Burnout Survival Kit is a book by Imogen Dall that helps you learn to cope with modern work
As the concept of wellness has gained popularity in recent years, burnout has become somewhat of a catch phrase. It’s almost impossible to be a cog in the modern working world without having experienced at least one round of burnout and if we’re really being honest, one round monthly is probably more accurate for most.
Recently Joe Holder (aka. my favourite NTC trainer) shared a quote on his Instagram Stories. I didn’t catch the source, but the contents really summed up one of the biggest causes of burnout.
How did sleep deprivation become a symbol of ambition? When did “rest” become the equivalent of “lazy”? How did “so busy” become a symbol of importance? If you can’t get enough sleep, it’s not a badge of honour; it’s a weakness that shows you’re not getting enough done during the day.
Cycles of sleep deprivation and burnout started for me when I entered the university world. I chose to get a degree in Architecture and in the Architecture department the all-nighter was not only normalised but celebrated – they were worn as a badge of honour. For four years working through the night was so normal for me that I was convinced that I only needed a maximum of four hours sleep to function.
This attitude naturally followed me into the working world, and it took an almost car accident, after almost drifting off at the wheel on the way to work for me to see the light. For 10-15 years of my young adult life, I functioned mainly on 4 hours sleep during the week with long recovery sleeps on the weekend. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I am certain that had I prioritised sleep and recovery, my performance during the day would have been amplified and all-nighters would have been the exception, not the rule. Because in truth, sometimes you do need to sacrifice in the short term for a “win”.
I can’t say I’ve figured out the balance perfectly or that I no longer burnout or that I never cave to the pressure of getting more done in a day than is normal for an average human, but I’m far more aware and cognisant of what I truly need to function. And when I say function, I mean function optimally, not like a Lenovo. (don’t get Zissy and I talking about our Lenovos).
My experience with Burnout is why I reached for Burnout Survival Kit by Imogen Dall. This beautiful hardcovered A5 book called to me with its promise of “instant relief from modern work”. Now believe it or not with this mega sized intro, this article is actually a review on this book.
The back cover is one of the best back covers I’ve read recently, meaning that it accurately describes the contents.
Your body aches. Your brain feels like a mouldy wrung-out dishcloth. You can barely get anything done and, hang on, why are you even doing this job anyway? Is there something wrong with you? Nope. You’re just burning out. Welcome. You’ve found the right book.
I’d classify Burnout Survival as a Coffee Table Book in the same way that I see Factfulness by Hans Rosling as a coffee table book. Both are set out graphically beautifully with their hard covers and glossy pages, but instead of glamourous photos, those pages are filled with contents that are informative, educational and helpful. Most notable is how the contents are incredibly easy to digest.
Imogen Dall has very methodically set out the book and makes it clear from the onset what you stand to gain and on what page. I like this a lot. When reaching for a book in the self-help arena, it is particularly important that the message is crystal clear – you don’t want to reach page 20 asking yourself “but what is this book really about?”
It’s split into three sections that she classifies as Emergency problems, Short-Term Problems and Long-term problems. Each problem section has a list of problems i.e. I’m having a panic attack, I’m overwhelmed by my workload, I’m not sure I want this career anymore and each problem has a description that helps you identify if it is in fact your problem and tips to face it.
Even though not every section was relevant to me, and even though I have come to learn and practice a lot of her tips already, she has a wonderful way of writing that made every page a joy to read. Despite what problem you may pick it up to solve, I would recommend giving the whole book a read because even the sections that did not describe me had words of wisdom that I loved and tagged. For example, in “I feel patronised”, she has a great quotable quote that says, “you don’t need criticism from someone you would never go to for advice”.
It’s hard to pick things that stand out from a book when you’ve enjoyed it all, so I’ve chosen three tips to share from the problems that where most relevant to me. I think these convey the feel of the book and will give you a good idea if it’s a book for you.
“I feel overwhelmed with my workload”
Avoid Multi-tasking (Tip #6)
Multi-tasking is supposed to be something that smart, efficient people do, but it’s actually a total time waster. Switching between tasks creates little ‘mental blocks’ that can steal as much as 40% of your working time. Multi-taskers also can’t remember things as well as those who focus on one thing. So if you find yourself trying to listen to a video conference while you type up notes, check emails and send emojis to your mates, stop! Ron Swanson says it best: ‘Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.’
“I don’t have enough time to finish this work”
Are you letting yourself become distracted? (Tip#8)
Be strict with yourself. Get off social media. Turn off your access to wifi or go somewhere without it. At home, I bury my phone under my pillow. There’s also software available that can lock down your devices and help you focus, like Freedom, Anti-Social, Forest or FocusWriter. If you’re stuck in a noisy workspace, try listening to classical music or white noise through headphones. (Related: no, those mugs do not need to be cleaned right now.)
“I procrastinate. I have no motivation”
All Work (even creative work) is a routine habit. (Tip #8)
It’s easy to procrastinate or give yourself excuses if you’re trying to do something difficult or creative. But ultimately, work is work, and we can’t be waiting around for some mythical muse. We need to be able to get stuck in all day, every day, even when we don’t feel so great.
Learn how to show up. If you don’t have working hours, set your own – say nine to five – and make sure you’re in your space, ready to go, nine on the dot. Part of developing healthy habits is training yourself to show up and keep at it for eight hours a day.
Burnout Survival Kit by Imogen Dall was published by Bloomsbury Publishing and given to us by SA distributors, Jonathan Ball Publishers. It is available here Jonathan Ball Publishers nor the author approved or reviewed this piece prior to publication. Opinions + images are our own.
Feige is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to code things, design things, and all things beauty.