I’m a Millennial and I Refuse to Burn Out

As a professional working musician, I’ve always had to have multiple sources of income. As an ambitious millennial (not that other kind of millennial), I’ve also wanted to do and learn a lot of things. Together, these qualities made for a pretty packed schedule: working at a non-profit music organization and drum-shop, a weekly church gig, freelancing, performing with my wedding band. After graduating from college and starting in the corporate world, I rearranged my music schedule to accommodate a day job and then it wasn’t long before I went to graduate school to get my MBA in the evenings.

While I loved everything I was doing, it seemed like I was always going to bed later, getting up earlier and trying to find additional time in the day to get more done or squeeze in a social life. I started feeling stretched thin and continuously tired, wrestling a growing sense of dread that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the same hectic pace. My life was becoming unsustainable.

It’s no wonder my age group has been coined the “burnout generation” with Gallup estimating that 7 in 10 millennials experience some level of burnout regularly. Our commitment to what New York Times writer Erin Griffith, calls “performative workaholism” paired with a lack of knowledge around sustainable work practices and self-care, are a recipe for self-destruction.

It wasn’t until I started working for The Energy Project two years ago that I broadened my perspective and got permission to engage with the world in a healthier, more sustainable way. Not only did I strip down my commitments, I also discovered a game-changing renewal practice: the power nap.

These days, I’m notorious for my naps at work. I might even be so bold as to say, I’m the “Nap King” of New York. Through quick 15-minute naps when I feel my energy wane (usually during lunch time or just after work), I’ve found I get an additional boost of energy and clarity that I would not have gotten if I just kept pushing.

Don’t just take my word for it! #Science has shown that a power nap (less than 20 minutes of sleep) improves learning and memory, prevents stress, boosts mood and creativity, and helps jump start productivity and alertness.”

Whether it’s on a couch, a chair, or in bed, I make shut-eye a priority whenever I feel the need. I no longer wake up extra early to try and squeeze work into the morning. I give my body an opportunity to rest knowing that, even if that means fewer hours of work, those hours are so much more productive that I’m actually able to get more done.

As much as I love sleeping, the more important realization here is the shift in how I view work. Giving myself permission to stop and take a break without feeling guilty for the “lost time,” allows me to be more alert, aware, and available to manage all the tasks in front of me. This subtle re-frame in my thinking and operating has been transformational in how I show up at work and how I feel when I’m not working.

So, if you’re someone who feels constantly strapped for time, overwhelmed with your number of commitments, or like you’re pushing through long, continuous hours at the expense of your well-being, pause. You need to give yourself at least a little space to ask, “In the hours I’m working, am I truly operating at my best?”

If not, it’s time to consider changing your routine. What small, manageable practices can you put in place that will allow you to show up fully engaged? Try it as an experiment. You might find it’s truly transformational for you, too.

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