Can You Get Ahead Without Burning Out?

burning out to get ahead


Shannon at Financially Blond had a post earlier this week about how she had taken on too many projects and was Running On Empty. She is in the early stages of self employment and feels like she can’t say no to projects, just in case one of them might be the golden ticket.  I can relate 100%. When I was trying to run a two office practice, work a second job, and start a blog, 5 hours of sleep each night would have seemed like a luxury. While I knew it was not forever, it was still really stressful. There were days when I would have rather poked my eyes with forks than look at a computer. Isn’t there an easier way ? Can you get ahead without burning out?

The Easy Way

Actually, there is an easier way. It’s called spending less than you earn from day one. In this scenario, we would have started maxing out our retirement accounts from the first jobs we ever had and never spent more than we earned. We would have never gotten into debt or lived beyond our means. In this case, we didn’t have to take out student loans to get an education and our housing costs remained affordable. This also requires that we have steady, reliable jobs that don’t make us want to poke forks in our eyes.  If we’re smart enough and fortunate enough to do that, we’ll be able to retire comfortably someday without really having to do anything extra.

I Have To Do What?

If you’re like me, maybe you didn’t get those directions until you were already hopelessly lost. In that case, I”m sorry but you probably will have to work until the point of burn out. If you are in debt, chose the wrong career, or just want to do something every day that makes you feel alive, you’ll have to go get it. It isn’t going to fall into your lap on a silver platter. I know the thought of coming home after a full time job to several more hours of work is not appealing in the least, but it does have it’s advantages.

The upside to working like a crazy mad person was that it allowed us to pay off our credit card debt once and for all. Since then, I’ve sold my practice and am not in the office as much, but I still hustle just about every day because I’ve seen what can happen if you work hard enough. I am bound and determined to leave my optometry career within 10 years. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever look at an eyeball, but I’ll do it because I want to, not because I have to. Being able to do this requires continual focus on the long term goal and taking advantage of opportunities that come up, even if it means I won’t be watching Law and Order marathons on Netflix. It also means I might fail or change course, but those are minor setbacks not game enders.

I’m not alone. Almost every blogger I know has the same mentality. We are always making room for one more project even when there isn’t a nanometer of room left. It is important to know your limits. I can work really hard for several days in a row if I know I can take a few days off. I also do much better when I feel like my family is taken care of. If I neglect cooking, cleaning, or spending time with them to complete a job, that’s not a win in my book. You also need to take time for yourself. For me that means getting up early to exercise or reading a book later at night after everyone has gone to bed (sleep just doesn’t rank high enough I guess!). Burnout is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

When Is It Ever Enough?

I can’t answer that because I’m not there yet. We made a big step earlier this week that gets us much closer to our long term goal of financial independence (more to come later), but it is going to require major work in the mean time. I feel like we’ve done this a few times before, and we’ll do it again until we don’t need to anymore.Many of you are in the same boat with with side hustles, growing businesses, or new jobs. I’m hoping that there will be an end point when I know enough is enough, and then, I’ll stop working so hard.

That being said, I’ll probably never be one to sit around and do nothing all day. I can see myself slowing down, and I’ll embrace that when the time comes. I will also say that I never feel quite as alive as when we make a huge step toward the future that we want. If I was bound to the 9-5 for another 30 years, I don’t think I’d ever get to experience that feeling.

So I guess the answer to my question, “Can you get ahead without burning out?‘ is no. I think you have to experience some burn out in order to appreciate the payoff. Maybe I’m too much of a martyr, but that’s how I see it.

Do you think it’s possible to get ahead without burning out? How do you try and balance the need to work harder versus taking time for yourself?

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  1. I think it’s possible, but it involves making a lot of CORRECT decisions along the way. Since I’ve probably made most of the wrong ones, I’m just trying to get through with minimal burnout.

  2. First, don’t let yourself get stressed. Try to relax and think that you can finish it off. Plan ahead can be a solution. When you find yourself stressed, don’t work because it can just affect your work. Look for things that can lighten up your day. Get some rest or fun. When you feel ready, then work again. Forcing yourself to work may just disappoint you later on. Always smile! Be positive that you can get ahead of it.

  3. I think it’s in your nature. I think you’re probably driven to work hard by your determination to succeed in getting rid of your debt, but even when you reach your goal, I think you’ll replace it with other goals. My dad works hard. He always has. He doesn’t need to any longer, but he still stays up till the early hours of the morning, but he’s not driven by the idea of getting out of debt: he works hard because he loves it. I don’t see that stopping any time soon. It’s in his nature.

  4. This is something I work on on a daily basis. There are so many things that need our time and attention but I’m not willing to sacrifice my health to get ahead. My ‘getting ahead’ may have to come at a much slower pace as I don’t want to feel guilty spending time on the computer when the family is home and I want to be available to them. It is a daily challenge!

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