Recently I read an article on the importance of looking after yourself so that you can effectively look after others. This same concept appeared in a book I'm reading and I've heard it being advised by many people around me. So with all these indications of the importance of rest and avoiding burnout, it is striking that we still see ourselves being driven by feelings of guilt if we aren't working ourselves into the ground.
Throughout secondary school, I was encouraged to work hard in order to achieve the grades I wanted so as to give myself the best opportunities in life. I agree that this encouragement is what led me towards some of my achievements, but I wouldn't put it solely down to this attribute. I watched friends revise tirelessly, giving themselves little to no breaks. Some achieved the results they wanted but this was not the case for all. Even still, I would have probably counted it as fail-safe advice to encourage people to work until they can work no more and watch their dreams become a reality.
However, maybe this glorification of being busy hints that there’s a lack of faith in our efforts. How can we move from the endless work ethic to the effective work ethic?
For some, there is no difference between the endless and the effective. Personally, I think there is and it’s the word diligence; to work earnestly at something in order to accomplish its purpose. To me, this is speaks of attitude rather than time. It’s an attitude that says sometimes you have to work hard, really hard, in order to achieve your goals but the depth of your work comes from its quality. For me, this attitude also includes the belief that no one thing should consume my every waking moment. Balance is important, and the diligence of my work can and should result in good success.
It appears that in our society being busy equates to being capable or successful but it’s wise to take breaks in order to give ourselves better balance in life. If we work ourselves into the ground in order to gain success, there really won't be much left of us to enjoy it. Instead of working ourselves silly and then reaching for the nearest book on recognising the stages of burnout. We should remember to take breaks amongst the time we spend working. We should take breaks to remember some of our other goals; healthy relationships, completing a bucket-list, personal development, being a good role model etc.
We might be working tirelessly for an amazing cause, the truly selfless kind that aims to support and care for others. The kind that we sometimes feel we have to sacrificeour entire selves for. If that's the case then this concept is just as important. In order to be effective, we have to be in good condition. Mind, body and soul. We can only be the best we can be for others if we take the time to be the best version of ourselves. The most well-equipped car can't run on empty.
So, what is it that is fueling this insanely busy lifestyle so many of us lead? Is it a desire to see great things or is it a fear that the second we take our foot off the gas pedal we'll stop moving towards our goals? Maybe it's the pursuit of economic stability? - a discussion for another day (says the 20-something, second-year undergraduate living in London). If it is fear then maybe we should stop, refuel and go again re-impassioned for the things we're dreaming for. Motivated by aspiration and not intimidation. Let's leave room for faith in the work we’re doing. It's okay to take some time off goal-getting to re-fuel.
This is the rhetoric of most advice on dealing with fatigue anyway so why not just build it into our workstyle?