As the CEO of SPI, I had the privilege of leading a group of very smart technical professionals. They made game-changing contributions in our clients’ businesses. One of them though, one weekend parked his leased Audi at the Atlanta airport, bought a full price ticket to Chennai and got on the plane. No one knew where he was - not the client, not anyone in SPI, not even Audi (they were really worried). He was found a few days later walking around disoriented in the streets of Chennai. Thankfully, he is fine now, but he did manage to hurt his career and our relationship with the client.
That is an extreme example of what damage burnout can cause to the smartest amongst us. But make no mistake, burnout is real. I have myself found that if I work long hours for weeks on end, I tend to be less productive and definitely not a good conversationalist. The recent news on the long hours being forced upon the new associates in Wall Street firms is not just inhumane, it is not good for business. It is well documented that burnout causes chronic fatigue, insomnia, physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, anger, isolation, irritability, depression, and more.
I have found that working on a project that I am very passionate about increases my runway but I have also learned my limits over the years. There are simple and obvious ways to avoid burnout. First, I have found that travel and therefore changing the environment around me helps me to recharge. Second, forcing myself to take vacations helps even when it appears that the world as I know it might end without my active participation. It somehow manages to survive till I get back, to my surprise. Finally, I purposefully add free time into my schedule and focus during those times on not focusing on work.
It takes purpose and determination to make sure that I don’t burn out. That is the best for me and for my business.