21 Signs of Burnout That You Might Be Ignoring

Signs of burnout can be hard to identify if you aren’t looking for them.

Here are 21 signs of burnout on the job that you shouldn’t ignore.

Signs of Burnout

We’ve talked about burnout symptoms leading to full-blown burnout syndrome before. But there are usually warning signs that crop up in your career well before things get that far.

You may have trained yourself to ignore them, but this is highly dangerous. To your career, to your personal life, and even your health.

Here are 21 signs of burnout on the job that you should not ignore:

Work Life

1. You’ve lost all excitement for your job. New employee orientation sure seems like a long time ago. You remember being excited to start your new role once upon a time, but hundreds of hours of meaningless drudgery and demeaning conversations later and you can’t remember why you took this job in the first place.

2. You’ve stopped learning. Your new job was interesting and challenging for the first 6 months, but now you’re just collecting a paycheck. You’ve hit a plateau, but your boss isn’t interested in furthering your career development. You can’t imagine doing the same thing for another 18 months.

3. You aren’t accomplishing anything. Add any bullet points to your resume this past year? No? Then you’re like most workers grinding at the millstone in corporate America, accomplishing nothing of lasting value. Humans are wired to achieve. If you aren’t achieving, this is a serious sign of burnout.

4. You’re working more than 50 hours a week. Feel like you’re throwing your time down a bottomless well? Chances are you’re not all that effective past 8 hours a day, but if your work is forcing you to do more, that’s a sign of future burnout. You also happen to be contributing to chronic unemployment.

5. You’re pretending to be someone else at work. Think Spider-Man and Batman are the only ones with secret identities? You’re suppressing your instincts, your judgment, and your real personality at work so you can be viewed as a team player, a person who doesn’t rock the boat. You’re so out of touch with your own opinion that you’re not sure what you stand for anymore.

6. You leave vacation days on the table. An agile person can put their work down. Pre-burnouts are leaving paid time off on the table in an effort to prove they learned how to be a good wage slave after graduation. Would you hand your paycheck back to your employer? No? Then take your damn vacation days.

7. You get sick more often. Instead of taking vacation days, you’re taking more sick days than a happier employee would. That chronic cold you’ve been nursing for months isn’t getting any better, and you generally feel like dirt most of your waking life.

8. Your industry is being disrupted. You’re a literary agent in a world of Amazon Kindle Publishing or a lawyer who does basic contracts in a world with LegalZoom. It might not be your fault that your industry is dying, but you’re on a ship that’s sinking and it’s all you can think about.

9. You’re already searching for a new job. You’ve surreptitiously started a new job search while you’re still with your current employer. You’ve maybe even taken “a long lunch” in order to sneak in a phone interview. Monster.com is on your Most Visited pages tab.

10. You resent your employer. Working on weekends. Staying late and missing your kid’s soccer game. Answering emails on vacation. A pre-Yahoo! Marissa Mayer declared that burnout is caused by resentment. Resentment builds up against your workplace over time. When you feel like your employer doesn’t care about your priorities, you’re heading towards a showdown that won’t end well (which makes you wonder whether Mayer should have remembered her own advice when she instituted a telecommuting ban at Yahoo!).

11. You’re only in it for the money. Every other sign of burnout is fixable. This one isn’t. If you hate your boss, your coworkers, and the company you work for, and you feel like you’re only in it for the paycheck, this is the sign to leave as soon as you’ve built up a sizable war chest or get another offer.

Personal Life

12. You’ve gained weight. Sedentary lifestyle, stress, binge eating, and staying up late all contribute to your expanding waistline. You know that unsightly Corporate America Gut where your belly hangs over your slacks like a muffin top? Yeah, that’s you now.

13. You spend all your time on social media. Find yourself trolling Facebook and Instagram more than 2 hours a day? That’s you trying to live vicariously through your friends, who seem to have much awesomer lives than you. Too bad it’s fake. Facebook is a curated view of someone’s life. They’re probably as burned out and miserable as you are, but they don’t post about it.

14. You have no margin in your life. You can’t find 15 minutes in your day because you’re jumping from meeting to doctor’s appointment to picking up your kids. If anything goes wrong, your whole schedule collapses. You can’t remember the last time you took a walk with no particular destination in mind.

15. You get angry at everything. The guy who cuts you off on your commute, your incompetent coworker who can’t do anything right, or your loved one who catches you at the wrong time. You’re seething with rage whenever anything goes wrong–regardless of how trivial it is. You’re one wrong look away from punching a hole in a wall.

16. You’ve stopped having regular sex. Yep, it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re chronically stressed and miserable all the time. That misery at work spills over into personal time. A healthy activity you should be engaging in to stay happy and maintain intimacy gets sidelined for more late nights at your work computer.

17. You get headaches all the time. Find yourself reaching for that bottle of aspirin more frequently? Chronic stress is a contributor to tension headaches. If you can’t go more than 6 hours without popping a painkiller (or two), that’s a sure sign of burnout.

18. You’re having trouble falling asleep. Tossing and turning at night is a sign your brain is still running through what happened during the day. Or you’re anxious about what tomorrow will bring. If this sounds like you, there’s a simple solution: wear socks.

19. You’re sleeping less than you should. While the recommended 8 hours is probably too much for a grown adult, you might be in trouble if you’re getting less than 6 a night. The optimal range for longevity is 6.5 to 7.5 hours. Those late nights are literally taking years off your life.

20. You can’t get up in the morning. Guess what, people who are really excited about their work spring out of bed every morning because they’re eager for the day to start. If that’s the opposite of you, your body is telling you something important about the way you’re living your life. And it might have nothing to do with being a morning person vs. a night owl. Pay attention.

21. You’ve lost sight of your dreams and ambitions. Burnout is like a train. You know you need to get off this train before you reach the end. But the train is comfortable. It would take a lot of effort to get off. Besides, you get treats every few miles. So you keep riding. Until 40 years later, you reach the end of the track and have nothing left for yourself.

An Agile Approach to Beating Burnout

Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

The Agile Manifesto

It might surprise you to learn that Agile thinking is concerned with sustainable effort and burnout. But it does.

The idea of maintain a constant pace indefinitely is one of the more overlooked principles from the Agile Manifesto. It’s immensely important.

Pacing yourself for the long run is how you design a successful lifestyle. Even if burning the candle at both ends is tempting in the near-term, it doesn’t pay out over a lifetime.

Life is a series of sprints. The key is to recognize that you have to take breaks for reflection and relaxation between each one.

Image by r.f.m II.

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