Ever heard that saying, "Do what you love you'll never work a day in your life"?
Yeah, it's total bullshit.
Work is work. Even when you love it, when you're passionate about it and fulfilled by it, it still requires your time and energy and strength and is therefore just as capable of burning you out as any other kind of work.
It's a hell of a lot better than burning out doing something you hate, or just feel meh about. But it's still burnout, and you still need to be careful.
When you truly love what you do, it can actually be a lot harder to recognize when you're burned out. Even just to pull yourself away and take real breaks.
I fell victim to this hard truth over the past five years. Running ESY brought me exponentially more joy and fulfillment than anything I had ever done in my professional life. And it allowed me freedoms I'd never had before: the freedom to wake up whenever I wanted to. To work by the pool every day in the summer. To get rid of all my old suits and wear yoga pants all the time if I wanted to. TO BE MY OWN BOSS.
So I didn't notice just how much it was burning me out. But with those new freedoms also came a new set of responsibilities.
My business operates during the hours when everyone else is off. Which means, so do I. Bye bye social life!
There is no such thing as a true day off.
No one else will ever care about your business as much as you do (though my team comes pretty damn close, and for that I am grateful every single day.)
One important lesson I learned during this transition is that when I'm burned out, things that usually don't appeal to me start looking really attractive. Like taking it easy, just being a student, hanging out and basically doing very little.
Don't get me wrong, I think there is great value in doing nothing. (And I'm not the only one. Here's a great Forbes piece on the topic; most of the other big name publications out there have a similar piece in their archives.) But, when days, weeks, months go by and I still want to do "nothing", something is definitely off.
And things that usually appeal to me really, really don't. Like teaching. Going out and socializing regularly. Exploring new places and experiences.
I tell you this because I think it's a valuable tool to use to recognize when burnout has set in. If you start to notice that the things that usually appeal to you aren't holding their usual charm, pay attention to that. That level of self-awareness is pretty challenging though. So find a burnout buddy. When you notice anything that could be a sign of burnout in your buddy, tell them. When you see something, say something.
I know when I've recovered from my burnout because the universe flips right-side-up again: my fire re-lights, my energy and drive return, and I feel and behave like myself again.
So whether you hate your job or are living your dream career, here's my advice for you:
Take real breaks. Take proper vacations that involve putting up an OOO and completely, truly unplugging.
On a regular basis, truly remove yourself from your day-to-day, zoom out and take a bird's-eye view. That's the only way you'll be able to see what you need, any harmful patterns you've developed, etc. Pause, reflect, and make course-corrections.
Phoenix every few years. (Yes, I use "phoenix" as a verb.) .