February 26, 2019

The reality of burnout and how to avoid it

Whether you’re a student, an employee or even a business owner, one of the biggest problems we face is burning out. From never-ending assignments to piles of projects to complete, many of us face a moment when we’ve used up all of our energy, motivation, and drive. Suddenly we just slow down, like a car running out of gas.

In my own experience, as well as those of the people I work with, we all have a passion in life that drives us to work hard every day. It could be the love of our families and the desire to support them, the drive to build up our careers, or the passion to grow our business. But sometimes, we forget that we do have our limitations, both physically and mentally.

I support pushing beyond our limits and getting out of our comfort zones to grow, but the more we push, the more we’re pushing ourselves toward burning out. Striking a balance is the key to avoid such setbacks.

However, no matter how much we want to balance school or work with our personal lives, we will never be 100% successful. But there are some steps we can take to avoid burning out.

The first step is to take some time to become self-aware. Understanding yourself is the first step to any type of change or learning. With self-awareness, you start to become conscious of your actions and behaviour, and the underlying reasons why you act and behave in certain ways.

Are you able to manage your work in a timely manner? Do you work on projects without sharing the tasks? Do you say yes to every request from your peers? These are the types of questions you need to answer honestly because they help you understand your limits and also understand what might be pushing you toward burning out.

The second step is understanding and listing your priorities. It’s important to remember that you can do anything but not everything. Depending on your goals, you can set your priorities, list and rank them by importance and urgency. Your list of priorities becomes your to-do list, making sure you keep track of what’s important.

The third step is to learn when to say no. Just as you need to learn to prioritise your own tasks, you also need to learn when to turn down requests from other people. The reality is that we all have our limitations and as much as we want to do everything, we just aren’t able to.

This brings us to the fourth step — include taking breaks and make a habit to take them. Depending on how you tackle your daily tasks, you can integrate breaks of 5-10 minutes at certain times of the day or every few hours. At those times, step back from study or work. If you don’t allow yourself to rest, you’ll burn out faster and harder.

Furthermore, making a habit of taking breaks is just as important as taking them in the first place. You may sometimes lose yourself in your work and forget to take those breaks. You’ll then find yourself falling back onto the path toward burnout.

The fifth and final step is to seek support when you need it. There’s no shame in asking for help from your peers. Not only is it great to get some feedback, but you also get extra hands to help complete tasks faster.

We cannot all expect perfection from ourselves. We all have our weaknesses and working with others helps fill those gaps. After all, when you collaborate with your team, you build a great team culture, produce better quality work, and achieve greater things together, as opposed to doing it all on your own.

At the end of the day, we can achieve many things and succeed in life, but it won’t matter if you allow yourself to fall back physically and mentally. Just as machines need maintenance, we humans also lose power and strength if we refuse to care for ourselves. Balance is the key to keeping you on track and away from burning out.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa