After working hard on the Manhattan Project, physicist Richard Feynman felt burned out. Prestigious universities offered him teaching gigs, as his obligations with the military wound down. But he felt guilt over being burned out with physics, and he knew that he needed to recharge to be of value. He wrote about the experience in his book “Surely You Must Be Joking Mr. Feynman.”
Finally, opportunity struck in the form of a plate crashing to the ground in a college cafeteria. He watched the incident, and knew he had to figure out the physics of the rotation. Not because of some overwhelming necessity. The science behind it was probably already figured out.
He wanted to tackle the problem because it entertained him, and allowed him to find joy with his skill set – something his work with the military didn’t always allow him. The plate incident allowed him to entertain the same types of physics problems he had at a younger age, the kinds that truly made him appreciate his skill set.
And that ultimately freed him up to enjoy what he was doing again, serve the university in a meaningful way, and advance his career. He felt recharged.
Here are a few lessons on recharging after burnout:
1. Find a Way to Play Your Talents
This is the lesson above. Feynman found a way back to what attracted him to physics in the first place. He began looking at the work that he wanted to do, instead of (or in addition to) the work he had to.
How did you originally discover your passions and talents? What are the problems you want to solve? Clients and customers are great. Helping others is what we’re here to do. But when you lose your initial passion, it’s tough to stay relevant.
2. Zoom Out for Perspective
It’s easy to lose yourself in the minutia of your business. Sometimes our days can be filled with heavy attention to detail, and it’s tough to see past that, to keep the bigger picture in mind.
Journaling can help you to step back and regain perspective on your original mission. It can help you to notice the progress you’ve made since you started the project.
You do not need to be a prolific writer to journal. This can be done in whatever form is best for you. Narrative, paragraph form can help you to put your thoughts on paper. Bullet points can be more succinct, and help you create a direct, actionable path to your goals.
Simply writing more down can help you maintain your sense of purpose for a longer duration.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth
3. Set Boundaries
It’s important to hang on to what’s important. As an entrepreneur, it’s far too easy to set your personal schedule aside. It’s too easy to look at a big project down the road and give up the things that matter.
What are you giving up by heading into the office at night or on the weekend? Whether it’s time with the family, watching the big game, or talking to a friend – make sure there’s time.
4. Pull the Plug
One of the best and worst things about the Internet is that anybody is accessible anywhere at any time. It’s up to you to know how much is too much. Leave your laptop in the office. Leave your phone on the nightstand.
One of my favorite things in the whole world is taking part in my toddler son’s imaginative games. After a day of work, it’s truly awesome seeing what’s on the mind of a 4-year-old. You can learn a lot about creativity and imagination simply by watching kids. This is so much easier when your head is not buried in your phone.
Some other simple actions include taking a 100 percent screen-free day, or deleting the Facebook app off your phone. Slowing down the flow of information can help you think more clearly and stay balanced.
“It’s okay to take a break from technology and get back to finding yourself. Sometimes it’s necessary.” – Patrick David
5. You Do You
In an age when everyone has an opinion, a strong sense of self is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. You won’t have to travel far on social media to find an opinion that differs from yours. Sometimes customers or clients will challenge you in every way that they can.
It’s important to keep your purpose in mind in everything you do. When the people around you are angry or upset, it’s important to realize their state of mind doesn’t have to become yours.
Burnout can be overwhelming, but it is beatable. Sometimes it means finding a new way to approach your skill set, like Richard Feynman had to do. Other times it may mean changing your daily schedule, or shifting your perspective.
What are you doing to recharge yourself after burnout? Leave your thoughts and experiences below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com