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.