How to Take a Break from Burnout as an Overachiever

As professionals with ambition, we all want to strive, achieve, and accomplish. The idea of stopping, taking a break, or somehow putting things on hold seems unfathomable. However, job burnout is real even for the most ambitious among us. I know I must be on guard even in my ambition. I have a deep desire to make the most of my career, but I must guard myself that I don’t let those ambitions overtake my overall wellbeing. I have to allow myself room to enjoy my life—through my exercise, my relationships, and my hobbies.

When you are an overachiever, it’s easy to see work not as work and to push through past the warning signs of burnout in the pursuit of the next milestone.

However, hedging yourself from burnout is key to your long-term success and focus. Here’s how to really take a break and avoid job burnout, even when you’re full of ambition.


How the Ambitious Avoid Job Burnout

1) Recognize What’s Worth Striving For

One of the pitfalls ambitious professionals encounter is following their ambition blindly. Their pursuit of achievement is pursued without question. While this drive can be beneficial, it can also be aimless. We must be careful that we work towards the right things rather than for its own sake. If we aren't careful, ambition can get the better of us—leading us to pursue promotions and professional achievements that we don't really want.

This will leave us feeling empty, aimless, and burned out in the end, because we're not striving for that which we find truly fulfilling. The ambitious individual avoids burnout, then, by being highly intentional in their work and in their striving. That means career planning and exploration so that you know where you want to be and what you truly want to accomplish versus climbing the ladder for its own sake.

2) Value Downtime and Disconnection

Another mistake the ambitious professional makes is falling into this belief that unless you are working, you are not doing anything worthwhile. This is untrue. We fail to realize the impact of downtime, like restful weekends and vacation time, on our success. In the same way, these things must be paired with disconnection—that is, a removal from our devices and the mental drain of bringing our work with us to our homes, families, and time that should be reserved for rest and decompression.

This time is critical for your mental and physical health. It renews your brain's ability to be creative and to think critically, and even your immune system. To be able to work effectively, you have to be able to rest well and take real breaks.

3) Learn When to Say “No”

Ambitious people have difficulty saying “no” to others. We like to get things done. We like to be involved. However, this can lead to our biting off more than we can chew when too many projects wind up on our plate. Part of avoiding burnout is managing one's workload well, and that means avoiding unnecessary projects and superfluous activities. While you want to help everyone, recognize your limitations 

You can only do so much.

Say no to people and focus on what truly matters.

4) Shift Your Focus

Mentally, we all need a break from the work we do day-in and day-out. One of the causes of job burnout is the monotony of the jobs we do. We can prevent that by engaging the brain in new ways. This doesn't necessarily demand that we change how we work, but it demands we flex our mental muscles in new ways. That means taking up new hobbies and activities that challenge you in ways you aren't usually challenged. Try new tasks in fields and areas you aren't accustomed to.

5) Be Open to Change

As a person with ambition, the notion that you need to change jobs might sound insane. Why would you throw away all of your hard work? Believe it or not, you might not be where you need to be. This is the reality for many of us. We work hard to climb the ladder where we are only to find at the end of it all that it's not where we wanted to be in the first place.

So be open to change. Changing positions, changing careers, changing cities. There are thousands of opportunities afforded to you.

Avoiding job burnout demand intentionality in your daily life. Be aware of yourself, not only how you feel and your level of performance, but your trajectory and overall plan. Are you heading where you really want to be?

What's your game plan for dealing with burnout? Share your strategies in the comments.