Personal story about productivity, burnout and why I stopped enjoying the cult of success

When you’re in tech, you most likely already noticed we all live in  the world of 30 Under 30 lists, hotshot CEOs and wearing 100-hour weeks  as a badge of honor. This is going to be my personal story how I quit  this world and decided to take it easy instead.

Stage 1: Fear of Not Doing Things

A while ago, I got caught into the whole productivity craze: from  to-do lists and kanban boards to GTD habits like planning the work for  next day in the evening. For a while, I’ve been really good at building  the productivity machine that was me. The to-do lists got longer and  longer every day, because getting stuff done felt great. When I had a  free weekend, instead of Netflix & chill, I felt broken. Since I  couldn’t scratch anything off my to-do list, I literally felt like I’m  useless. I had a equivalent of FOMO, but for work.

Stage 2: Burnout

This whole “need to make more things” situation led to me doing work  on the weekends and holidays and staying up all night in pursuit of  making impact. Until one day, I just totally crashed and burned. I  couldn’t get anything done. I felt like I don’t want to get out of my  bed and do things ever again. If you ever wondered how burnout looks  like and if you’re going through one: if you’re able to force yourself  to open your laptop and actually get something done, you’re not as deep  down as I was, but if you wake up wondering why you’re even doing  whatever you’re doing, you should slowly think about taking a break. For  weeks, I literally couldn’t force myself to do anything work related  and I spent most of my days just walking around and avoiding work as  much as I can. When I turned on my laptop or my tablet, I’d  automatically default to Netflix or games, because spending time doing  design or coding made me feel physically sick. That was a pretty awful  thing.

Stage 3: Reclaiming Sanity

This is the stage I’m in right now. I still have days when I don’t  feel like doing work and then I simply try to take it easy and do the  “Minimum Viable Workday” (you heard it here first!) while making sure I  spend time doing low energy work tasks and things that I actually find  fun. I keep a journal, because writing down how I feel makes me realize  some days aren’t as awful as I thought. I say no to a lot of things. I  quit a bunch of things. I pick the most important task every day and  everything else gets sidelined as optional, until this is done. I quit  trying to catch up with social media, news, Dribbbles and Behances of  the world and I try to use them only when I feel they’re necessary. I  meditate or at least try to unwind some way every day: some days it’s as  simple as not taking the coffee “to go” and running to the office, but  staying in and drinking it there, letting my mind wander. Or taking our  dog, Urwis, for a long walk in the park. I structure my day how I want  to structure it and I’m no longer afraid to leave things undone.

The biggest lesson learned for me from this whole situation: it’s  okay to take it easy. I kinda knew that before, but in the age of  million dollar exits and cult of success that is the world of startups,  it’s very easy to forget.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to take things one step at a time.