The following is an interview with Adam Khan about job burnout:
Interviewer: Someone has been at his job for years and enjoys what he's doing, yet ennui does set in. Granted, every job is different, but is there something he can do, some little trick, to keep the job interesting?
Adam: Yes, he could keep doing what he’s doing but find a new challenge in it. If he’s a manager, he could read a good book on management and concentrate on adding a new level of sophistication in the way he deals with his employees, while continuing to do everything else he’s been doing.
This will make his job more difficult, but if he doesn’t try to add too much at once, the extra challenge will make it more interesting, more engaging, more absorbing (and more satisfying because improvement and growth are satisfying).
When the challenge is too high, the work is stressful. When the challenge is too low, the work is boring. The trick is to manage the challenge to keep it in the "just right" range.
Interviewer: What are some good ways to avoid burnout?
Adam: Spend more time thinking. This week, three times, either go for a one-hour walk by yourself or sit in a room by yourself for one hour and do nothing at all except think.
Most of us spend so much time doing tasks or distracting ourselves with input we have a backlog of things we need to think about. We need downtime, but not filled with more things that take our attention, like skiing or watching movies or talking with others. If you feel you’re on your way to burnout, you are desperately in need of thinking time. It is best done alone and for periods longer than a half hour at a time. If you feel you don’t have time or space for this, you need it badly.
It seems it would be terribly boring, but after twenty minutes or so your mind will start to think and sort things out, like a defrag for the mind. You can’t do a defrag while the computer is busy with something else. And in the same way, you can’t sort your thoughts while your mind is occupied with anything else. Do your thinking where you see nobody else and where you hear nobody else (including radio or TV). (read more about that here)
Interviewer: Interestingly, Americans are known as the hardest working people, yet we are the most unsatisfied. Why do you think this is?
Adam: It seems old fashioned to say it, but the source of the dissatisfaction is greed. It’s an ugly word, so maybe I should explain what I mean. We have a built-in greed. Every parent sees it in their child and teaches them to curb it. But it is only restrained. It does not go away. We live in a society where anything is possible and so the greed has room to express itself fully.
In an economy and society with more limits, greed is curbed from the outside. In America, you have to curb it yourself. Everywhere you look you have enticements for more. Advertisers, of course, nurture your greed. If you don’t do anything about it, the society we live in — the freedom, the economic potential, the almost unlimited possibilities, and the advertising — will strengthen your greed and make you perpetually dissatisfied. (read more about that here)
Interviewer: How does one balance family with the workplace, considering some people work 60-80 hours a week.
Adam: Work less and watch less TV. Studies show after basic survival is taken care of, more money doesn’t make people happier. That’s a fact. People who work too much or work too hard in America are operating out of a mistaken notion: That they need to have things they only prefer to have.
Maybe you must work those extra hours to keep your job. But you don’t need that particular job. But if you didn’t have that job, you wouldn’t be able to afford your mortgage. But you don’t need that particular house.
Sometimes you have to decide what is more important to you: Making the maximum amount of money or having close relationships. None of us gets any extra hours. You get only so many per week and that’s it. You can’t have it all. But you can be happy. I don't remember who said it, but I like this quote: You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want." (read more about that here)
Interviewer: Are there any other Web sites/sources on this subject that I should pass onto our male readers?
Adam: The best book I’ve ever read on this subject is called Timelock by Ralph Keyes. My second choice would be Stress, Sanity, & Survival by Woolfolk and Richardson. Men, in particular, should read Love and Survival by Dean Ornish. And also I should mention the classic, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin.
Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Direct Your Mind, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.