2 min read

Three types of burnout

Three types of burnout
Photo by Tim Zänkert / Unsplash

I've been reading Feel Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal, and this passage on burnout really resonated with me. Abdaal outlines three distinct forces that can lead to burnout, each with its own underlying cause:

There are 3 common forces that make us feel worse and in turn lead us to burnout. They are easy to confuse with one another, but they are fundamentally different.

First up, there are the burnouts that come from simply taking on too much work. Your mood is suffering, because you are packing too much into each day. I call these "overexertion burnouts."

Overexertion burnout for me often happens during a transition. I'll suddenly have one too many things on my plate, and I won't have fully transitioned onto the new thing and/or off the old thing. Usually, I am able to manage overexertion burnouts relatively easily just by giving myself the time to ramp up and by setting expectations with others on what I can and cannot do.

Next, there are burnouts that relate to a misguide approach to rest. Your mood is suffering, because you haven't given yourself the deeper periods of time off that you need. Not just little breaks throughout the day, but the longer breaks that recharge the energy of your mind, body, and spirit. I call these "depletion burnouts."

Working out regularly and having a regular sleep schedule has helped me a lot with preventing depletion burnouts. I also find it helpful to block off nights for myself when I can read or write, as opposed to over-scheduling my social calendar.

Finally, there are burnouts that relate to doing the wrong stuff. Your mood is suffering because of the weeks, years or decades when you've put all of your efforts into something that doesn't bring you joy or meaning, and it has worn you down. You've been using your energy in the wrong way. I call these "misalignment burnouts."

Misalignment burnouts are the hardest for me. I get a lot of joy out of building high-quality products with a well-functioning team, and I spend a lot of energy building relationships with the people around me. At the same time, when I feel misaligned or forced to do silly things for silly reasons, it is hard for my mood not to suffer. I think that is why I feel burnout even while enjoying my work. Doing nothing can wear me down even more than doing too much.

Having a place to write like the View from JQ has helped me channel my energy when I suffer from misalignment burnout. I know that at least when I write on this blog, I'm doing something that makes sense to me. I'm excited to find more ways to put my efforts into things that bring my joy and meaning.

Ali Abdaal on Instagram: “The 3 types of burnout 😩”
760 likes, 5 comments - aliabdaal on March 7, 2024: “The 3 types of burnout 😩”