Taking a Break

Published See discussion on Twitter

One of my coworkers the other day after work sent me a slack asking if I have ever experienced burn out. And if so how have I gotten over it to keep up the enthusiasm and energy while working.

I thought about my response to the message a bit, thinking to myself

Have I ever actually experienced burn out?

I think I have experienced it, but to me its more like a slump than it is a period of not being able to work on what I want to. I ended up replying saying yes, and that I normally do one of two things.

  1. If you can, step away from the whole thing or
  2. Pick up another task that is different that the current one you are feeling burnt out over

Both of these are essentially getting at the need to step away from whatever you might be currently working on to let your brain (and body) recharge. I link to think of burn out as being a battery that is consistently being drained while trying to recharge.

You consistently have a pressure to keep producing work, but you are also trying to recharge, just at a slower rate than you are being depleted.

In the case that you are getting burnt out at work, then its really time to set up some vacation time if possible. If thats not possible then the next best thing is to pick up completely different work than what you might be currently working on. After a while doing either of those you will feel recharged enough to come back to the task and dive back into it.

I have felt like this for several projects I have been working on. Recently we released a new carousel component for Wayfairs Pattern Library (we may open source it soon too!), that project had taken about 7 months of engineering effort. It wasn't an everyday project for those seven months, but after the first three or so I had to step away and work on some other tasks.

Luckily my manager was totally understanding and realized that I needed to step away from that work and shift to work on other projects.

Recently we have also been working on building out a new documentation site we call Homebase where we document our design system and component libraries. Our team has been working on the architecture of this project since December of 2017, and we are nearing the release date soon. This project has been extremely exciting, we are building some really awesome tools that only some other documentation site/design system sites have. However we have been working on it for the better part of 6 months now, and its starting to get to a point where we are all feeling a bit drained about the project.

This time I am taking off two and a half weeks from work to visit family, go camping, and overall recharge. Its so refreshing being able to leave behind a work laptop, turn off email notifications, and set your Slack status to 🌴 Vacationing.

I hope that my coworker and others also remember to step away from work that begins to drain them.