Developer Tea

3 Red Flags that You're Heading for Burnout

Episode Summary

Listening requires that you have space. Burnout is a real effect and in today's episode we're talking about how to watch out for burnout.

Episode Notes

Burnout is a real effect and in today's episode we'll dispel the myths of being burned out and talk three ways to watch out for burnout in yourself and in your peers.

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Episode Transcription

One of the things that we wanted to do in the very beginning of this show's life is provide you a fresh breath of air. To take a moment, step away from the screen, maybe take a walk around the block or have a few minutes in the car where you are just listening. Something that's hopefully encouraging and maybe enlightening, sometimes challenging. But the idea here is that it requires that you have space. One of the reasons that giving yourself the space to listen to this podcast or just to take a walk around the block, even without the podcast, is to avoid burnout. Burnout is a real effect. There's a substantial amount of research on the negative effects of burnout. In today's episode, we're going to talk about three red flags that you can watch for in yourself, perhaps if you're a manager, watch for it in others, that might point to burnout. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and this show exists to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And so if you are looking for perspective, maybe you are listening to this episode because you already feel burned out. Or maybe you're listening to it because you feel guilty for feeling burned out. I want to start out by dispelling a few myths about burnout. These are things that are not necessarily true but are easy to believe. The first myth about burnout is that it makes you a bad worker. This is something that you probably implicitly believe. Hopefully by now, most of the people who listen to this podcast, you have a working environment that respects the reality of burnout and how damaging it can be to both the employee and the employer. But this is still something that we can feel. We can feel that by becoming burnt out, we've somehow done something wrong that we've made the choice to feel burned out or that everyone else has a longer fuse than us that we are somehow isolated in our feeling burned out. Another myth is that you have to hate your company to become burned out or you have to hate your job or your manager or a coworker. That something has to be terribly wrong for you to become burned out. And that's not true. Another myth is that you have to be overworking. You have to be working long hours to become burned out. This is also not true. Becoming burned out is actually a combination of factors. It can have a little bit to do with a negative perspective on your work or your workplace. That doesn't mean that you have to hate your workplace but maybe you feel like you aren't really reaching your potential. Perhaps you love the people that you work with and maybe you even like the work that you're doing but you don't feel totally fulfilled. Another factor is exhaustion. Now exhaustion doesn't necessarily have to mean that you're working more than you're expected hours to work. If you set your hours at 40 hours and you're exhausted at 35, no matter how hard you try to not be exhausted and perhaps in spite of you trying to not be exhausted, you're likely to become even more exhausted. Just because your exhaustion isn't directly tied to some arbitrary expected number doesn't mean that it's not real. You can experience exhaustion because you have, for example, a lot on your plate or maybe it's just the fluctuations of being human. There is no expected formula. You don't have to apply for the permission to be burned out. This is not something that anyone really wants. Nobody strives for a burnout. In today's episode, I want to help you learn how to identify this in yourself. I'm going to give you three red flag behaviors or intuitions that you can use to try to identify when you are getting burned out. First, I do want to take a moment to talk about today's sponsor, ImageKit. With ImageKit, you can automate image optimization across all platforms. If you are looking to optimize the images on your website or your app to improve their performance, page load time and SEO, then is a complete solution for this. You have real-time image optimizations and transformations with a global content delivery network making image management and optimization super simple. This allows you to deliver great user experience and simultaneously get better SEO. ImageKit integrates with pretty much any platform that you use. For example, AWS S3, Magento WordPress, Shopify, pretty much anything else. You get features like automatic format selection or compression, resizing, smart cropping. You can use the coupon code Developer Tea for $100 worth of credit. That's $100. It starts absolutely free. Pretty much have nothing to lose. Go and check it out, Make sure you use the promo code Developer Teato get $100 worth of credit. Thanks again to ImageKit for sponsoring today's episode. We're going to talk about three warning signs. We're going to go through these quickly today because there's not a ton that you have to look for this. You probably have an intuitive sense that you are getting burned out, but sometimes this can sneak up on us. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we aren't burned out because we're really enjoying the work that we're doing. If you're really enjoying the work that you're doing, but you also end up feeling totally exhausted by it, then that is absolutely a sign of burnout. Let's talk about these three red flags. Of course, that one is maybe a bonus red flag feeling exhausted. The first one that I want to talk about is that your motivation is almost entirely external. This is the first red flag. Your motivation is almost entirely external. You don't wake up feeling motivated by your own appreciation for your work. Your motivation is coming from perhaps only your monetary incentive, or maybe it's coming from what feels like a threat. If you don't do your job well, then you'll lose your job. The problem with this kind of motivation is not that it's not effective. We can absolutely be motivated by external things. When it's not paired with internal motivation, then we can quickly have a mismatch between our actions and what we think we're being motivated to do. In other words, our internal motivation is a much stronger motivator than external motivation. With external motivations like, for example, a bonus, we might find the bare minimum that we can do to get that bonus. This is totally normal, by the way. When you are being burnt out, you'll show these signs that you are gaming the system. You're more likely to gain the system. When you have internal motivation, you are rewarded by the work itself. That doesn't mean that all of your motivations should be internal. Certainly, no one who's listening to this podcast should accept a job where they're not being paid to do the work they're doing. When you don't have any internal motivation to do the job that you're doing, then it's time to take a little bit of a harder look. There might be periods, for example, a day where you're doing something that you have absolutely zero motivation, internal motivation to do. If it's a chronic problem where you don't feel motivated by anything that's in front of you, except if it comes with some kind of external incentive, then there's something to inspect there. It's very possible that you are headed towards burnout. Red flag number two, you find it incredibly difficult to focus. Even if you have a lot of internal motivation, your burnout, which leads to exhaustion, is going to make it difficult to focus. You'll end up procrastinating on your work. You'll end up doing really poor work quite regularly because you're unable to focus. You may miss some detail in the work, but if you feel constantly distracted, this is another sign that you are trying to escape this burnout path. Your mind is trying to escape the work that you're having to do. Even if you enjoy that work, this can happen. You start losing focus. This leads us to red flag number three. Your work seems to be progressively getting worse. Not that your work is just bad and then it's still bad the next day. It's that you're constantly getting worse and it seems like each day is worse than before. You can kind of intuitively understand why this is the case. The system of burnout causes you to come into work and you're very tired. You might miss a detail. This can be frustrating. It can make other team members feel stressed. It can lead to negative feedback which can turn into anxiety for you which can turn into more acute sense of burnout. That burnout will lead you to procrastinate. It may lead you to have highly sensitive emotions. It may lead you to be highly irritable. You may have more conflicts at work. Those conflicts could lead to even more negative performance reviews for you. You can see how this can spiral out of control. It may not happen in one or two days. It may not even happen in one or two weeks per se. This kind of negative feedback loop is going to eventually cause very serious problems. This is why burnout is so important to identify. That is the third red flag. You don't have ups and downs. It seems like your work is continuously becoming worse. What can you do about burnout? We're not going to go into depth on an answer here. It's important to understand that burnout is not just about working versus resting. It's also about engaging your mind and engaging your body in something different from your work. It's about finding fulfillment, not just at work and not just at home, but a holistic fulfillment. This may seem idealistic, but that's what this show is about. It's about helping you find a holistic level of fulfillment in the work that you do and in your life, because really those things are not separate. You may have a commute that makes it feel separate to you, but no matter how many cognitive or social barriers you put between your work and your life, those things will affect each other. It's important to approach your work from the perspective that it's only a part of your life. And approach your life as though it's a part of your work. This integrated way of thinking about work and life is going to lead you to think differently about both. I encourage you to consider how you are allowing those things to enrich each other. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that if you are headed towards burnout, you find ways of identifying it, and that you engage yourself in other activities, other mental activities, other emotional and physical activities, and that your work can continue to become better, rather than continuously becoming worse. Thank you so much again to today's sponsor, ImageKit. Head over to and use the code Developer Tea to get $100 worth of credit. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. This podcast wouldn't be possible without Speck is a network of podcasts and other content for designers and developers who are looking to level up in their careers. Go and check it out. There's other awesome podcasts, for example, React, podcast, tools day, and quite a few others that you will be interested in. Go and check it out. Head over to Today's episode also wouldn't be possible without Sarah Jackson. Sarah is the producer of DeveloperT. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. And until next time, enjoy your tea.