Recently I was producing at a frantic pace. Two blog posts, and two v-logs most days in addition to my daily juggling practice. It was spectacular, but that level of production required me to partake in almost complete social isolation.
I knew doing so wasn’t sustainable, but I couldn’t resist trying and I ended up burning myself to the ground trying to prolong that level of production. On Thursday I was depressed and literally could not function.
I decided to take off work for the weekend, and although I entered the weekend about as unsocial as can be, I didn’t resist my lack of socialness. I convinced myself that it was ok to let go of work for the weekend, and I stuck to the process of socializing. I didn’t allow myself to become dependent on other people’s reactions, and by the end of the weekend I was back to normal.
I’ve seen this pattern countless times this year, and for some reason am rarely able to resist trying to grind out production until I’m literally unable to function. While most people’s biggest flaw is laziness, mine is that I lack the restraint to stop myself from working.
Honestly, I’m writing this post just as much for me as for as anyone else. There is something I’ve noticed, however. There have been conditions in the past that allowed me to prevent myself from burning myself out. What are they you ask? Hard rules.
Instead of telling yourself to eat healthier, tell yourself to remove all refined grains, and added sugars from your diet. Instead of telling yourself to “get in shape,” follow a structured routine such as Starting Strength.
In the case of socializing don’t tell yourself to be more social. Tell yourself that you will go to social events “x” times per week. I never realized it made such a difference, but I socialize significantly more when I’ve got a hard rule in place for how much I need to be going out.
I’ve also consistently performed at higher levels for more sustainable periods of time when I regularly socialize so it’s a no-brainer to re-implement this hard rule in my life.
Of course, that’s just me. Everyone has a different thing they tend to cut out first when they’re working excessively. Perhaps you stop eating healthy. Maybe you stop exercising and let your sleep schedule to go to hell. It doesn’t matter.
Everyone has that one pillar they let crumble first. If you want to prevent burnout and produce more in the long run you’ve got to identify that pillar. When it begins to get shaky you’ll know you’re beginning to enter the territory of burnout, and when that happens you need to have a hard rule in place.
If you tend to cut back on sleep you can’t just tell yourself to sleep more. Soft rules don’t work because it’s too easy to make rationalizations for them. If you’re going to hold yourself accountable you need a hard rule of sleeping 8 (or however many) hours per night.
The only way to prevent the crash is to keep all your pillars reasonably solid. If one goes down you’re going down with it. It’s inevitable.
Dedicated three full days solely to socializing and am feeling much better now. New rule is to socialize at least twice per week during the school year, and at least four times per week during vacations.
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