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How to Avoid Burnout at Work

How to Avoid Burnout at Work

8 Minute Read

Busy has become a buzzword in our culture. Somewhere, somehow, we started wearing busyness like a badge of honor. The busier you are, the more impressive you are, right?

Think about the last time you ran into an old friend or coworker. I’m willing to bet the conversation went something like this: “Life is crazy, man! Are you busy like I’m busy? Because I’m busy. I’m busier than I’ve ever been.”

Don’t get me wrong—motivation and drive are great. However, the more our culture idolizes being busy, the more people report feeling burned out (go figure). Gallup even did a study of almost 7,500 full-time employees and found that about two-thirds of them have experienced burnout at work.(1)

You may know the feeling of burnout all too well. You’re exhausted, you feel hopeless on your drive to work, you stop trying as hard as you used to, and it feels like every spark of excitement you once had is gone. But the problem isn’t what you think it is—and there’s a lot more hope in this situation than you realize.

Is It Really Burnout?

Folks, those feelings of exhaustion and discouragement are very real, but let me encourage you: You’re not burned out. The only moment in your lifetime that you truly “burn out” is the moment you die.

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Are you still alive and breathing? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume so. That means you’re not burned out—which means you can turn the situation around.

Is there still a problem that needs to be solved? Absolutely. But the problem is actually called buildup.

Defining the Real Problem: Buildup

Buildup is what happens when stuff accumulates over time. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about. You work with difficult people, and you can’t get away from them. You don’t get along with your leader. You’re not passionate about your work.

Day by day, those stressors build up and make you feel like you can’t move forward or catch your breath—that’s the feeling most people call burnout. But like I said, burnout suggests that your spark of life is completely gone, with no hope of bringing it back.

You might be in a difficult spot right now, but your life isn’t over. You can fix buildup! And it starts with recognizing what’s caused that buildup in your life.

What Makes You Feel Burned Out?

As I talk to people across the country about their problems with so-called burnout, I hear the same causes consistently. And I’ve noticed that the problem is not always the work itself, but the work environment.

For example, plenty of teachers have called in to The Ken Coleman Show to say they’re burned out and ready to quit the profession. But after digging in and asking them a few more questions, I usually find out they still love teaching. It’s the frustration of staying late to grade papers, dealing with problem parents (and problem coworkers), and feeling like no one values their hard work that build up over time and discourage them. Here are some of the biggest causes:

No passion for your work 

When your job doesn’t matter to you, you begin to believe that your work doesn’t matter at all. Then, you start believing that you don’t matter.

Toxic workplace

This could mean anything from poor leadership to gossip to a lack of honesty and trust among team members (or all of the above). No matter how hard you try to have a good attitude, that kind of negativity day after day is downright discouraging.


Your workload is too much for one person, so you end up staying late each night, and you don’t know how to cope with the stress. That’s enough to make anyone’s health go downhill.


Let’s face it: Everyone needs to feel appreciated. That doesn’t mean you need constant awards, applause and pats on the back. But if you’ve gone for months, or even years, without having your hard work recognized, that starts to hurt.


You may still like your line of work, but feel like you’ve hit a wall because you’re doing the same tasks day in and day out with no opportunity for growth in sight. You don’t feel challenged anymore.

Ok, so you’ve realized you suffer from buildup, not burnout. Now what?

Maybe you’ve personally experienced one (or several) of those causes of buildup. Now that you’ve identified the sources of buildup in your life, you have a few different options to deal with it.

Some of the Most Effective Ways to Fix Buildup

Rediscover Your why 

(Or discover it for the first time.) In order to do that, ask yourself some questions: Do I genuinely enjoy the work I do right now, and do I connect with the results of the work? If not, how can I use what I do best (my talents) to do what I love most (my passions)?

Speak up

A good solution for feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, bored, or fed up with workplace toxicity is to talk with your leader before making any major job changes.

If you have way too much on your plate, ask your leader to help you with prioritizing and setting boundaries. If you need feedback on your job performance, ask your boss for an honest assessment. If you want more of a challenge in your role, ask for more job responsibilities. If people around you are gossiping or stabbing each other in the back, bring it to your leader first and then—if appropriate—talk with your coworkers directly.

Communication is the key to a healthy work environment! If your leader is not willing to truly lead in these areas by helping you reach a solution, or is contributing to the toxic work environment, it might be time to start looking for a new job.

Change your perspective

This one’s not always easy, but sometimes you need to adjust your attitude and see your job in a new light. There might be times you need to stay in a job you don’t love in order to get out of debt and work toward your long-term goals (in fact, that’s the only time I want you to stay in a job you don’t love).

Look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’re dissatisfied with your job, focus on the good things the job is helping you accomplish right now and look forward to what’s coming. Remember that nothing has to be permanent. You’re not required to stay in the same job for the rest of your life.

Change your role 

Maybe you love the company you work for, but it’s time for a new job title. If there are any open internal positions that you’re interested in and know you’d be a great fit for, talk with your leader about the possibility of making a transition.

Change your location 

In order to do what you love, you need to be around people who are doing it and in places where it’s happening (that’s something I call The Proximity Principle).

Maybe that means relocating to another city or state, or maybe it just means finding new places where you can connect with people and do what you’re passionate about in your own town. If you feel stagnant where you are, it might be time for you to be bold and make a move!

One last thing: Any job brings unique challenges and struggles. We all have bad days, even in work we love! But when you’re doing what you’re meant to do in a healthy environment, you may get tired—but buildup isn’t a problem.

If you have a hard day, you go home, spend time with your loved ones, relieve the stress, go to sleep, and tackle it with fresh eyes the next day. And you remember why you’re doing it.

I believe that’s the kind of work everyone can experience—so I wrote The Proximity Principle to help people make a plan to find and land a job they love. If you’re suffering from buildup at your job right now and need some guidance on the next step to take, read the book, call my show at 844.747.2577, or drop me a line at I’d love to talk with you!

About Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is the bestselling author of The Proximity Principle and national radio host of The Ken Coleman Show.

Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality.

Listen to The Ken Coleman Show on SiriusXM, your local radio station, or wherever you listen to podcasts—and connect with Ken at

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