind at night, helping towards a better quality of sleep and reduce some of my anxiety.

No technology after 11pm

Previously, in attempt to combat the overthinking, I would try to distract myself from overthinking by browsing social media, trying to find something of interest to keep the distraction going. This coupled with the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), really didn’t help at all.

I’d spend a good 90-120 mins a night scrolling through Twitter, Reddit etc in the hope of unearthing some breaking news, a newly release blog post or some new technology announcement.

Of course now I am realising that all this ever did we compound my issues. Starting at screen on my tablet or phone only served to add to the stress/anxiety of burnout. It really was a vicious cycle.

Focus people, focus!

I’ll openly admit I am bad a prioritising, although hopefully getting better, and this was probably yet another contributing factor. I was, still am only less so, prone to placing equal priority in almost all tasks put in front of me. Of course is all tasks are a priority then none are. This also led to being easily distracted by new tasks being handed to me, thinking they were more important as the were newer.

So I decided to give ‘The Pomodoro Technique’ by Francesco Cirillo a go. The Pomodoro technique works by splitting your day in 25-minute sections, which are timed. In those sections you commit your attention fully to just one task. For those interested ‘Pomodoro’ is Italian for ‘Tomato’, which is the shape of the timer Francesco used in kitchen to keep track of his 25-minute sections. I have to say it really is helping me focus and help work my wat through my ‘to-do’ list.

FYI I used this technique while writing this post, and used up 4 ‘Pomodoros’ in doing so 🙂

 

Small changes big impact

As part of overthinking scenarios/conversations I always had the tendency to blow things up out of proportion. Let me give you an example, going to the gym. A simple thing, I decide “yeah today’s the day I’m going back to the gym, get fit again.” A simple thought right? Then I’d start with

Ok Monday, Wednesday, Friday are cardio days, Tuesdays and Thursdays are strength/conditionindays ….oh I could start doing press-ups in the morning, 20 will do …no wait I can do 3 x 20 and then oh I can do 10 mins with the kettlebell. Yeah I can then start getting up early on alternate days for a run

…guess what none of that would transpire. I’d overwhelm myself with these unrealistic thoughts to the point I wouldn’t even attempt to start. I had defeated myself before I had event started. So now I am trying to take the approach of “Change 1 thing …1 little thing, then see what happens“. My intention to change one thing in my day and see if it makes a difference.

Even if it is something as silly as changing 1 step in a routine, who knows what kind of big impact that could make on my day.

Interestingly enough Michael Cade just published a really good post about The New Work Manefesto, which I may look to start adopting in conjunction with the above techniques. I would recommend you give Michael’s post a read as well as The New Work Manifesto

So there you have it just a few steps/techniques I am adopting to combat burnout. Of course the one step making the biggest impact is acknowledging there is/was a problem there in the first place. I hope you find some of these techniques informative and would like to hear any feedback or suggestions of your own.