Building a successful company is hard work. No matter what your position is, everyone feels the pain at some point. In Silicon Valley, the pressure to hit investor targets and gain traction is immense, creating a stream of toxic work environments in their wake.
I'm someone who cares deeply about company culture, so it blindsided me one day when I found myself alone, sobbing, on the floor of an elevator in Evernote's headquarters, where I worked. I'm unsure how long I'd been there, but when the door dinged and opened, none other than CEO Phil Libin walked in. Offering his hand to help me stand, he asked me to take a walk with him outside. What he said next has stuck with me forever. After asking what was bothering me, and discovering it was based around work, he became agitated. He said, "None of this stuff matters -- what other people say, what they want -- none of it. You can't let it affect you personally."
And that's when his words struck home:
"Roll it off."
Libin told me I shouldn't take other's words personally and should live life for myself, not for someone else.
I've since recognized I was at the height of burnout. Libin's intervention came just in time, and I took his philosophy to heart. Soon after, I left Evernote to start my own company.
I didn't realize I was burning out until I was already there, which is usually the case. At that point, it is deeply difficult to pull back to normalcy without someone else's help. To that end, here are some burnout signs to watch out for.
You're preoccupied with work.
When every other word out of your mouth has to do with your company, you might be on the path to burnout. For me, I was so involved at Evernote that my husband and sister-in-law came to work for the company just to have any time with me at all. Additionally, I had a workday that spanned the globe, leaving no downtime.
If this describes you or a friend, the best thing to do is to add hobbies outside of work that don't include work colleagues. Volunteering in your community is one such option.
You're constantly fatigued.
Everyone gets tired at times, but this goes beyond that. If you find yourself taking naps in the middle of the workday, or falling asleep during the finale of Game of Thrones (for example), then you may be suffering from fatigue. Watch your caffeine intake -- do you "need" coffee to wake up?
To counteract this, you need to sleep more -- by going to bed earlier -- until you can consistently wake up at the correct time, not groggy, without an alarm clock.
You stop taking care of yourself.
Ever see someone who's gone through a breakup who stops showering, stops dressing themselves properly, and lets their house fill up with fast-food wrappers and discarded soda bottles? If you're burned out, you might have a similar fate -- which just leads you further down the path to slovenliness. It's even harder to clean up when you're demotivated and already have a mess.
For this, the best course of action is to set as simple a routine as you can. Someone who is burned out cannot focus on too many things, so reducing clothing choice to one color of turtleneck and jeans, for example, may help.
You have brain fog.
If we're burned out, it's because our body is focusing on one task so much that it has no time for anything else. This causes us to forget everything we learn in the short-term, and we have trouble retaining long-term memory, as well.
For me, the best way to combat this is to be as organized as I can be. If I have an agenda for a meeting, for example, I'm less likely to forget the important points. Otherwise, I could go off on a tangent and never return.
By identifying these signs, you can not only keep yourself from burning out but help others who may need an intervention. After all, without your body and brain working, how can you live your life?