I really thought I needed a vacation.
I and my teammates have been running a marathon for the past couple of months. It was starting to wear on me. Up until about yesterday I was sure that I needed time away from my work to recharge.
I spoke too soon – or rather, I requested time off too soon.
Yesterday we completed one of the big projects we’ve been working toward for the past couple of months. Everything changed.
There’s a big difference between running a marathon in a good pair of running shoes and trying to run it in a pair of waders. That’s the difference between then and now, and we really only made one change among dozens that are still to come. We still have a great deal of work to do, but with that one change, the landscape of what work felt like and looked like changed for the better.
It’s simple enough to say, but if you ever get into a slump, oftentimes the best way to get out is to finish one big thing that will improve your life and buy you more time. Break the processes of putting-off and accumulation that are causing the problem in the first place. You may be dealing with dozens of work challenges, but if you know to properly fight a hydra, you’ll know that you go for the root instead of fighting off the many heads of chaos.
As for us, we just put in a lot of work and finished internal improvements that will make all of our lives easier going forward. And while you’d think I’d be ready to “vacate” my work now at the end of that effort, I mostly just want to get further and deeper into it.
Now I’m off the defensive and on the offensive with my full energies. Now work is going to be burnt out by me. Now work is going to need to take a vacation from me.
And it took all of that just to remind me of what I’ve already written: burnout in its worst cases is not caused by work, but by work that starts controlling you instead of empowering you. Break the harmful cycles and you’ll find that work can recharge you in ways you might not expect.