Burnout, taking a day off, and the 4 day week
Submitted by Gavin Bowman on Mon, 2006-05-15 13:45.
While I was away, Keith posted here and on his personal blog about the dangers of burnout, and the benefits of recharging. I was paying close attention; it had been a while since I’d felt like I was in any position to think about my productivity and effectiveness, but I knew it was overdue.
I’m not really counting this last year as a normal year, I’m just happy to have made it through relatively unscathed. In cold professional stats, I’ve made more contacts, improved my software, and been more involved with the online ISV community. I feel much more comfortable with the situation I’m in right now than I was with my situation 16 months ago. Even though that might sound like a successful year, it felt quite different behind the scenes.
I’ve been up and down on an almost weekly basis. Sometimes I’ve been able to dig into something and bury myself in work, but other times I’ve struggled to get anywhere near a PC except to answer emails and read web sites. The personal situation (flooding & displacement, see last week), combined with a crazy desire to keep up and move everything forward, really took its toll on me. I can think of at least a few times when I would have considered myself burnt out, and even when you know it’s happening, it’s hard to dig yourself out and get back on track.
So, when Keith suggested taking a day off each week, I knew he had a good point. It acknowledges that burnout is a problem that’s easier to prevent than to fix, and taking one day a week when you force yourself to step back from everything and recharge seems like a sensible first step. When you first start working from home, or are just thinking about it, the idea of always being at home is appealing. It doesn’t take long to realize that actually, you’re now always at work. It doesn’t matter what day or time it is, or what else you might be doing, you’re still in the office, and there’s a part of you that just won’t switch off. Even if all you do is check your email and process support & enquiries, at the end of that day your brain will still feel like you worked.
Yesterday was my first attempt at taking a full day off. I picked Saturday because it felt like it would be easier for me, Sunday always feels like a good day to get a little done and ease back into the week... I think it would stress me out having to keep it clear. It’s obviously too early to say how it’s helping me focus, but it feels good to have started.
As for the 4 day week, I’m just hoping that’s not what Keith meant by taking a day off, because having 3 regular clear days each week seems a million miles away from here.