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How to avoid burnout: Change your view of productivity
I often fall into a burnout cycle. So I did a bit of a research, here are a few insights that might be useful and help you change your viewpoint about productivity.
The way we and society see productivity is by doing the work or learning. When we do anything that does not directly contribute to the work, we see it as less valuable. We feel this guilt of not being productive.
I certainly have been falling into this trap of productivity, thinking that I must maximize my time to learn and doing the work. Eventually, it will lead me to burnout state. So, I’ve been wondering lately about this. I want to break out from this condition and want to be able to see it from the different perspective.
I do a little research that might be useful for you who is in the cycle of burnout.
Two modes of brain
Perhaps insight from Barbara Oakley can be useful. Our brain has two general modes of thinking: Focused and Diffuse mode—both are valuable for the learning process.
The focused mode is when we read or process something with minimum distractions. We dive into the material. Unfortunately, only relying on the focused mode to learn is a path to burnout because we need time to process what we learn and digest it into our existing condition.
The diffuse mode is interesting because it happens when you relax your attention and just let your mind wander. It happens when you walk, take a shower, listen to music without words, meditate, or sleep.
Studies have found that after a period of mind wandering, the mind makes more creative connections between bits of information you already know. This knowledge help me to understand that putting a time off and take a break actually beneficial—so, I see it as a valuable activity, at least I try.
Eureka moment happens in diffuse mode
Have you ever had that aha moment during a shower? Why do activities like walking, running, or showering seem to produce many eureka moments?
These wandering activities put our brains in the right state of mind to have an aha! moment. Exercising or being in nature releases a rush of endorphins that can promote a positive, relaxed mood (source). This, in turn, can broaden your scope of thought to include remote ideas and long-shot possibilities.
Haruki Murakami, the famous novelist since the 1980s shared his routine includes run for ten kilometers, then read and listen to some music. He got to bed at nine. He keep this routine everyday without variation. It’s just shows how important it is to keep the mental and physical strength to be creative.
Be obsessed with working and learning. But taking a break is as important.
P.S. It’s 8 week before we close the year 2022.