Confessions of a Burnout

How did I get here? It seemed to creep up so slowly, but then hit all at once. If the first step is admitting you have a problem, then I guess I’ll take a stand.

Hello, my name is Martin and I’m a burnout.

Woah – hold on there. I don’t mean burnout like the definition you just pulled from Urban Dictionary. This is not about your friend in college who loved Funyons and seemed to never go to class. I am referring to the “Business Burnout”. The type-A, overachiever, all-hands-on-deck, yes-men that over commits themselves to the point of exhaustion because they want to do everything and meet everyone.

It sounds intense, and it is. But like I said earlier, becoming a burnout does not just happen. It creeps up on you slowly. A coffee here, a volunteer event there, or your friends who, “haven’t seen you in forever”, convincing you to go out again for the third day in a row. It all adds up, and sooner or later it will get to you.

Over the past five months I have been a mix of entrepreneur, freelancer, volunteer, networker, teacher, event planner, designer, brand strategist, job searcher, interviewee, and learner. In other words, I made my own schedule and filled my days.

Then, something wonderful happened last week and I started a new 9-5. In doing so, however, I found myself with all the activities that I had accumulated during my freelance days, piled upon a new 40+ hour work week.

My previously scheduled networking coffees were shifted to lunches or after-work meetups. My Idea Lemon responsibilities shifted to the evenings and weekends. My committee board responsibilities were fit in when time allotted and I was still trying to adjust to a new work-schedule and commute.

Not that any of these are bad things, but they do add up, and eventually something has got to give. So, if admittance is the first step toward recovery, tonight is my crawling stage where I realized I have hit rock bottom.

The day has progressed like this:

Wake up at 6:30am > meditate > catch train > grab breakfast > grab coffee > arrive at office > check personal email > check work email > start work day & meetings > networking lunch > afternoon work and meetings > Idea Lemon phone planning session > coffee meeting (person 1) > coffee meeting (person 2) > home > dinner > idea lemon finances > email (work and personal) > blog > laundry > meditate > bed.

Now, I fully admit that this is not the craziest schedule ever, nor is it probably even that impressive to some of you who itemize your day down to the 15-minute increments. But for someone who just 3 weeks ago stayed in LA an extra day to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the rigor of a schedule can be an adjustment.

Also, I intelligently made the day more difficult by adding a travel blunder between conference calls and coffee meetings. While jumping on the train mid-phone call, I found myself hurdling north on a Purpleline express, far away from the Brownline, veering off into the distance toward my destination and pushing all my meetings an additional half-hour later into the night.

But as I write this, waiting for my underwear to dry for the morning. I can’t help but reflect on the successes of the day, despite all the stress. I did accomplish everything I set out to do. I did meet with, and learn from, some amazingly interesting people. And, I’ve learned from my mistakes.

Once you know you have a problem, you can better plan for it in the future. And I for one will not schedule back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings and calls all in the same evening while trying to catch a train again.

Key learnings:

  • When you realize your mistake, communicate it to others asap. Do not feel sorry for yourself or embarrassed. Own up and don’t waste their time.
  • Understand where your destinations are in advance. GPS is not reliable, especially on AT&T.
  • Make time to do laundry on Sundays, this is getting ridiculous…

To read more about burning out, how to prevent and plan for it, check out these links.