For the past couple of weeks now, things have been pretty hectic for me. With the commencement of the new semester, comes the back-to-back virtual classes, piles of classwork and continuous tracking tests. Couple that with my extra-curricular involvements, university applications and creating content for my blog and newsletter, I came to the realization that I was on a fast track down one road: - Burnout.
As soon as I had a bit of free time, I did what any self-respecting Productivity Enthusiast would do. I reserved a bit of personal time for some introspection and reflect on the situation that I’ve gotten myself into.
Here are some of my reflections that I want to share with you, with sincere hopes that it would benefit you in some way, shape, or form.
🚩 Signs of my Burnout
The experience of an approaching burnout is a subtle and personal one. For me, this took on the form of general dissatisfaction and restlessness. I felt unanchored on most days and disgruntled on others. Although I was bashing through tasks on my To-Do Lists, I didn’t derive any sense of fulfilment, happiness or gratification from them.
I was feeling incredibly busy, but never productive.
Now that I’ve determined that I was beginning to burn out because of the lack of fulfilment, let’s find out what fulfilment is (at least to me) by examining the last time I felt productive and fulfilled.
💭 When was the last time I felt properly productive and fulfilled?
Funnily enough, I found that I was the most productive and fulfilled (and hence happy) during the COVID-19 lockdown.
I think that there were a few factors that contributed to this:-
- Suddenly, I found myself blessed with the leisure of time which I decided to use to pursue my interests and expand my horizons.
- I found various sources from which I could consume the content that I was interested in. (self-improvement, personal branding, human condition etc)
- I picked up a handful of new skills that includes coding, web design and touch typing, among other things.
- I ran a couple of projects that were interesting and gained the opportunity to connect with amazing people.
- I got a Kindle because I intentionally wanted to reduce the friction of reading.
🔍 Closer Examination
We tend to think of happiness as a condition that happens to us by sheer luck and coincidence; as something that we are unable to intentionally create; an ideal feeling that we experience when Lady Luck smiles upon us.
However, when I went through the list above again, I couldn’t help but realize the jarring evidence: - Out of the 5 factors that I highlighted as the things that contributed to my happiness and fulfilment, only one of them can be considered a serendipitous event - Factor 1
One could argue that factors 2 - 4 were only possible because of the lockdown and I had the extra time to indulge in my interests and pick up new skills. Nevertheless, I would like to push back very slightly by saying that even then, I had to make the decision to make the most out of the time I had instead of relenting to the temptation of Netflix.
Hence, I would contend that at least for me, happiness is not limited to pure luck and can be intentionally created.
After giving it some thought, I’ve come to realize that more often than not, happiness is a product of 2 components: - Progress and Contentment.
Progress - This is why we get hooked on video games and TV series. As we advance through the levels and episodes, we feel that we are making progress. These progresses come within short periods of time and hence release dopamine in our brains, which makes us feel happy, fulfilled and motivated.
Contentment - This plays a critical role to avoid Hedonic Adaptation (which I will write about in another post) We tend to long for something we don’t have, but once it is in our possession, we quickly acclimatise ourselves with the new norm and don’t find fulfilment in something that not too long ago, we were yearning for.
The most dangerous thing for humans not to have is enough.
Moving on, I think the key to finding fulfilment in the work that I do is take a moment to consider how my tasks at hand are going to contribute to my larger goals. At times, we are too engrossed in our work and move from one task to another before understanding the progress we are making towards our long-term goals. If we were to take just a brief moment to appreciate the progress we made instead of rushing off to the next task, we could potentially avoid a burnout that takes more than 2 weeks to recuperate from. The ROI of your time in this particular situation is so outrageously disproportionate that I can’t seem to think of a reason to not integrate this habit into our workflow.
Another vital element that will help me avoid burnout is to periodically review the work I have done and ask myself :
Would the 'me' one year ago be happy with where I am today?
Besides helping me feel content and grateful, this will also constantly remind me to do the things that I would be grateful for in one year’s time.
With that said, I hope that the experience that I’m sharing with you today adds value to your life in some shape, way or form. Even if it helps one of you avoid burnout (especially the KY kids), I’ll see that as progress and feel content.
Have a great week ahead and see you in the next issue of Sunday Scoop!
Article - If there’s one thing you do with this issue of the newsletter, read this article. It is called: 'Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel'. I’m only sharing one article with you this week because I think it is such an important for many of us to escape the Hedonic Treadmill and it’s honestly life-changing for me.
Try recalling the happiest moments of your life. How many of those are things you actively put in the effort for (getting good results, winning a competition etc) and how many of those are serendipitous events (happened by pure luck e.g. striking a lottery, meeting a celebrity, found a gold mine etc )?
What are the proportions of the 2 types of happy events?
📍 Exciting News!
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