At the end of every year, I make it a point to do some serious reflecting.
Part of my reflection process this year has entailed taking a hard look at "burnout."
Burnout feels like you've hit a wall.
Every entrepreneur knows the feeling.
Burnout can happen at the end of the day, on Friday at the end of your week, or sometimes it can happen after just a few hours. Burnout isn't always this big catastrophic event where your life suddenly resembles a one-sided seesaw. It can happen in the small moments too.
One of the things I've been thinking about lately is what causes burnout--specifically, what causes it to happen in those small intervals where all of a sudden you feel like you don't want to do anything at all (even if you need to).
Burnout is the result of a lack of input.
This is my big conclusion.
If I watch myself carefully, I notice that transitioning between activities is what causes the most burnout.
What I mean is, each activity in itself isn't necessarily what causes tiredness or a lack of motivation. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Each activity, once you get into the flow, feels good. You know what you're focused on, and you have no problem remaining focused for a long period of time.
Where the exhaustion comes in is when you stop doing that one activity, only to immediately move into another.
There is no transition.
If you want to prevent burnout forever, this 1 habit is all you need.
Separate each output activity with a few small moments of input.
After a long grind session, read.
After a client meeting, go sit by yourself for 5-10 minutes and reflect.
After a morning of working, eat lunch without checking your phone.
When you separate moments of output with small moments of input, the transition becomes a time to recharge.
Instead, what most people do is they compound activity after activity, until they have no more output left.
Most of our society (especially us entrepreneurs) spend 90% of our days in output mode.
We're on the phone, and then we're answering emails, and then we're having meetings, and then we're doing the work, and then we're doing more work, and then we're catering to other people, and then we're checking our email again.
On and on and on it goes--never once pausing to give ourselves a moment of transition.
Where's the input?
This is the most simple, and yet the most impactful habit of all, this habit of input-focused transitions. Don't just jump from activity to activity. Don't book your entire day with output activities. You have to eat lunch, don't you? What if you never slept either?
There is a reason we need basic inputs in order to survive as humans.
Apply those same principles to productivity and you'll never burn out.