Dealing With Professional Burnout Without Quitting Your Job

At some point, most people reach a point of “burnout” with their job. The routines, paperwork, and effort reach a point of becoming overwhelming and you go home feeling absolutely empty, devoid of energy and life. I’ve gone through several periods like this myself, and I’ve developed a lot of techniques for dealing with this level of burnout.

Take vacation as soon as possible. File paperwork to take a week or two off, and just do nothing. Seriously. Sit at home and recharge. Get caught up on things you’ve been putting off because you’ve been burnt out. Eat very healthy and get some exercise. Do a few things that are purely fun. In fact, most of these other items work best if done immediately after returning from a vacation.

Make a list of the items that you do at work that you enjoy. What tasks make you feel fulfilled at work? What ones do you actually enjoy doing? Think of the pieces of your job that make you feel productive and make you feel like you’re actually contributing in a positive fashion, then list several of these.

Make a list of the items that you dislike doing at work. Don’t include ones you’re indifferent about – just include the ones that are truly dreadful to you. For me, the bane of my existence is bureaucracy – I hate filling out reports, forms, etc.

Spend a week or two doing only the tasks you enjoy. Seriously. Just let the other stuff build up for a while. If a supervisor questions this, tell them that you’re working on higher-priority stuff, which is true – you’re trying to discover – or rediscover – the aspects of your job that bring about passion and excitement within you.

Hand off some of the burdens. If you literally feel you have too many tasks to keep up with, talk to your supervisor and suggest that too many tasks are keeping you from providing excellent work on your core responsibilities. Before you go in, identify some of the tasks that could potentially be moved to other workers.

Compress the periods where you do the things you don’t like. Don’t like email? Do it only once a day. Don’t like paperwork? Do all needed paperwork in one batch once a week. Don’t like dealing with others? Hang a “do not disturb” sign outside your office or cubicle most of the time. Likely, you have to do at least some of the tasks you don’t enjoy, so compress them.

If there are strong interpersonal issues and you work in a large organization, request a transfer to another area. This will usually be accommodated if you have a good work history. Look for other positions in other areas in the organization where you might be able to be productive and feel comfortable.

If the situation is truly untenable, work on preparing your resume to move on. Don’t sit around feeling miserable. If changes like these aren’t fixing the situation, it’s time to make a serious change. Sharpen up your resume and start applying for work elsewhere.

Remember, a job that makes your entire life miserable is not worth it, no matter what. If a job is really making your entire life painful, it’s well worth it to walk out the door and find something else.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.