Combating Beginning of the Year Burnout

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

When we start a new year we all set high goals for ourselves and, unfortunately, it’s pretty likely that we won’t be able to live up to our expectations of what we hope to accomplish each day. It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed when we don’t reach our daily goals and then by March we’ve given up on our new routines all together. I have a few tricks that I use to help me overcome burnout and I hope they help you too.

1) Don’t punish yourself by cutting out fun. I find that if I haven’t accomplished what I want to during a work day that I won’t often allow myself to read for pleasure at home. I feel like if I don’t get my work reading done that I have no right to read something else. This is NOT the right way to think. If you don’t allow yourself to enjoy some personal time you won’t have a healthy mindset for your work time.Β  It’s a spiral that continues to cause harm rather than good. For me, it’s because of my love of books that I want to do my job so if I cut out my pleasure reading I’m cutting out the joy that inspired me in the first place. Then work becomes work without the joy and that’s not what any of us wants!

2) If you don’t complete what you wanted to one day, don’t pile it on top of your next day’s goal. Restructure. Start fresh each morning with a positive mindset. If you keep adding incomplete work to your goals for future days you will overwhelm yourself. If you don’t finish a task one day, restructure your next day so that the day’s work can fit into that one day. You will have to prioritize,Β  but it’s important to make sure you aren’t just piling on overwhelming expectations for yourself.

3) I bet you have a goal for physical health too. It’s true the the health of your body affects your productivity at work and your happiness. If you aren’t doing well with getting to the gym or keeping up an exercise routine on your own find a workout accountability partner or gym buddy. This is always how I’ve been able to keep up some level of physical activity and it seems like when I try to rely only on myself my workout plans never happen. Also, doing a little something each day is better than nothing at all. If you don’t get to the gym one day try running up and down the stairs for 15 minutes or do a brief session of stretching and squats.

4) This one might be the most important. Stop comparing yourself to others! Every person is different and accomplishes things at different rates and through different methods. Wasting energy worrying about if you are writing as quickly as a writing pal of yours or trying to feel better about yourself because at least you are accomplishing more than Jane Doe won’t help you at all. Focus only on yourself and your daily tasks and you’ll end up feeling better and getting more done. This applies to your health goals too.

Here are a few questions to ponder and discuss:

1) Do you fall victim to punishing yourself by taking away your joyful activities? How have you seen this affecting you?

2) We are a week or so in to the new year. How are you doing with your goals?

3) What tricks do you use to help keep yourself on track for accomplishing your tasks?

4) Have you ever been able to keep up a resolution for an entire year? If so, what was it and how did you do it?

52 Responses

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  1. Anne Love says:

    Two years ago I resolved to walk on the treadmill 10 min every morning before work instead of only 2-3 days a week. That way, if I failed once, I’d at least have done it 4 days a week. Whereas if I had only set my sights on 2 days a week and failed once, it would have meant I’d only done it once a week–which is basically NOT exercise. By the end of the year, I had dropped my bad cholesterol 20 points. On year two, I increased from 10 to 15 min.

    I think writing a little at a time, persistently over time is similar.
    I try to apply the same to my devotional life and the housework too.
    It’s less overwhelming than unrealistic goals that burn you out and make you give up.

  2. “Stop comparing yourself to others.” Great advice, Rachel, and some I need to have embroidered on a throw pillow for the room in which I write.

    All in all, words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for this Rachel. I fall into the tendency of going so hard that I burn out. I forget to look up and see what is going on around me. I don’t think God calls us to live in this way. Now I set goals, but I hold them loosely, knowing God might want to form them in a different way.

  4. Jill Kemerer says:

    LOVE this post, Rachel! Your advice about being realistic is spot-on.

    I’m enjoying the new year, and I think one of the reasons is that I’m getting things done but I’m doing them slowly.

    * I’m counting calories, but I set my daily goal at a much higher limit than any diet. I’m not hungry, eating healthier, and I’m losing weight.

    * Instead of “pushing” myself on the treadmill, I’m walking at a pace where I can easily read a book. Win-win!

    * I’m taking the time for frivolous creative breaks, something I FAILED big time last year!

    Most of all, I’m just slowing down and taking the time to have a conversation with our Savior.

  5. Jeanne T says:

    Rachel, this is such a practical post. I like each of your points. I’m pretty good about not piling stuff (and pressure) into my tomorrow that I don’t finish today. I move it to the next day’s to-do list and do it then.

    I’m working on the physical aspects too. My doctor challenged me to get more sleep. So one goal I’ve set is to get about an hour’s more sleep per night than I gave myself last year. I’m also working on getting onto the treadmill 3x per week. Exercise has never been a priority for me. But, now that I’m getting older and putting on weight, it’s time to make it a higher priority. πŸ˜‰

    The reminder to not compare myself is probably the most important one. I need to remember God’s plan and timing for me is perfect, and I’m focusing on that rather than the time frames of my friends. πŸ™‚

    • Jill Kemerer says:

      I struggle to get enough sleep too, Jeanne. I don’t want to go to bed at nine o’clock! One thing I’ve done recently? Take a quick nap in the afternoon, like 30 minutes. It’s made a big difference in my energy levels. Happy sleeping!

      • Jeanne T says:

        Thanks! I nap too, but my doc said it needed to be night time sleep. Sigh. So, I’m working on it. πŸ™‚

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I have a hard time getting to sleep at a reasonable hour too! No matter how tired I am during the day I get a second wind right at what should be bed time.

  6. Great post. I definitely struggle with each of the things you listed! I get frustrated when I can’t get my book completed more quickly, but I just had a good chat with my CP and moved my revision date back to give myself more time. That way, I have a bit more time in the evenings to read or spend time with my husband.

    The biggest change I’m making this year is to take Sundays off from writing. I’m hoping it will contribute to an overall feeling of rest and give me more energy to accomplish what I need to the rest of the week.

  7. 1)Nope,I’m way too self absorbed to punish myself.
    2)I’m looking at a fairly substantial re-write and overhaul of my MS, and what freaks me out is I’m looking forward to it! No one, NO ONE ever used the word “normal” to describe me. Not a living soul.
    3) Being obsessed with getting it right helps with staying on track. Yes, relax, I do take breaks, I promise.
    4) No. HAHAHA!

  8. Great points, Rachel, especially about physical fitness.

    While I don’t punish myself, it’s rare I do anything just for fun these days. I’ve overloaded my schedule the past few years–last year was the worst–and it’s made me realize I need to cut back somewhere so I can enjoy life again.

    My goals for this year aren’t going great, but I had to change my focus to concentrate on finding employment outside my home. That said, I am determined to work on at least one goal-related item before Saturday. I’m a big fan of to-do lists, but I haven’t written one yet this year. Bad me. Bad me.

    I stopped making resolutions years ago. I never stuck with them. Instead, I have overall goals that I break down into smaller chunks, and then revisit my goals each quarter. It’s worked so far. Have I accomplished everything I intended? No, but I’m satisfied with my progress.

  9. Jenny Leo says:

    Thanks for this inspiring post, Rachel.

    The only resolution I’ve been able to keep for a whole year is morning devotions. This took a real mental shift, from “I need to do devotions before I start my workday” to “The Lord is my first and most important appointment of the workday.” It’s a subtle but effective difference. I’m not delaying the start of my day by spending time with the Lord. That IS the start of my day.

    For other goals, it’s been more effective to focus on process instead of results. For example, I can’t control whether a piece of writing will ever get published, but I can control how many words I write today. I can’t control the number on the scale, but I can control whether or not I exercise today, etc. Even so, I’ve never stuck with these resolution perfectly for an entire year.

  10. So far, so good on the goals – fingers crossed!I find the more physically and mentally active I am, the stronger my writing becomes in the process. I’m not suggesting crazy multi-tasking – just keeping up a steady exercise routine and saying β€œyes” more often to the fun opportunities that come my way; active body, active mind! Happy New Year, Rachel!

  11. This was a great post Rachel and so close to home for me.

    I get frustrated when my day is full of must-do tasks that aren’t writing. Evening rolls around and I tell myself, “If you were as dedicated as So-and-so, you’d spend a few hours writing after the kids go to bed.” But that’s my time with my husband and we guard it closely.

    Before Christmas I’d started working in 90 minute intervals after reading one of Rachelle’s posts on productivity. I loved the results and now that the kids are back in school, I plan on resuming that schedule.

    One tool I discovered for daily healthy habits is the Lift app. You can sign up for all kinds of habits from drinking more water to praying. Then you check in when you’ve completed that activity for the day and it records your progress. My husband and I are liking that little bit of accountability and it feels proactive, not guilt-driven.

  12. Rachel, these are wonderful suggestions. By the end of a year I usually either can’t remember my resolutions or my life has changed so much they’re no longer appropriate, so I can’t say which ones I’ve succeeded in doing.

  13. Stephanie M. says:

    I was wondering why I’ve felt so badly about my schedule. This blog made me realize I keep starting new projects instead of finishing the old!

    I’m going to try to think of WIP as just finishing one scene at a time, that seems more manageable than looking at it as chapter by chapter.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I like that! One scene at a time sounds more fun too. Like you are exploring the story rather than pounding out a manuscript.

  14. Absolutely allow Joy in every day! Great advice.

  15. Feeling overwhelmed is part of who I am. Seriously. I’ve been over-committed since I became a mother and started a home based business and home schooling and writing the story that would become my first book. I’ve never figured out how not to try to live more than one life. Balance is a challenge for just about every woman I know. I especially appreciate the reminder about comparisons, and I am SO thankful for those verses reminding me that His mercies are new every morning, because I pretty much need a “do-over” every morning!
    I have combined reward with exercise this year. I read a novel for fun while I’m on the elliptical. The book motivates me to the machine. So far, so good.

    • Paula says:

      I hear you – also homeschooling and launching a home-based business πŸ™‚

      Oh, how I despise exercise… I’ll go skating or biking or horseback riding, but moving for the sake of “exercise” holds zero charm for me. I’ll be hooking up the Wii Fit again this year, I think.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I love the read and exercise idea! I wonder if I’m physically coordinated enough to do that.

  16. Jan Thompson says:

    Great post!

    #4) Yes. I wanted to study the Bible more throughout the year, and did. By a provision of God, we found a new church a couple of years ago that has great Bible studies, so throughout the entire 2012 I’ve been learning how to study the Bible on a deeper level.

    Now, if I apply the same consistent determination to my MSS rewrites, I could be done with my manuscripts soon, hopefully sometime this century. Then I can celebrate by eating more joyful desserts (answer to question #1).


    • Rachel Kent says:

      There are less joyful desserts out there? πŸ™‚ I enJOY them all!

      Great to hear about the successful Bible study time!

  17. Paula says:

    I realized that last year I did make a commitment and stick to it – in April 2012 I got fed up with my weight (lost baby weight from baby #2, but weight from baby #1 had been clinging stubbornly for 6 years!) I went on a low-carb diet and concentrated on what I could have – no sugar, but I can have cream in my coffee! No bread, but I can have bacon! etc. I lost 34 lbs. last year. It’s still off. If I do it again this year, I’ll drop newlywed weight and the freshman 15 and be a teenager again! πŸ˜‰ This after years of angry, resentful, “I deserve a break” dieting. Changing my focus to what I CAN do and what I’m blessed to do has helped so much!

    I am absolutely allowed to play and learn and create “frivolous” things. This past week, I’ve done comic book fan art which won a paying contest and another which the check is arriving tomorrow. I made a pirate hat for my son and a cardboard stove with an oven and cabinets for my daughter. I bought books – fluff books, intriguing books, and another book on how to create graphic novels.
    I’m on track to finish Issue 1 of Volume 1 of my comic book (which will eventually become a graphic novel) by the end of the year. All because *I* decide what’s worth my time. I *get to* write my own comic. *I* decide what holds value.

    I am finally owning my purpose – I don’t care what anyone else thinks or if I’ll never be taken seriously in this genre. I was created ON purpose, FOR a purpose, and I was born with the drive to learn everything I need to fulfill that purpose.

    The evidence is pointing to graphic novels πŸ™‚ It makes me so happy that I’m going to do whatever it takes to see it through πŸ™‚

  18. As far as my physical health goes, I have a hiking buddy who keeps me accountable. We get a little quiet on the uphill sections, but the time goes by fast when our mouths are exercising as well.

    I want to send the first 20 pages of my WIP to Mount Hermon for critique before the Writers Conference in March. I’m reading The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke which has been very helpful. I highly recommend it.

  19. MARK DANTONI says:

    Good post, Rachel. I especially like #1. It’s so easy to just work, work, work. I’ve found it’s important to take care of that personal time. If you don’t fit in some pleasure reading, or play time, you start to lose focus on the tasks at hand.

    “…don’t pile on…” THIS is the one that is the most revelation to me. I do this all the time. Those items left over from today go right onto the stack for tomorrow. It can be overwhelming. Restructure.

    Every new year, I search for some new process that will help me stay on task and reach my goals. But it’s not really a new system of fancy application. It’s sticking to these simple rules. Thanks for the post.

  20. Cathy Gohlke says:

    Your post hit the nail on the head for me, Rachel! Many thanks for writing just what I needed to read!

  21. Sherry Kyle says:

    I enjoyed your post, Rachel. Being a mom of four kids has helped me prioritize. My goal (and still is even though they are teenagers) is to do AT LEAST one household chore (like vacuuming, paying bills, or grocery shopping) and one load of laundry per day. It doesn’t seem so overwhelming to me this way. I also write in increments too. I tend to say “no” more often then “yes” to volunteering because I know how much time I have in a day and what needs to get done. There’s a season for everything, though, and sometimes my best intentions don’t always work. I volunteered to have my husband’s work Christmas party at our new house last month and was busy for DAYS, but it was so worth it. Everyone had a great time. I heard someone say they want the party at our house for the next TEN years! Oh, boy! Look what I started. LOL! My personality needs a goal/project. I work best that way.

  22. Reba says:

    I am a creative person, and through the years I have learned by experience I cannot force creativity. If the creativity just is not there that day, I have to leave it alone, step away from it or I make a big mess. If I don’t then on the day the creativity is there I spend all my time cleaning up my mess from the time before.
    For me, I have to step back and do something else until it hits, and it will hit, then I go at it full steam.

  23. AFord says:

    Thanks for tackling this common trend each year, and offering some sound advice/wisdom to live by. Happy New Year!