ask the readers: how do you bounce back from burnout?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

After a fair amount of looking and much encouragement from concerned friends and family, I left a thoroughly ridiculous job in late 2018. (Even though I had come from a similarly sized institution in the same field, I was doing the work that 2.5 positions did at that previous institution.) The burnout was pretty severe: I worked on nights and weekends, and I don’t think I ever had a true vacation up until the last year I was working there. Even on nights when I didn’t have to work, I would go home and just mindlessly watch TV until I went to bed and did it all over again the next day. And despite all of that, the feeling I got from my supervisor and others in leadership positions was that it wasn’t enough, and I was still getting more and more added to my plate. It was bad.

Thankfully, I found something great in a similar field with a far better commute and work-life balance. (It also pays about 25{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} less than the last job, but my sanity is worth it.) For the first few weeks there, I was in a bad state — I wasn’t sleeping or eating well, which does seem to have gotten better with time, and I’m finding ways to fill the hours of free time I have now.

The professional problem I’m facing three months in is that I don’t seem to remember how to work in an environment where I don’t have five deadlines staring me down and people bugging me all the time for help on their projects. I sit at my desk (in a corner cube where no one can see me) and mess around on the Internet until mid-afternoon, when I tackle my to-do list in a rush — because that’s what I’m used to doing. A normally paced workplace is completely foreign to me now. It feels so unproductive and I’m often clicking away from a web browser when someone does happen to come to my desk, and this is not a pattern I want to continue.

I know that things will probably get better with time, but I’m wondering if you or your readers have any tips on how to bounce back from burnout and get acclimated to a regular job again. My new boss heard from my references about how overworked I was at my last job, and they’re wonderfully kind anyway, so I’m not really worried about that. It’s just that this job is a step that I wanted to take in my career, and I want to do it well, but that’s not happening right now. Any ideas?

Readers, what’s your advice?

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