7 Steps for Avoiding Burnout


The tech industry is famous for its burnouts. Long hours at startups, demanding deadlines at larger firms—no matter where you look, it seems tech pros are having a hard time with establishing a suitable work-life balance.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory identifies the three signs of burnout as:

  • Inefficacy
  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism

Whether or not you agree with that triumvirate, everybody (it seems) has their own definition of what constitutes burnout, whether depression, withdrawal, refusal to recognize emerging issues, or a myriad of other symptoms. For tech pros who work in particularly demanding situations—unless you ship that app within six weeks, the whole company will go down in flames, etc.—it can sometimes seem impossible to tackle the root causes behind said burnout.

Nonetheless, there are some steps anyone can take to mitigate some of the effects. These include:

Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule

Experts recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep a night. Whether or not that’s actually possible, it’s important to establish a set time for sleep and stick to it.


Although many tech pros take perverse pride in not taking vacation (or sick days, for that matter), it’s important to get away from the office and recharge. Smart employees in even the most work-intensive industries do it.

Get a Little Ritual

Figure out a little ritual that relaxes you (video games, cooking, etc.) and build it into your schedule.


While you might not think you have the weekly hours to exercise, make the time to do something that gets your heart racing a bit. You’ll feel better, and you’ll maybe stave off some of the worst symptoms of burnout, such as physical illness.

Actually Talk to People

Happy teams are productive teams. That means most companies have an interest in making sure your brain doesn’t fry. If you’re burning out, talk to an HR rep or someone in a similar position; they may help structure your schedule to keep you sane.

Stop Checking Your Email

Once you leave the office, make a point of shutting down your phone—or at least checking it less frequently. There’s no better way to trigger anxiety than to swipe through your email client and see messages from work piling up. But you know what? Most of those messages can wait.

Take Short Breaks

Build short intervals of free time into your schedule.

2 Responses to “7 Steps for Avoiding Burnout”

  1. John Richards

    Excellent article to many times one cannot see the symptoms until it’s to late. It is important that some kind of mechanism be put in place by employers to identify and address the situation before it spirals out of control and a good employee is lost.

  2. It’s too easy with technology–especially as a developer–to never stop going until you’re at your mind’s end / maximized irritability / frustration. As developers or freelancers we need to let go of the guilt of “stepping back”. We can’t be expected to keep up with everything–as much as the tech industries and those inventing the technologies would love that we do so.