I Don’t Want to Work Anymore: How to Deal with Burnout
“I don’t want to work anymore.”
How often have you heard someone say that? Or even said it yourself? I’m not talking about “I need a day off,” or even “I need a different job.” Lately, it seems there’s a growing number of people who believe that living in a world where we need to have a job makes us unhappy.
An article I read recently talked about the growing trend of anti-capitalism on social media and in everyday life. According to the author, the need to be productive in a capitalist society is making people depressed, anxious, and unhealthy. It’s not a new idea, but it is getting a lot of airtime.
USA Today also recently published a piece on internalized capitalism. They defined this concept as “the idea that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity.” Some academic researchers have even reached the conclusion that capitalism is harmful to mental health.
I’m not going to debate the merits of capitalism. Nor am I going to suggest that there are no connections between what society expects and how you feel about yourself.
I am going to show you that blaming capitalism for unhappiness is a trap. I’ll also give you some tips on what to do if you’re stuck in a job that makes you want to quit working.
Read on to learn more about what you can do to take control and find satisfaction in your career.
Why Anti-Capitalism Is a Trap
Let’s start with a simple fact. It’s nice to imagine a world where no one had to work for a living, but that’s not the world we live in.
There will always be tasks you must do at work that won’t fill you with joy. But when you blame the society we live in for feeling unhappy, you are, essentially, giving up. You’re deciding that you can’t control your own satisfaction with life.
But really, you’ve trapped yourself in an unfulfilling situation because you believe you have no control over it. It turns out that feeling in control plays a big part in how happy you are with your life and your work.
The Importance of Control to Wellbeing
Psychologists say that there are three major elements to a fulfilling life:
- Affect: emotion or mood, feeling happy
- Engagement: being absorbed in an activity
- Meaning: feeling that your activity has a purpose
This means you are more likely to find your job satisfying if…
- your work is filled with experiences that make you happy.
- you get to do things you find interesting.
- you feel like you have a purpose.
What does that have to do with control?
In a recent study, scientists texted participants six times a day to ask them what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how it made them feel. What they found was really interesting.
People were more likely to report being happy when doing something they chose to do. This applied even if it was a task they didn’t enjoy. It was even true if the task was something they were required to do because of a choice they’d made earlier.
In other words, people felt satisfied doing tasks they don’t enjoy if the task was connected to a goal that they’d set for themselves.
You Control Your Mindset
What is key about this study is that you are always in control of your experiences. Yes, really!
Imagine you’re at a coffee shop. The first employee you talk to is rude, and clearly would rather be anywhere but at work. The second employee you meet, however, is full of positive energy. They are smiling, they want to talk with you, and they are enjoying their work.
What’s different about these two employees isn’t the work they are doing, it is how they feel about their work. One has a positive mindset and the other has a negative mindset.
You can’t always control the work you do, but you can always control your mindset. You can shift your perspective towards work at any time. Choosing to see your job differently will allow you to feel better while you work on more long-term solutions to finding a career you enjoy.
What You Should do When You Don’t Want to Work Anymore
The tips below will help you re-evaluate your current position, improve your emotional wellbeing, and get on a career track that will help you feel more satisfied.
Imagine Your Ideal Life
What would you do if you didn’t have to work for money? Would you continue doing the kind of work you’re doing, but make a few tweaks to the experience? Would you start your own company in the same field? Or would you quit your job and spend time perfecting a skill or hobby you already enjoy?
Take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions:
- If money were no object, how would you spend your time?
- How close is it to what you do now?
If your answer to the first question is something completely different from your current life, it may be time to consider a career change. Though not easy, starting a new career path is probably more realistic than quitting the workforce entirely.
Ask Yourself: “How Important Is Your Job to Who You Are as a Person?”
Why do you do the work you do?
Some people work just to make enough money to support the life they want to live. Recently, I met a coffee shop barista who told me that he’s an artist. He said he’s turned down promotions that come with pay raises because they cut into the time he wants to devote to his art.
Others work for status, influence, fame, a better life for their families, or because they believe in a cause.
So ask yourself: What is it that motivates you to work? Is your current job moving you toward your goal?
Keep Track Of How You Spend Your Time And How It Makes You Feel
For one week, check in with yourself at different parts of your workday and make note of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
Take a cue from the happiness researchers I mentioned earlier and ask yourself:
- What am I doing?
- Did I choose this task?
- How am I feeling?
- How interested am I in doing this?
- Does it contribute to a larger goal?
Your answers to these questions will help you discover what parts of your job are making you unhappy.
You may find you enjoy many parts of your job, but your commute leaves you feeling drained. Or you might discover you love your job, but certain coworkers make you anxious and uncomfortable. Everything you learn will help you define your next steps.
Spend More Time Doing What You Want to Do
If there are parts of your job you enjoy, find ways to spend more time doing them. This might involve a sit-down with your boss to discuss trading tasks with co-workers or shifting to a different position within the company.
Remember, the secret to being happy is spending more time doing things that make you happy. (It really is that simple!)
Spend Less Time Doing What You Hate
I’m not talking about the things that just aren’t as engaging as other parts of your job. I mean the things you dread, the ones that tie your stomach in knots and make you want to quit.
Talk to Your Employer
In order to change how your workday looks, you’ll need to have an honest conversation with your boss. You may also decide that you need to ask for a raise, a promotion, or some more time off in order to feel less burnt out.
This can understandably make you nervous! These tips will help you feel more confident asking for what you want at work:
- Have a clear ask. Before you talk to your manager, get very clear on what you want to ask for. If it is a raise, come prepared with what you want your new salary to be. Try to ask for just one or two things at a time to keep things clear.
- Know your value. Companies need good employees more than ever before. So think about what you bring to the table at work. Make a list of the extra tasks you’ve taken on or the shifts you’ve helped cover on short notice. Then, be prepared to remind your boss just how valuable you are!
- Meet your boss where they are. You likely already know what makes your boss tick. So try to make your request in a way that they will respond to best. For example, if you know they are always in a bad mood on Mondays, don’t schedule the meeting on that day!
- Be open. Your boss may not be able to give you everything you ask for. But they may have other creative solutions that will work better for everyone. So keep an open mind going into this meeting!
If your boss isn’t willing to work with you, it may be time to start looking for a new job. Here are some tips on where to begin when looking to change jobs or even careers.
Get Some Distance From Work
It can be hard to get a clear picture of how you feel about something when you’re in the middle of it. If possible, take some vacation time to give yourself some breathing room and perspective. This will give you the time and space you need to work out what you want to be doing with your life.
Set Healthy Boundaries Between Work and Home
Blurring the boundaries between work and your outside life can be a recipe for burnout and disaster. Even if you love your job, burnout can cause you to feel like you don’t want to work anymore.
These steps can help create some healthy separation:
- Separate your work and personal email accounts. If you can, have a work phone and a personal phone.
- Set clear work hours and stick to them.
- Manage expectations by setting up an email auto-responder to inform people when you’ll get back to them.
- Turn off your phone when you’re socializing or spending time with family or friends.
- Take your days off. Let me repeat that. Take your days off!! Downtime helps your brain recover and allows you to fully appreciate your life.
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes, burnout is less about your job and more about your physical or emotional health.
Physical tiredness, anxiety, and other symptoms could be signals that you need to take better care of yourself. Are you eating right? Do you make time for physical activity each day? Are you getting enough water? Those basic things can make a huge difference in your overall outlook on life. They can even give you opportunities to hang out with friends and socialize, which is a great way to quickly boost your mood.
Finally, if you’re feeling generally anxious, depressed, or apathetic, consider reaching out to a professional for emotional support and advice on how to manage your feelings.
The secret to a happier life is spending more time doing things that make you feel good. The secret to a more fulfilling job is finding one that is aligned with the life you want to live.
If you want more tips on how to transform your life into the one you want to live, check out my book Life Hacks: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life.
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