Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself

Mar 23, 2021

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes (724 words)

Lately, I have been working overtime to meet the expectation I set out to achieve in work.

I achieve majority of the goals I set out at the cost of losing something that is more precious than anything else.

I almost reach the point of burning out. And here’s what I do next. Take break.

The need of a break

It’s been a whole month I’m being tough on myself. I set a high expectation on my work and personal life.

To achieve what I set out in my work, I sacrifice some of my personal time. However, I never readjust my goals. I am expecting myself to achieve my personal goals, even clearly knowing that I don’t have much time and energy left after working overtime.

The pressure I created for myself, the expectation to be great, has drain all my energy to do what I love.

Luckily, last month (at the time of writing this), I have already plan out a short break for Chinese New Year. Finally, I am taking some days off.

Disconnect

The first step, to recover from a burnout, is to disconnect. Ideally, for weeks. In my case, I have 5 days.

I didn’t completely disconnect from work for the first day. Even I’m working less than 4 hours, and just have a meeting, it is still mentally draining.

While I’m not involving in any work for the next 2 days, completely clearing work related stuff from my thoughts take some time too. It’s not until the third day I manage to relax myself more.

The remaining of my days off revolved around thinking about the life I want. When I’m reflecting, there are a few things I realized.

Push and pop

When it comes to managing workload and commitment in work, my CTO have always told us that:

If you add something to your commitment, you have to drop something.

During work, urgent and important stuff pops up, priority of the week might get switch around. When it comes to this kind of scenario. our CTO always ask us “What are we dropping if we are taking up this?".

It’s obvious right? When something came up and get prioritized to be deliver at the end of the week, some part of your plan need to be dropped. But we are never good at dropping stuff.

Even your previous planning already inculde buffer, it’s still important to drop something.

Our time for a week, is limited. Commit to something new? Drop something on your commitment. (That’s assuming you are previously committed to 80% of your capacity, by your own definition)

This is similar to DevOps/product development practices of:

If you have never came across these concepts, I would encourage you to read about it.

Reflecting back, I have realized that I did not practice that well.

Learning zone

Another thing I have realized is we have to manage the weight we set upon yourself. The simple rule is:

Bear the weight you can bear.

To challenge yourself comfortably, we have to be in the learning zone. A bit uncomfortable, but not too much. Not too much until everything falls apart.

I’m assigning too much load to myself the past weeks. In the end, I end up bearing intolerable weight from day to day. Feeling like a failure over and over again. Not good.

Feel overloaded? Take some weight off your shoulder. Try again and see how you perform.

It goes well? Great, add a bit more.

Barely surviving it? Take a bit more weight off.

Lastly, I would end here with this short speech from Jordan Peterson which express the similar thoughts in a more concise and powerful manner (from 6:53 to 7:21).

If you have the time, I would also recommend watching the full video, it’s life changing for me at least. Hopefully the same applies to you.

Result

Am I feeling better now? Hell, yes.

Am I back to my peak performance? No. Even if yes, it’ll never last long.

Our life, is full of up and down. Going through a lower point in our life is inevitable.

To be able to cope with this, is to: