How many times have you been bogged down in the middle of a project, feeling like giving up because there’s no light at the end of the tunnel? The project feels as if it’ll never get done, everything you do takes forever, you’re starting to get frustrated with the process, and the best option – the option that will seemingly free you – is to quit.
Unfortunately, quitting renders all the time you spent and all the frustration you had meaningless. All those sleepless nights, cringe-worthy meetings, and the tens or hundreds of hours dedicated to getting things done? All gone. Don’t mean anything.
So, of course, you have to press on in spite of your growing sense of frustration and hopelessness. But, in order to do so and keep yourself sane, you have to change the way that you’re doing your project. If you keep doing what you’re doing and press on valiantly, sure – you’ll get the project done. But, by the end, you won’t be doing your work to its fullest potential. You’re going to experience “burn-out” even more, with greater frustration and resentment for the work that has to be done. You’ll be cutting corners and taking shortcuts just so the project gets done. Not good – that’s why burn-out is so tricky to manage.
What’s Causing the Burn-Out?
Quite simply, your obsession with the end result of the project – completion – is what’s making you burn out.
If you keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing without taking a break or even generating some positive emotions along the way, you’re going to start to let the frustration get to you and start questioning the usefulness of what you’re doing.
The way your mind is set up is in what I like to call the Big Win mindset.
For a person in a “big win” mindset, the only thing that is worth celebrating – the only thing worth feeling good about – is the final product. It’s the grade on their test, how well their book is received, how much money they’re making, and so on. They don’t see the work and creativity that went into their project as worthwhile or something to be proud of. Their only concern, again, is what their work and creativity produced – and that’s very unhealthy.
The Big Win mindset results in burn-out because the people who have it are constantly waiting for the end of the project so they can finally celebrate a job well done. That means that they keep all their energy inside, pent up, during the entirety of the project. Without a positive outlet – they’ll refuse to say anything remotely positive until it’s done – their positive energy turns into negativity because the project prevents them from expressing any positive emotions since they can’t “celebrate” their Big Win until after it’s done.
Because the project quite literally is the cause of their inability to let themselves feel good, they begin to resent it. What happens as a result?
Burn-out. If you’re putting off feeling good about yourself and your work until the project is done, you’re going to burn-out. Trust me. I’ve done it hundreds of times.
The Burn-Out Cure
The cure to burn-out, as you’ve probably figured out already, is to celebrate everything that you do related to a project – I call this the Little Victory mindset.
In the Little Victory mindset, you keep yourself motivated and feeling good to finish a project because you will let yourself experience positive emotions for every little thing you complete that’s related to your project.
Whereas the Big Win mindset says, “Well, doing the little stuff is useless if the whole project doesn’t get done,” the Little Victory mindset counters, “But each little thing adds up to the whole. Why not feel good about them? They’re like projects in their own right.”
And that’s really how I approach projects now – and I feel so much better while doing them. No longer am I dreading the project plateau – that time when we feel like giving up and pursuing a new shiny idea because what we’re doing is no longer working.
Instead, take the time to let yourself feel good whenever you complete a part of a project – celebrating your Little Victories. That way, you won’t build up the resentment and faitgue that accompanies burn-out.
You’ll be replacing burn-out with positive momentum – feedback that serves to move your project forward instead of grinding it to a halt.
Let’s face it – if you like what you’re doing, you’re going to be more excited to do it all the time, and you’re going to feel better when you do it.
You start to burn out because you feel negative emotions in connection with your project.
The solution, then, is to get to the source of those bad emotions – the Big Win mindset – and replace it with a Little Victory mindset.