Your Questions: How Do I Deal With Burnout?

Joey Santos
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 25 March, 2018

Digital DJ Tips member Michael says: “I’m working through a bit of burnout while simultaneously being buried under work (both DJing and day job), as well as the general hectic madness of the holidays. I’m being a trooper, but would appreciate some tips on how to manage my DJ / work schedule to keep myself from going over the edge…”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

Ah burnout – that unwanted companion, kind of like that “friend” no one likes who keeps popping in unannounced, ready to ruin your weekend (obviously, I’ve had many experiences with both). Burnout happens as a result of constantly pushing yourself to your limit for long periods of time, something that most of us have experienced at some point. It’s bad enough that it’s happened to you, but what’s even worse is if it happens regularly – don’t let it get to that.

I’ve got better at mitigating my work and personal life in order to avoid burnout – here are three tips that have helped me manage my life (I’ve yet to have a burnout moment this 2017, which is heaps better than the past few years where I’ve had burnouts and breakdowns at least once a year!)

1. Keep a calendar AND a to-do list

The number one thing that has helped me fight burnout is using a calendar and a to-do list. Yes, I know it sounds basic, but this has been big for me. I try to keep a detailed calendar of my week’s appointments and work demands – if something important (but non-urgent) pops in and I don’t have space in my calendar this week, that automatically gets moved to next week. I use the Fantastical 2 app, which syncs to all my computers and smart devices. Google Calendar is also a solid, free option.

Apart from a calendar, I also use a to-do list that helps me see what stuff I need to finish before the end of my work day. One of the causes of burnout is taking on too much and being overwhelmed as a result – seeing all of my to-dos for the day means I have a visual of when to say “no” to things that demand my time and attention when I’m already having a full day.

If I have something important but non-urgent, that goes on my to-do list for the following day. I use the Things app, which also syncs across all my devices – if you aren’t on a Mac, Wunderlist is a good one too.

I review both my calendar and to-do list twice: first in the morning, so I know what I’m going to be doing, and second in the afternoon, so I know if I missed anything.

2. Watch your health and get some exercise

All of the years I experienced major work-related stress and burnout were years where I wasn’t watching what I was eating. I was also going on regular weekend benders to relieve stress, which in turn would mean starting my work week with strong hangovers. Not good.

Two years ago I decided I had had enough of that life: I stopped eating red meat and pork, started eating more greens, and quit drinking. I also started a running and weight-training regimen – talk about a 180!

You don’t have to go vegetarian, get sober, or run a marathon to avoid burnout, but it does help to take a long, hard look at your current health, diet, and exercise situation. What you eat, what habits you avoid, and how often you move all add up to paint a picture of your overall health: the better / more behaved you are, the healthier your body and mind will be.

For example, I quit drinking and started running because I found that I have more energy to power through my day without boozing, and I now have more emotional and mental resilience when it comes to facing work-related and personal challenges. Another huge plus is I get to DJ more often since I don’t get smashed at every gig (I do miss that bit, though).

Meditation is also a good practice to bake in to your day-to-day. You don’t have to sit for hours at a time – just a bit of deep breathing and “mindfulness” for a few minutes when you get up can do wonders for your mental health and capacity. Try an app like Headspace for this if you’re new to meditation.

3. Treat weekends as sacred, and have a real day off

Most of us DJs juggle spinning with day jobs. That means working on weekdays, and spinning on weekends. No matter how fun DJing is, it still is physical and mental work, and if you DJ regularly on Fridays and Saturdays, you may find that resting on a Sunday is never enough, and pretty soon you’re back working nose to the grindstone at your office desk facing a mountain of to-dos.

Try to have at least one full weekend off every month – that means no gigs Friday night until Sunday. This will allow you to rest, recover, and re-energise for the coming week.

When you don’t have a full weekend off, at least have one work-free day in your week. Not only is it good for your body since you get to chill out and sleep in (unless you’ve got kids), but it also gives your mind a chance to kick back and hit “refresh” before you get back to the office the next day.

Burnouts are no laughing matter, and when we do get burned we often give ourselves a beating for letting it get to that point. Don’t be so hard on yourself – what’s important is you learn how to cope after each burnout. These three tips will help you get on the right path, and hopefully stave off any future burnout episodes.

Have you ever experienced burnout? What caused it, and how did you manage to pull through? Share your answers with us in the section below.

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