Burnout

My manager and I had one of our monthly check-ins. Apparently I’m not putting in enough hours at the company each week. They expect X hours of productive work time per week (a reasonable number, to be fair) and I’ve been doing X-7.5.

Which means I have to some combination of:

  1. Leave for work earlier than I normally do (adding extra to go through rush hour).
  2. Finish work later than I normally do, pushing my dinner deeper into the evening.
  3. Cut my lunch break down.

When I think of how many hours a day I dedicate to my work, I get bummed out. There’s the work itself, the hour and a half commute round trip, the time I spend wallowing about my job in the after hours (unpaid, clearly). Often lately I’ll bring my computer home weekends to try and catch up but even if I don’t open my laptop once, I can feel in the back of my head the stress mounting.

Even putting in X-7.5 hours a week, I’m not capable of being productive the whole time. I’d say I have about 4 hours of productive work time in me per day, max. Especially since I’m constantly interrupted at the office, breaking my flow.

What keeps me here is the pay. Also feelings of: who else would want to hire me? and would I really like any other job better than I like this one? If I’m being honest with myself, the hours are still pretty good. Almost any start-up environment would expect way more time from me than my current employer, the big tech companies probably around the same amount. And in order to switch jobs I would need to spend probably 100+ hours skill-building and putting up portfolio projects on github. I guess I’m choosing the known sub-optimal versus and unknown sub-optimal scenario+high initial cost.

One of the reasons I pursue FI is because I can’t imagine staying in this industry until 65. I’ve met very few people over 55 in this line of work, and even fewer women over 35. I feel I need to squirrel away money while I still have the opportunity.

I used to have a clear sense of what I wanted to do after semi-retirement. Write short stories, go after my PhD, start anew in an entirely different vocation, etc. Right now, though, those ideas feel very hazy and effortful. I’m reaching the stages of burnout where all I really want to do is nothing. Which is entirely unhelpful in digging myself out of my inertia.

For now, I’m hoping my upcoming two week holiday vacation will help me reset. But in a way, I know I’m just biding time. The “right” course of action is probably to figure out what type of work I want to do and resign myself to the associated pay cut. Then again, the numbers say FI is only eight years away…

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12 thoughts on “Burnout

  1. It sounds an awful lot like you’re not being very effective in your current job because it’s fairly miserable, am I reading that right? Is there any way for you to reduce the issues that break into your productivity now? I’d think that your manager would want to work with you to cut down those interruptions to make more of the hours you already spend in the office, before adding on more ineffective hours. That’s what I would suggest tackling, anyway, from a managerial standpoint.

    Even if you don’t think there’s an answer, try naming the interruptions and stating that they’re preventing you from being more effective. Your manager may surprise you with some good answers or suggestions – mine usually did and he wasn’t even a very good manager! But he was good at solutions or cutting down BS.

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    1. Yes and no on the hours. We’re on an hourly billing model, so what my manager wants is more hours regardless of effectiveness. Though we have talked about ways to help me be more effective. A lot stems from structural issues that upper management has promised for years would change (e.g. our IT infrastructure crumbling because it is understaffed, everyone is wearing too many hats), exacerbated by the high turnover in the past year.

      For example, for political reasons until recently we hadn’t hired junior staff for 2+ years, which means I’m stuck doing a bunch of contributor work that I cannot delegate to anyone on top of my managerial work. To do the contributor work I need blocks of time to focus– maybe 2-3 hours to really make progress. I don’t usually get that sort of time during working hours because I have to respond to business development requests in real time, manage my own projects, or train the interns so I’m not stuck in this hole a year from now. Basically I have too much going on.

      Add to that that a million IT frustrations– my computer randomly shuts down in the middle of the day for no explicable reason and I’m not the only one– that don’t get resolved because they’re phasing out our IT staff and that’s my daily life.

      My manager’s reaction to everything has generally been, “Yes, I hear you. There’s not much I can do, we’re all chipping in. Maybe it’ll get better soon.”

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  2. Yes, I also think 8 years is a long time to push towards FI. When thinking about these decisions, I’m always trying to maximize total lifetime happiness. FI is one way to attempt that, but certainly not the only way.

    Are there jobs you can switch to that won’t require much of a pay cut, or is there a way your job can be more enjoyable again?

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    1. My guess is if I transitioned to another type of tech job (e.g. junior developer or PM), I’d be looking at a 30-50% pay cut, at least to start. The thing I’m *hoping* will help is when the current interns finish their one year program next summer, we’ll finally have junior staff we can give real work to so I can just focus on management. That’s still about half a year I’ll have to hold on though.

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  3. I definitely feel the tech industry skews young which is so unfortunate and stressful! How do you know there would be a pay cut transitioning somewhere else? Your job sounds so frustrating with all the interruptions and issues, I hope it gets better soon! I hate to be that annoying person who’s like “You never know until you try!” But I really think options reveal themselves the more you dig into the details.

    I enjoy my job mostly but there a lot of things I’d prefer to add, so I still try to actively look around when I get a chance, even though the same imposter syndrome (“but who else would want me?”) still eats away at me every day along with immense guilt looking around. Even so, I don’t want to sell myself short before I actually get denied!

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    1. I’m mostly guessing from posted salary ranges I’ve seen online and from asking friends in the area how much they are making. I’ve tried applying for places with no luck thus far, so I don’t really have harder numbers to consider.

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  4. Wow that sounds rough that your manager is asking you to work more! I think most people aren’t productive during the work hours anyway (that’s why there’s so many blogs around ha!) so that’s terrible that you are asked to work more. Morale isn’t very good at my job either, but I”m on a one year leave so it’s nice to take a break.

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