Burnout is the exhaustion that comes from excessive physical or emotional labor, and it is a major pain point among students, professionals and everyone in between. To combat or recover from burnout, we’ve compiled the “Five Ws and How” of burnout: six questions that everyone should ask themselves if they’re feeling overly tired, irritable or just generally unsatisfied with their current state.
Why am I doing this?
If you feel unmotivated to finish a goal, remind yourself why you started. You likely took on a job, project or position with the intention of accomplishing something. Maybe you wanted the research position to build your medical school application, or maybe you signed up for the class in hopes of making your first app. Regardless, evaluate your original intentions and check in with yourself; are those goals still where you want to be headed? If so, feel confident in your decision to stick with your plans and complete your project with enthusiasm.
Where do I get my energy from?
Feeling energized is the complete opposite of feeling burnt out, so try to pinpoint where you get your energy from. For some, energy may come from hanging out with friends, so re-energizing should entail lunch dates and long adventures. For others, refueling the tank might need to be done alone in the privacy and sanctuary of your own home. Either way, taking stock of where you get your energy can give you hints on what to do the next time you feel drained from work.
When was the last time I felt extremely motivated?
This question is key for recharging: when were you last feeling fresh and motivated? What were you doing? More specifically, what has changed since then? Considering the last time you felt motivated about your work can help you realize what you need to do to regain that passion. Maybe the last time you felt motivated was your first day on a new project, and everything since then has been a bit boring. In that case, weave some variability into your days and seek more autonomy. It is always in your control to bring passion from outside of work into everyday life.
Who inspires me to do my best every day?
Maybe you have a role model who encourages you to work harder, smarter or both. What do they do to spark your excitement, and how can you emulate that on your own? Engaging with others is a great way to pick up tips and best practices, and avoiding burnout is no exception. Ask these questions of your most motivated peers, and see if there is something they do that you can try on your own.
What unnecessary work am I doing that I could get rid of?
Much of burnout stems from a general disappointment or exhaustion from excessive work. Inspect your daily routines and commitments, and consider the possibility that there may be shortcuts available. If you need to recharge, don’t be afraid to ask others for help and to delegate tasks that you might usually take on yourself. Prioritize efficiency (while also delivering quality), and watch as the time it takes to complete certain tasks lowers and lowers.
How often am I saying yes or no?
Finally, ask yourself whether or not you know how to say no. Maybe you have been taking on too many tasks and are feeling overworked as a result. If you feel the need to recharge, learn how to say no. Although saying no may feel like a minor setback in the moment, its effects in recharging you will pay off in the long run. Time and energy are our most important, zero-sum resources; be specific with how you choose to spend them.
Hopefully, using these six questions can help you navigate the daily difficulties of school and work and overcome the Berkeley burnout entirely.