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Summer time: Managing Burnout

Summer time: Managing Burnout

So its officially summer, and the past few months have been a little brutal on everyone. The world has been a very chaotic place in the past few months, with a lot of change. I don’t think there is a person alive who could have predicted the events since March 2020. And for many people there have been a wide range of emotions and situations out there. I want pretend to know the myriad of situations out there, and ultimately you reading this I’m sure have your own story with regard to the events of the past few months, whether those included isolation, depression, emotional stress, unemployment, or having your work life balance destroyed.

I’m not going to comment on any of those situations, but what I did want to share for this blog post were my thoughts on something I think universally felt by everyone…burnout.

All the events of the past few months, have left many of us feeling completely burned out. I know in my situation the events have led to 12-14 hour days for sustained periods (going on 3 months). And if you’re anything like me, the act of relaxing is something that’s not always the easiest to do. And for many of us, who had to be quarantined with kids those demands can be a lot higher.

So given that, it can be rather difficult to deal with these feelings of burnout, and I’ve been trying somethings myself and thought I would share a blog post discussing how I’m trying to manage burnout. I don’t pretend to believe that I have this figured out, but I’ve found some things that work for me, and I felt it would be good to pass them on.

Figure out what helps you relax?

Really, this is something I’ve come to realize quite heavily recently. But honestly everyone seems to think of the same thing as relaxing. And odds are for most of us the ways in which we relax have changed pretty drastically over the past few months.

For me, the problem was it always felt like there was something else to do, and it never seemed like I would really “relax” in the conventional sense. But honestly, relaxation means something different to everyone, and you might need to take a step back and redefine what it means for you.

For example, I’m the kind of person who has a very “Busy” energy. And sitting back and doing nothing is not actually relaxing, at all. I will find some way to exercise my mind or do something that engages me in different kinds of activities. So for me, I need to engage in something else that let’s me engage my mind in a different way but still satisfies my values.

The best way I can describe this, is my son came into my room at 6:30am on Father’s day and woke me up with the following sentence:

Happy Father’s day…Do you want to build a lego and play video games?

See the source image

For me, I find that that sitting down and pulling a lego set and working on it with my son, is significantly more fun and relaxing than anything else. So I’ve actually gotten to the point that there is a small backlog of lego sets in my office:

Always more lego…

So every so often, I’ll just sit down with my kids, build a lego, and they know that when we are done, I always take a picture and then turn it over to them. For me, the act of building something, with my hands, and doing it with my kids is really relaxing.

Take time for you

For me, like I mentioned above, I have to find times to engage my mind in things to really unplug and refresh, and it’s forced me to find new ways to do that, and in my case I find a lot of benefit to reading. I’ve been a comic fan for the past 27 years of my life. And one of the things I find really helps me is that most comic stories can be fairly quick reads and are something I can enjoy and engage on without making larger commitments or giving myself something else to remember.

The shelves line my office

But I find that taking time to read is something that I can do fairly easily at night. Usually my wife and I will put the kids to bed, and then our routine is to each take about an hour to do something by ourselves to recharge before we come back together and relax. This helps us to rest and shake off the craziness of the day before we hangout together.

Find new ways to replace old activities

So for most people, between COVID-19 and the craziness of everything else going on, it can be hard to engage in that social part of your life. And seeing friends and family became very difficult. We were lucky enough to find a new way to solve that problem. Prior to COVID-19, my wife and I along with a group of friends started playing TTRPGs, and specifically Dungeons and Dragons.

Now I know, D&D has a pretty nerdy reputation, but lately has seen a pretty big resurgence in the past few years. Honestly its pretty hard to call something nerdy when one of the biggest promoters of the game is Joe Manganiello.

Now, we were playing a monthly game with 5 other people before COVID-19, and since that game became weekly, with us all playing via Facebook Messenger. Since then the game has gone to weekly, and I have to tell you its been great. As the DM for the game it has more work, but I find that kind of work relaxing, and honestly its something we all collectively look forward to every week.

So most nights at some point, I end up stepping back and building the story and working on DnD as a way to relax. So we found a new way to do things and honestly even with our state going “Green” on the status, there’s been talk of doing a few in-person games, but we likely will be playing remotely every week moving forward. For those of us with kids it helps that we don’t have to find baby sitters and play from kid bedtime until midnight.

Another example I have here, is Exercise. So I have to be honest I had started Crossfit right before COVID-19, and was really enjoying it. But with COVID-19, all Gyms were shutdown, and I fell out of the habit. The main exercise option then became running, which to be honest is my personal hell. I can’t turn my brain off long enough and running becomes boring to me. But recently I found a great app that helps…Zombie’s Run. The app is here.

What I like about this is its sort of a mix of a podcast and exercise. In each “mission” there are audio snippets that will play that describe the adventures of your persona “Runner 5”, as you set out to help your home township as a runner. Being sent out to get supplies, distract zombies, etc. And as you run, periodically it will chime in with different updates on those missions and directions. It also integrates with Spotify or your chosen music player. So basically I’ll be running, and listening to music, and all of a sudden get a message “Pick up the pace, a rogue group of zombies must have heard you they are gaining on you.” (Complete with zombie sounds). And then the music resumes. It makes the process a lot more fun than before. If you want proof of that, I hate running and usually stop as soon as I can, and my second day I did a 5k.

Try Something new…

In my wife and my case, we had a smoker we got from my brother and never got around to using it. Since COVID-19 started we’ve been using that smoker almost every weekend doing a “Culinary Experiment” to help try new things. It gives us something fun to look forward to, and helps to make things easier. Our latest experiment was a 7 lb Pork Shoulder:

Sooooooooooo Gooooooooooooddddddddddddd!

So I would recommend try to find something new, and make a routine out of it. It will give you something to look forward to every day, or every week. And that can help stop the feelings of burnout.

Things I listen to…Podcasts / Audio Books

Things I listen to…Podcasts / Audio Books

Hello all, a shorter post this week. One question I’ve been asked a few times, so I thought I would put together a post on it. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and audio books. Personally I like this because it gives me an opportunity to take advantage of times I might not have and make them productive.

For Tech Podcasts, I listen to:

DotNetRocks – This really is a great and long running technical podcast, that I have been listening to for easily 7 years. They cover a wide array of topics but rerally have a great collection of guests. I was lucky enough to be a guest on this podcast once and I have to tell you it made me much more of a fan.

Azure Monk – Cloud Solution Architects – A shameless plug for a friends podcast, Anand is a great architect and very gifted technology specialist, and his podcast involves interviewing a other architects. The part I like about this is hearing the disparate backgrounds that leads everyone to this field..

Hanselminutes – To me this is a must have for anyone in technology. Scott Hanselman is “everyone’s favorite developer” and to be honest what I really enjoy about this podcast is the breadth of topics. He covers everything from coding, game development, mathematics, soft skills, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

For more fun stuff I enjoy these podcasts when I need a break:

Critical Role – Ok, I’ve made no secret of the fact thatt I am a huge nerd, and a big fan of gaming whether it be video games, or most recently table-top games. Recently I’ve dove into Dungeons and Dragons. To that end I’ve really enjoy Critical Role as a podcast, as it really does a good job of capturing everything I enjoy about the storytelling medium.

Angel of Vine – A fictional podcast that documents an investigation during Hollywood’s golden era, and has some major name actors behind it. Leads to some great mysteries and storytelling, definitely recommend it.

Welcome to Night Vale – A bizarre podcast that can be a lot of fun if you are actually looking for something weird. Welcome to Night Vale is very much a podcast that embraces Cthulu and that Lovecraft-ian horror. Like I said it a podcast for someone who just wants something off beat.

Decoder Ring Theatre – Going to get a little personal here, when I was growing up, I had a great uncle who introduced me to the Shadow, the original radio program, and it is part of what turned me on to comics in general. So when I found this podcast series that is modeled on old radio dramas, I absolutely jumped at it. The adventures of the Red Panda are absolutely something me and my amazing wife enjoy.

And for additional listening, I highly recommend the following audio books:

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek – This is my most recent read, and it really is a fascinating book. The idea of the infinite game has so many implications to a lot of our life, but specifically the ways of attaching this to career and your goals is absolutely fascinating. This is a very dense but powerful book, with a lot to digest.

Just Mercy – Bryan Stephenson – This is a really powerful, and at the same time brutal read. The story is a powerful one, about standing up for what’s right, and not backing down. And the underlying story of empathy is a truly powerful one. I will say that if you are looking for “light reading” this is not it. But it is a powerful story about standing up to protect people from the hate off the world, and what I would consider to be “true evil” in this world.

Retired Inspired – Chris Hogan – This really is a great book for everyone when its comes to managing your finances. The advice in here is powerful for retirement and I recommend this to anyone and everyone who is working. It’s never to early to think about retirement.

Grit – Angela Duckworth – Really is an amazing book, and definitely changes your mindset with regard to what is the difference between talent and effort.

Mindset – Carol Dweck – Another amazing book that when combined with the above will really help you to understand the difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset and the overall impact on your life of each.