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My 3 Golden Rules to Never Burnout Again

Knowing these sooner would’ve saved me some time.

By Justin BoyettePublished 6 months ago 6 min read
My 3 Golden Rules to Never Burnout Again
Photo by Nuno Silva on Unsplash

When you place nearly all your self-worth into the work you produce, being burnt out is the fastest way to make a mirror look like shit.

In hindsight, I had set myself up for cyclical disappointment. Brute-force creativity — the love-child of Desperation and Impatience — and a lack of inspirational input are the perfect conditions for artistic failure.

And burnout.

For nearly two years, I wrestled with the worst writer’s block of my career. During this time, I hated everything I made. Sometimes I hated myself.

That’s a terrible way to live.

But in recent history, I’ve discovered what it takes to go from a starving artist to a thriving one.

Here are my three golden rules that let me elevate myself and will help you do the same:

1 — Work hard, play hard. But play hard twice.

The best advice I’ve ever received was from a hippie who sleeps on the floor. Take fun seriously.

In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport mentions the idea of “beneficial leisure,” an activity that:

  • Has to be demanding of your physical and mental faculties, challenging you to engage with it deeply
  • Has to produce something tangible — I believe content creation would qualify
  • Has the potential for community involvement, which could be something as simple as a Reddit thread about sewing, or a physical meeting space to participate

Essentially, make things that didn’t exist in the world a day prior.

In practice, however, I think this looks a little different.

The most important part of taking fun seriously is in keeping the discipline to participate in the activity. It’s easy to skip out on activities that aren’t “productive,” in the traditional sense. Regimented leisure does not remove the fun, but it does guarantee it as a constant — which helps root our schedules with a solid foundation to branch our work.

For me, this fun takes the form of playing my all-time favorite video game, Rocket League. The game’s concept is this: soccer (or football for you non-Americans), but with cars.

However, the skill ceiling is incredibly high. There’s a whole world of challenge and culture (the perfect blend Newport advocates for) beneath the surface.

These cars can jump, flip, and spin in 3D space. It is up to the player to learn how to exercise these automobile gymnastics so they can have a better time playing.

In the real world, the professional scene is a thriving one, complete with players, teams, coaches, e-sports casters, and fans — all of which play different roles in the Rocket League community.

This game fulfills the criteria for beneficial leisure.

At the height of my burnout, I stopped playing, cold turkey, thinking that would give me more time to produce good work. I spiraled. But I didn’t have to.


beneficial leisure = elevated mood = an easier time producing higher quality work

In learning this, I now take fun very seriously.

I make sure to play Rocket League most days for around an hour per session, in the evening.

Some games I win, others I lose. But in each, I am challenged in a way that demands my attention and leaves me energized for the next day’s work.

Find more energy in your day by having fun. Even if it needs to be scheduled.

2 — When you’ve won the day, switch tasks

This is the one tip in this list that guarantees 100% burnout prevention.

The Stoic Marcus Aurelius writes:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do?”

When you’ve done the day’s work, don’t return to it until the next day. There’s no reason to fall deeper into work we haven’t planned for.

We’ve all been in a flow state before. It’s a mind-state of being we’re all programmed to feel from time to time — and with it comes the emotional pull of equal parts intrigue and splendor.

However, cutting yourself off from work, even mid-flow is a way that saves your energy and will not compromise your momentum — I’d say it helps guarantee an easier time getting back into flow upon returning.

In allowing these breaks, our minds can continue to work on making and creating, even without being actively engaged with our work.

This does not mean avoiding deep work, or impactful work. I’ve written about the importance of accomplishing one thing per day.

What I didn’t mention in that article was that you should ask yourself of the one thing that would make today a win, and set out to accomplish that one thing. No matter the impact. Our motivation and energy levels fluctuate — it’s unreasonable to expect ourselves to work at peak performance for extended periods of time.

When your motivation is low, small tasks can still qualify as big wins.

Make sure your daily one-item to-do list is something doable in one day. If the task is too demanding, split it up into chunks.

Ambition is only dangerous if mismanaged.

Big dreams are accomplished in small steps.

Don’t write the book, write a chapter. Don’t paint a house, paint a wall.

Then the day has already been won. Switch tasks. Save your energy. Return with your drive re-energized.

3 — Keep a commonplace book, or, analog shit-posting

Humans are meant to think. It is from our brains that we’ve separated ourselves from other animals. To think, philosophize, and fantasize — primal enjoyments. It feels good to feel human.

The more I explore journaling, the more I’m convinced it’s the one cheat code to the good life. I keep formal thoughts and deep reflections in my journal. I care about it deeply.

Having a commonplace book, or what I call a “shit-post journal” takes this to the next level.

I’ve found that keeping a separate journal where I can dump shallow thoughts gives me a new kind of clarity in my day that I haven’t experienced before.

Anything goes in the shit-post journal.

Keeping an informal journal has given me the chance to write about the mundane thoughts I experience every day during the “in-betweens” of life.

Instead of these thoughts floating around in my head — clogging up space that might be better spent elsewhere — I’ve noticed a snappier decision-making ability and more awareness when engaging in tasks that require me to think more deeply.

So, find a notebook you aren’t working in and make it work for you. Make a mess of those pages. Clear your mind.

Disclaimer: This article was originally published on Medium.

Link to original article:

advicehappinesshealingself helpsuccess

About the Creator

Justin Boyette

4x Top Writer on Medium. Telling interesting stories from life's ordinary moments.

Writing about learning, organization, and erudition.

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