Via my buddy Coop comes this link to a story about burnout amongst professionals. The article likens burnout to a “crisis of faith”, which I guess makes sense. I can say that the job at which I worked the hardest (measured in hours + pure brain calories burned + difficulty of the problems to solve) was probably the least burned out I ever felt in the world of work. In fact, on Sunday nights I got excited because I got to go back and do it again for another week. Contrast that with the most recent gig which, after two years at it, I felt like a spent bottle rocket at the end. It wasn’t bad per se and I liked the people I worked with, but it was highly draining and when I finally closed it out I felt like I had nothing left in the gas tank.
Because no one has a nice simple clearcut answer, the article is necessarily fudgy on causes but they hint that it is related to expectation management (duh, so is all of life) as well as the feeling of making a difference. When you perceive that your efforts are not making a difference or are going to waste, then you have a higher risk of burnout, they posit. That doesn’t seem impossible to me. I feel less burned out lately than I have in a long time, so that’s to the good. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m pissing less of my energy down bottomless pits.