Battling Back From Burnout

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Years of demanding workloads have taken their toll, and you’ve discovered your motivation isn’t quite what it used to be. For instance, you once would have looked forward to the challenge of revamping the company’s Web site. Now, you dread all of the work involved.

Battling back from burnout is challenging. Pursuing a job change can sometimes help the situation, but you often can make simple adjustments to your current position that greatly enhance your satisfaction.

Identify What Inspires You

Consider what prompted you to enter the IT field in the first place. Do you love the challenge of figuring out technical problems? Do you enjoy collaborating with others on large-scale initiatives? If the qualities that motivate you are missing from your current position, meet with your supervisor to see if there are ways to modify your role.

Learn From It All

Understanding the factors that contributed to your decline in motivation also can help you move in a more positive direction. Think about what has contributed to your burnout: Is it the feeling that projects are out of your control? Have your own actions exacerbated the problem? For example, you may have set an overly ambitious timeline for completing complex modifications to an application, creating unnecessary stress and obstacles to the project’s success. Learn what you can from your past experiences and adjust your actions going forward. Even small changes to your routine, such as seeking assistance from your manager when you have too many projects on your plate, can help brighten your outlook.

Also consider whether your expectations about your job may have played a part in your decline in motivation. For instance, you may have accepted your current position believing you would get to work with the latest technologies. Later, you found that the company wasn’t as quick to make the investments as you’d expected. If this factor is critical to your job satisfaction, you may need to take action, either through learning the technologies on your own time or by pursuing opportunities with another company.

Look at Your Schedule

The way you manage your time also can affect your ability to rebound from a low point in your career. If you are overbooked or expending too much energy on non-critical initiatives, you may be creating additional pressures at work. Try keeping an hourly record of your activities for a week and divide the findings into categories such as “troubleshooting technical problems,” “researching technology purchases” and “responding to e-mails from colleagues.” Are you devoting adequate time to the highest priorities?

In addition, make sure you allow time to periodically recharge. By taking five- or 10-minute breaks throughout your workday, you can counteract stress and maximize your performance on the job. Be sure to use your vacation days as well. Getting away from the office can give you a fresh perspective on your situation and allows you to return with new focus and energy.

Seek Assistance

It’s also useful to talk to a trusted mentor or colleague who can provide candid feedback on your situation. They might have faced a similar challenge in their own careers and may be able to recommend ways to bounce back. In addition, discussing your concerns and frustrations openly can help you develop your own solutions and alleviate feelings of isolation.

Getting involved with professional associations is another beneficial strategy. Attending programs about the latest technology trends and talking with other IT professionals can generate new ideas or approaches to your work, which can renew your enthusiasm.

Burnout Rebound

Bouncing back from burnout won’t happen overnight. Identify what inspires you at work, make changes to your job and schedule as needed and ask others for advice. Over time, you will find that you are making positive changes that not only enhance your motivation, but also set you on a path toward achieving your long-term career goals.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at

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