What are some strategies for fighting through professional burnout when changing jobs or careers isn't an option? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by John L. Miller, Ph.D, who has 25 years of experience at Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Oracle, on Quora:

Sometimes you're sick of your job, but you don't have any choice but to keep working. Maybe the industry is in a downturn. Maybe you don't have the credentials to get a different job. Maybe nobody else pays as well, and you need the money.

If you're burned out professionally, it could be many things:

  • Being overworked for too long, especially for shifting or artificial deadlines.
  • Disillusionment with your team, your manager, or your company.
  • Poor performance leading to underconfidence and hopelessness.

The steps for fighting burnout are:

  1. Identify the problems. Are you working too hard? Is it a crappy manager or work environment? Are you fatalistic about your assignment? Or do you feel like you just can't do the job?
  2. Write down positive and negative examples. In other words, write down experiences at work which demonstrate or negate your burnout. Negative: "I have trouble coming in on Monday, and spend all day on facebook." Positive: "I was super-productive monday and tuesday, and felt great Tuesday night."
  3. Confirm. Which are really problems? Is there anything common about the examples, especially the negative ones? Do the positive examples change your mind about what is and is not a problem?
  4. Identify magical solutions. Within the constraint of staying in your position, if anything is possible, what would make it better? A different boss? Not having to interact with a particular person? Being able to work more quickly and correctly? Having more time? Getting more positive feedback? Believing in the product or the work? Not having to deal with so much bullshit?
  5. Brainstorm practical answers. You can't get rid of your boss, but maybe you can change the way you work with them, and minimize contact. You can't change your coworkers, but maybe you can get moved to a different spot, or work on a different part of the team to make things better. You can't learn everything at once, but you can choose one thing and make it better.

If your burnout is simple exhaustion, the answer is easier: you need to work at a sustainable rate, and work a little slower than that for a while to recover. Make sure you take weekends off. Set a 'pencils down' strategy for yourself where you make yourself leave. Set up a schedule for lunch and make sure you take it. If you need more break, make sure you take a 15 minute break in the morning and again in the afternoon to regenerate a little. For exhaustion it's a good idea to talk to your boss and say you need to leave after 8 hours for a while. If you've been a good employee historically, they'll want to keep you and be flexible.

Finally, come up with an exit strategy if you don't see the job working out long term. Take mitigating steps that will make the job bearable, but be on the lookout for other opportunities.

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