How to Avoid Burnout

How many times have you decided to tackle something full force only to end up hating it? All the hard work you put in to complete the task, the countless hours. The sheer tenacity that once helped you get the job done turns into equally intense hatred for what it is that you were doing.


I’ve experienced this before myself. After skipping 3 levels of French over a summer, taking another French class, going to governor’s school for French the next summer, and then taking an AP course for French, I was hardcore spending a vast majority of my time with French. After I graduated high school, I hated French. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I was originally supposed to be a French major, but before I took any classes, I decided to drop it. Unfortunately, this avoidance of it caused it to regress. Two years later my French wasn’t as good as it was before. I needed to relearn a lot of it, wasting time that would’ve been better spent it I just reviewed it. Unfortunately, even reviewing it was too much for me at the time.


Looking back, I realized there were some mistakes I made that I could’ve avoided easily. I’ve used this knowledge to help me avoid burnout in other areas of my life, like Chinese. Yes, sometimes I absolutely hate Chinese and wish I didn’t have to use it everyday.


Take a Break

Breaks are incredibly vital to help you relax and get ready to keep going learning or getting a task done. Sometimes just doing something for too long causes us to go through the motions just to get the task over with, resulting in us not really paying attention to what we are doing. We start daydreaming instead of focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes the cause for this is because we really don’t want to have to spend another day learning. Breaks then allow us to look forward to the fact that we only have to study today and then tomorrow we have off. It also allows us to rest for the next round of learning that’s coming. I actually have days where I don’t learn anything new with Chinese.  Sometimes I’ll go out of my way to not speak Chinese, only seeing a friend that has good English so that I can use my mother tongue.


Have a Review Day

Sometimes the problem isn’t necessarily that we have to spend time with the material. The problem may be that we have to learn something new. It could be that we have already jammed so much information in our heads that we don’t know what to do with it. Maybe we need a slower pace today. Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s best to just kick back and review what we already learned. It’s easier too. At least by reviewing instead we won’t regress. As a plus, we don’t end up hating every moment of studying.


Have a Fun Day

In some cases, we are just tired of looking at the material as something we have to work on. In these cases, we need to remember why we decided to learn in the first place. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. If it’s all work, you won’t want to continue. If you are learning a language, just watch a movie in the L2 or talk to friends.


Sometimes I don’t want to have to practice anything on the guitar. I just want to mess around and have fun. This way, I am still playing it to keep up some skills, and I am able to enjoy the benefit I got from all the practicing I did prior to the break. So now maybe that song I couldn’t play a week ago is under my belt (read: fingers) but now I don’t have to play all the problem parts to a metronome; I can play along with the song and have fun.


Rotate the Schedule

I found that one of the problems leading to burnout is going too intensely with very hard material. If you get to the point where you can’t remember what you learned yesterday, you need to cut back on learning new stuff. Just focus on solidifying everything you have learned, then it will be easier to learn new material.


One thing that helps me with learning Chinese is that I’m not always focused hard core on learning it. I’ll have a couple weeks of intense study where I make a lot of progress. Once I feel like throwing my books out the window, I go into review mode. The next week I will not learn anything new, rather I will just review what I have learned already to make sure everything is solid. Then while I am reviewing Chinese, I’ll have a more intense guitar practice schedule, or whatever else I’m working on at the time. This way I am able to increase my skills in several domains all while enjoying them and not getting frustrated by overdosing on one subject.


What usually helps you avoid burnout?


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