Dealing with burnout and boredom (video)

Viewing time: 4 mins. 47 secs. 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How can you deal with burnout and boredom when writing? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


How can you deal with burnout and boredom? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode. 

I have a question from Syeda Mahnoor Raza, a student from Islamabad, Pakistan. Here’s what she’s asked by email…. 

“How would you deal with burnout and boredom while working on research and academic writing?” 

Thanks for your question, Syeda. Although both burnout and boredom begin with the letter B they don’t really have much in common. Let me take them one at a time. 

Burnout is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by too much stress for too long. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. 

As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on your school work in the first place. You feel tired and defeated, as though you have no control over your work or perhaps even your life. 

In the academic world, burnout occurs when you work too much without enough time for socializing, relaxing or exercising. High-achievers, who are also perfectionists are particularly vulnerable to burnout. So are pessimists.

To deal with burnout, try to create more balance in your life. In particular, focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy. This will likely mean paying more attention to friends and family and making sure you get enough exercise.

Also, make friends at school. Having strong social ties where you spend most of your time can help counter the effects of burnout.

Finally, take time off. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence, — do everything you can to remove yourself from the situation. Then, use the time away to get a better, healthier perspective. Consider counselling if necessary. I’ve written a blog post on burnout and I’ve included the link in the show notes below. 

The issue with boredom is quite different. It’s not a threatening condition. In fact, some people believe that boredom is a necessary precursor to creativity.

I’ve written a blog post on how to make writing less boring — see link in the show notes below. But let me recap three of those tips here.

First, game-ify your writing. Write — or research — with a timer and see how much you can achieve in 30 minutes. And the next time you work, try to accomplish more. It’s a good exercise to focus on the number of words, rather than the quality of them. This will help you avoid developing the very bad habit of editing WHILE you write. See link below. 

Second, figure out your best time for writing or researching. We’re all hardwired to have certain times of day when we work better. If I have anything important to accomplish, I know I need to do it before 10 am. But some people might feel the same way about AFTER 10 pm. Write or research only at your most powerful time and use other times of day for other tasks. If you’re writing at your “best” time, you’re less likely to become bored.

Third, understand that sometimes, when we’re bored, the real problem is that our major muscles need exercise. Go for a walk or, if you have time, a swim or a bike ride. When you return to work, you’ll feel less bored.

Syeda, I know it might be tempting to see all writing problems as stemming from the same source. In fact they often have different causes. It’s worthwhile taking the time to figure out exactly what’s going on because then you’ll be better able to deal with it. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell.  

“Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”

Syeda, while boredom is not necessarily a bad thing, burnout definitely is. You can even let yourself luxuriate in boredom a little bit. But don’t ever toy with burnout. If that’s the issue you’re facing, take immediate steps to deal with it. 


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.  


How to save yourself from boredom while writing

How to prevent and recover from burnout

7 ways to stop editing while you write

Your Happy First Draft 

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