Professional Development

How to Recognize the Signs of Burnout and Stay on Fire

Written by Peter Jones

Don’t be the one who face-plants on the conference table because you failed to see the signs of your own exhaustion—or start to hate your job because you need a break badly, but never thought to take one.

Get your energy and motivation back before you’re totally overwhelmed. Keep an eye out for these symptoms, learn to recognize them, and prepare yourself to stave off burn-out before it burns you.

1. Disaffection

You’re getting snarkier and more sarcastic with every passing meeting. Little things you would have shrugged off last year are suddenly sticking in your craw. A few eye-rolls at the absurdity of corporate speak are fine, but if you’re catching yourself venting your annoyance more frequently than usual, that might be a sign you’re almost at the breaking point.

2. Fatigue

You’re not just sleepy after the spaghetti you ate for lunch. You’re sleepy all the time. You wake up tired, get to the desk tired, go home too pooped to enjoy yourself. You’re never “in the zone” anymore.

3. Stagnation

You’re not getting any pleasure out of minor victories or completed projects. You feel like you’re working tirelessly, but nothing seems to go anywhere.

4. Boredom

You’ve got a billion tasks on your to-do list and projects on your plate, but you just can’t get past the boredom. You have a hard time engaging with your work.

5. Procrastination

Well, more procrastination than normal. Procrastination can actually be productive. But if you’re catching yourself not working more than you’re concentrating on your work, this may be a sign that you need a breather.

6. Mystery Ailments and/or Stress

You have a sudden onset of medically unexplainable headaches, stomach aches, or insomnia. The doctors say you’re fine, but you feel terrible. Often these symptoms can be stress-related—your body telling your brain you need a break!


These aren’t the only signs you might be close to burn-out, but they’re a good start. Do yourself a favor and take a step back to evaluate. Take stock of which parts of your job are satisfying or annoying—what tasks you like and what is causing you stress. Take a bigger look at whether you’re on track, not just in your job, but in your career. See if there are any steps you can take to be more engaged.

Then, implement a plan for change. But don’t forget to take some time off first! You’ll need the extra energy to push you through. Schedule a vacation, take a few more breaks per day, delegate tasks that aren’t holding your attention, and try and focus on the parts of the job that you still love.

It’s possible to work hard and relax hard; you just have to plan ahead.

How to Recognize the Signs of Burnout Before You’re Burned Out

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About the author

Peter Jones

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