Burnout is a bastard.
It creeps up on you when you least want it to and it takes far too long realise how it’s affecting you. That was my experience, and this is how it panned out for me.
It started with two house moves
Me and my other half decided in 2015 that it was about time that we bought a place together. We’d been renting a house from her Mum for the last 5 years and we agreed to help sell it for her because we were leaving her in the lurch.
Selling the house was an absolute nightmare.
We had gone through a couple of utterly incompetent estate agents and probably the worst conveyancing solicitor possible, which delayed the sale by around eight months. This, along with massive delays on the new build we had bought meant that we had to find a short-term rental property. The stress was cumulating and we didn’t realise it.
We just kept plugging on.
Along with the house situation, I was doing a lot of freelance work in my spare time from my full-time job. This was mainly to build up funds for the new house and it was made possible by the fact I worked remotely, so I saved a lot of time on not commuting. I took on far more than I thought I could cope with. There was a point where I was working every evening and weekend for a couple of months. Again, I didn’t realise the impact this was having on me.
Following this was a particularly difficult period in my full-time job where massive releases were dragging on weeks after they were supposed to go live. The product’s old and clunky UI was presenting horrible bugs that were difficult to fix and ridiculously draining.
I was finding getting out of bed really hard. The situation was getting worse fast because work was home and home was work. There was no escape. We were in the new house at this point and I was supposed to be enjoying it. Instead, I found myself resenting the home that we both worked so hard to get.
Working remotely is the best thing in the world if you love your job, but the worst thing in the world if you hate it. I felt trapped and was constantly finding excuses to leave the house. I was spending a fortune on buying crap from the local shop just to give me an excuse to get away for a bit.
I genuinely hated my job at this point which was really distressing, because on paper I had no reason to hate it. I was living the dev “dream” by working on a product in my joggers all day. I had completely falling out of love with design and dev though.
I finally hit me what was up. I was burnt out. Just realising what was up felt good and I had a sudden drive to fix it.
I sat and thought about what was causing the burnout and made a list. The list contained all the things I thought contributed to my burnout. These three were the main big issues:
- I hated my job and had little to no interest in the product I was working on anymore
- I was building shit websites as a moonlighting freelancer when I should have been enjoying my new home with my fiancée
- The cumulated stress from the house moves had worn me down completely and caused the slope into burnout
I knew I could sort at least two of these points, and that’s exactly what I did.
The relief started here
The freelance situation was easy. I just nipped in the bud and stopped taking on work.
I was lucky because I was mainly contracting, so there was an easy escape route. If I had been designing websites for clients, this situation could have been very sticky. The last thing I wanted to do was be that “one man band” that is difficult to get hold of down the line.
Getting this time back was crucial. After work, I would cook or just sit around doing nothing. I quickly started to feel recharged.
The next issue to fix was the day job.
I’m part of a Facebook community of people who work in the local digital scene in Cheltenham and this is where I posted that I’d had enough of my job and was open to a new opportunity. Just posting that alone seemed to lift me.
Before long I had a handful of potential opportunities to choose from and I chose a small design agency looking to take their digital offering to the next level. With a good friend who’s a cracking developer also moving there, it seemed like the perfect role. I signed the dotted line and immediately felt better.
It’s a massive cliché, but drawing a line in the sand can have a massive positive effect on you. I overcame my burnout by dumping most of the problems that were causing it. That, along with a positive change on the horizon completely changed my outlook.
Once I got settled into this new role, my attitude changed completely. I suddenly felt invigorated again and did a lot of work out of hours. The difference this time is that it was working on things I cared about which are designed to help people. Big projects like Stalfos and little fun projects like Blanka have really helped me feel good about what I do again. I’m even thinking about getting into talking at conferences. I’m at a complete polar opposite to where I was a few months ago.
My advice to you if you’re feeling the effects of burnout
If you’re like me — just acknowledging that you’re burnt out is a great leap in the right direction. Find what makes you feel like shit and if you can, change it.
Wether that’s a new job, a new car or even just a new exercise routine — positive change has a huge impact on burnout. It’s important then to keep working on yourself and embracing the positive feelings. It’s really tough to get on the other side of burnout, but it’s a great feeling when you do.
I understand how shit burnout makes you feel, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter if you need to reach out. My DMs are always open and I’m always happy to chat.
I hope this article will help you out if you’re not feeling too great at the moment.
This article was written for #geekmentalhelp which is a week long event to help raise awareness and help those suffering from mental health issues in the tech industry.