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Do you feel the burn? 🔥

A designer’s guide to coping with work-related burnout and remidal measure to boost your productivity during the time of coronavirus

A photo of a person burning some twigs in the jungle

First of all, let’s address the big issue: why are we feeling this burnout? We’re the same old same people, doing almost the same quality and quantity of work we did before the pandemic. Then why are we having trouble doing the same stuff we once had no issues doing it?

At first, I thought it was only me. I thought I was the only one having trouble focusing, having trouble prioritizing, and staying productive. But then I heard stories of other people and everyone was indeed feeling a bit off, a bit weary, a little burned out.

But why this burnout? Why now? We’re doing the same stuff we used to do before the pandemic began. We’re dedicating the same amount of effort and the same length of time we used to when we went to the office. But it wasn’t all this bad — yes there were lows, but it was momentary. It would come and go, not linger around. But this is quite different now: the burnout is visible, and it is directly affecting your productivity. Isn’t it?

When the pandemic begun in March, I got extremely busy in the first few weeks. Up until the end of May, I was working on a number of projects and keeping myself busy. I never felt anything being different: these were the same people I met at work, the same people I’m working with now. Every one of us was equally functional and productive. There was no issue of burnout.

But something strange happened in the mid of June. My productivity fell. I lacked the motivation or enthusiasm to finish work. As a result, I began slacking. I put off a few meetings and would take longer than required to finish a piece of work. This wasn’t looking good. I am not the kind of person who takes a week to build a couple of screens. The following week, my pace slowed. I wasn’t being able to work as efficiently as I worked for the first two months. I realized I was going through burnout. Horrible timing!

Working from home is fun and games (not forever)

Our company has had a policy of working from home from the beginning. So it wasn’t for people to work from home on various occasions. The last time before pandemic I did work from home was when a plumber was supposed to come home fix the sink but did not give a concrete timing. So I had to wait for him so did WFH that day. See, it was situations like these Leapfroggers utilized their privilege and it the accountability they bore on their shoulders really showed.

But a pandemic doesn’t really give you the same kick. Working from home constantly for days and then weeks and then months, when it becomes a routine really starts impacting you how you work and what work you do. When you’re in the office, you have those clear compartmentalized regimen: you know your lunch break, your coffee musings, and your meetings. When you’re at home, those lines are blurred. An office is an orchestrated effort of many many people working together, and you trying to mimic that maneuver at home – doesn’t work. The synergy one teammate radiates to another doesn’t exist. You’re trying to be the fun one, and the musical one, and the talented one and the noisy one all at once. Didn’t work.

Work never changed, you changed

The number of ongoing projects at Leapfrog, the actual work hasn’t changed much. Work has remained the same. You, on the other hand, are trying every day to make it more like it used to be. But you’re in the middle of a fucking pandemic that has brought the world to a screeching halt. You cannot go out, you cannot commute, you are confined within the spaces of your home. You’ve never lived like this before, this is a first. This is not how you are. You’ve changed. But you’re still trying to do things you used to — so there is a compatibility gap, and this has taken a toll on your performance. You’re burned!

How did I cope with my burnout?

I’ve reorganized my working habits and I think it’s working to some extent. Here are a list of things I did to reduce my burnout:

  • I split work into smaller chunks. I’m doing things in 30 minutes windows. If I don’t finish in the next 30 minutes, I will put it away for a few hours and come back to it. A timer or a quick glimpse at the laptop clock helps to check.
  • Ask colleagues for cover. If you feel you’re having a block, talk to others who might help you. If you’re not being able to drag yourself further, it’s best to ask for help.
  • I’ve trying to do as many other things. “Other things” could be an array of things you enjoy doing: from playing music to crocheting. Up to you, but do it on a workday. Tell your boss you’re doing it.
  • Limit social media. I do not get notifications from any social media apps. I only know things when I open the app and see it for myself. I do not want the OS telling me when a new notification comes.
  • Take a new challenge. Two weeks ago, I shot two pilot episodes for my new YouTube channel. I’m still doing some groundwork before I can launch it formally and make the episodes public. This really helps you try something new; at the same time do something meaningful and spread knowledge.
  • Share the burn. Talk to your spouse, friends, or siblings. My wife too has been working under abnormal circumstances. Talk to each other. Share your experiences. You’re not the only one.
  • As a result, I feel better than a couple of weeks ago. I’m still trying to hit the perfect spot between being extremely productive and not deviating too far from my responsibilities, but today is not a normal workday, and don’t expect it will work out just as finely as one of your 2019 Tuesdays worked out.

A person at any level, any industry, or any location can feel burnout pretty quickly. This is not because you’ve been given more work, it’s simply because it takes more to do the same amount of work that used to be just a piece of cake six months ago.