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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Burnout

In Forge. More on Medium.

It’s the most important thing to do after a big life event — like, say, a global pandemic

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Exactly one year ago, my friend Greg Epstein told me about an intriguing mental strategy. Greg is the Humanist Chaplain at MIT and Harvard; he helps students figure out how they’ll define a meaningful life. Not a small task in the best of times, but especially hard to do when the world is suddenly put on hold by a pandemic. Last summer, Greg’s students weren’t the only ones struggling. After we went into lockdown, Greg started questioning purpose too, wondering what big changes he should make to better live up to the ideals he spent his days talking about…


😐 Tip: Have a MVD (Minimum Viable Day).

In business, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product that contains the minimum feature set necessary to be usable. The priority for the team is not to deliver perfection but simply to . We can use this concept on days we’re feeling blah. On Medium, Rebecca Pendleton introduces us to what she calls the minimum viable day (MVD).

How do you have an MVD? Well, on a day when you’re exhausted or overwhelmed or just feeling off, you plan to do to get through it…


Sometimes, fighting the feeling can be as straightforward as redefining it

A pile of burnt-out matches on a piece of concrete.
A pile of burnt-out matches on a piece of concrete.
“burnt matches” by areta ekarafi/Flickr

Inevitably, every few months, I’ll follow the demands of a creative career and a tough schedule straight into an energy crash. I find myself totally zapped, at a complete loss for story ideas or inspiration. “I need a break,” I’ll tell my friends. “I’m burnt out.”

Recently, while reporting a story on the science-based metric used to actually measure burnout for BBC’s , I realized I’ve been using the term all wrong: What I’ve been experiencing isn’t really burnout. As I wrote in that piece, real burnout has three major criteria, and I only meet one — exhaustion. (The other…


What to do when your professional career becomes a grind

Illustration: Dora Godfrey/Medium

Bob stared at his iced tea and grilled salmon salad. A senior partner at a regional investment bank, he earns a very substantial income. He had asked me to lunch “just to catch up,” but I suspected he harbored a more urgent agenda. And here it was.

“Paul, I still have 15 years left until retirement,” he shared solemnly. “I work most weekends, and every morning, I have to drag myself to the office. What am I going to do?”

Since I started my podcast about the connection between money, work, and meaning, I’ve received many emails from people like…


The rejuvenating power of feeling like a visitor

Photo: Masaaki Komori/Unsplash

Rejuvenation. That’s what a friend recently told me she needed. She’d written a book that was published in October, right before the election, but she’d felt too exhausted to publicize it. Not that it would have mattered anyway. The world was shouty and stressed.

Now, with vaccines and tulips all around us, she was still dragging herself from masked grocery store visits to the occasional school pickup (when school wasn’t closed because of Covid.) “What can rejuvenate me?” she asked. We listed the obvious options for middle-aged women in Brooklyn: yoga, wine, essential oils, hanging out in someone’s backyard for…


A simple thought exercise for when you’re experiencing boredom or burnout

Photo: RunPhoto/Getty Images

Over the weekend, I walked into my living room to see my kids bored to the point of physical incapacitation. They were strung out across the sofa, apparently crushed by the weight of, I don’t know, having all of their basic needs met. Their sighs were deafening.

For kids their ages, five and nine, boredom is an existential crisis. So I proposed an existential solution.

“Pretend this is the first time you’ve ever been to this house,” I told them. “This is an AirBnb now, and you just walked in the door. …


A strategy for moving forward

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The texts started lighting up my phone a couple of weeks ago: “I’m running on empty,” said a friend. Okay, all my friends. And it wasn’t just us; Tanzina Vega, host of NPR’s , tweeted a similar sentiment.

Her tweet went so viral that she expanded it into a radio segment. In it, Dr. Suzan Song, director of the division of child, adolescent, and family psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center, explains why so many of us feel so uniquely and entirely burned out. It’s not just pandemic fatigue; it’s a feeling of total exhaustion and overwhelmedness…


A person with short bobbed hair sitting on a couch in front of a Christmas tree, working on a laptop.
A person with short bobbed hair sitting on a couch in front of a Christmas tree, working on a laptop.
Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer/DigitalVision/Getty Images

The idea that you should come back from time off feeling bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of newfound motivation is… well, it’s a nice thought. But as Emily Underwood has explained in , post-vacation burnout is a very real phenomenon. Even if you take time off and spend your holiday doing nothing but lounging around your living room, the return to the grind can be awful.

To avoid feeling crushed by your return to work in January, plan ahead: Before you sign off, create a first-week-back plan to remove as much of your mental burden as possible: “Write a detailed, not-too-ambitious…


If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the need for real downtime

Woman stretching outside.
Woman stretching outside.
Photo: AsiaVision/Getty Images

Sitting in my usual chair in front of my computer at a ridiculously early hour on a Friday morning, uninspired by every single story idea I was mulling after 11 months and 11 days of writing or thinking about writing every single day, I looked around my home office and said to myself: “Rob, you kinda just don’t wanna write any of these.”

My next thought: “These are some good ideas. Why don’t you want to write them? Where is your motivation?”

Then finally: “Dude, you really need to take some time off.”

“But I suck at taking time off,”…


Joy is more than a reward for productivity

Tranquil man resting his eyes.
Tranquil man resting his eyes.
Photo: fizkes/Getty Images

We may be used to motivating ourselves with the promise of a reward — grind all day and relax at night, or break for a treat only after finishing a project — but in talking with my therapy clients over the past several months, I’ve found that we simply can’t strong-arm ourselves into productivity when we feel anxious and isolated. The promise of happiness isn’t enough when we need it right this minute.

We shouldn’t wait to reward ourselves with conversations with friends, a walk outside, or a mystery novel. Instead, we should pepper our days with them. …

Forge

A publication from Medium on personal development.

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