When Contributing to WordPress Full-Time Leads to Burnout

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As a distributed worker, one of the toughest obstacles I face is burnout. It’s one of the reasons I took a month off from all things WordPress. According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is, “the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time.” Once burnout sets in, it’s tough to recover without avoiding the job completely.

Drew Jaynes, WordPress core developer, describes how contributing to the WordPress project full-time led to burnout.

“Here’s the thing: burnout is a real struggle. And when you’re working on something full-bore, 100 percent of the time, and you burnout, there aren’t a lot of good options to help combat that except to keep pressing on and try to get your groove back,” Jaynes said.

Recognizing the signs that burnout is imminent is an important step towards avoiding it, “I typically realize I’m burned out when I basically lose interest in whatever thing I’d been previously passionate about. Burnout is the result of going at something too hard for too long. And then when you stop, getting started again is a struggle,” he said.

Jaynes realized it was time to move on from full-time contributing to something new after experiencing burnout three times in seven months. Although he will continue to contribute back to WordPress, it will be in a more limited role as he focuses on products.

How Matt Mullenweg Avoids Burnout

People combat burnout differently based on their individual circumstances. When asked how he combats burnout in an Ask Me Anything segment in September 2015, Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, responded:

Everything is connected, so if one of ( health | diet | relationships | family | work | soul | creative outlet ) is running on empty for too long, it will impact the others and you might end up treating the symptom rather than the cause. Recovery always comes from the people around you who give you unconditional love and support, which I’ve been lucky to have since I was an infant.

To avoid it now I try to take small mini-breaks frequently, be that a ten minute meditation every day, jogging a few times a week, or taking a few days to recharge once a month. I find that’s better (and less stressful) than trying to do a big blow-out reset or vacation once a year. Conversely, a lot of times when people think I’m on vacation I’m actually working as much or more than when I’m at home, just from a more interesting location (often with fewer distractions). Funnily enough I’m more likely to actually take time off and unplug at home, and more likely to be working when in an exotic location.

I work for a company that has an unlimited vacation policy. I took advantage of it by taking a month off to clear my mind to help me refocus and it worked wonders for my mental well-being. If you feel it’s necessary and your employer has a similar policy, don’t be afraid to ask for some time off to regroup. What do you do to combat burnout? Please share your advice in the comments.

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