Zach’s ugly mug (his face) Zach Leatherman

Reactions to: An Honest Conversation About Burnout on JSParty

July 12, 2019

Before you read this post, let’s acknowledge together first that even the discussion of burnout is an incredibly privileged one to have. We work in an industry where we’re able to talk about this and many do not. I’m grateful that we can.

I was riveted to hear these valuable stories about the different kinds of burnout we experience. Whether it’s because we say yes to too many things, or we’re overenthusiastic and have ruthless tunnel vision about one single thing (it me), or we have too many interruptions and notifications in our lives—burnout is real and it can affect anyone.

When I was listening to this podcast, I consider it a personal failing that I had to remind myself that talking about this isn’t an admission of personal failure or a weakness. It’s healthy. It also made me consider the things I’ve done in my own life to preemptively and reactively combat burnout.

Remote work

Avoiding a commute is crucial to my mental well-being. When I used to work in downtown Omaha (before I became a remote worker), living downtown helped too.

Having a Job That Respects Work Life Balance

This is hugely valuable. Logging off at dinner time. No work or even work e-mail on weekends. It isn’t even necessarily that I unplug altogether—I just unplug from work. Sometimes I then plug into my side projects, if I’m feeling motivated to do so.

Living away from Distractions

I live in the rural Midwest in the middle of nowhere. When I go out on my back porch, I hear birds and crickets. I see trees. I hear the wind.

I don’t hear construction. I don’t hear cars. I don’t hear people talking or yelling. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. I consider this to be a superpower when I’m feeling stressed out. Unplugging is an incredibly low-friction thing to do.

And ruthlessly eliminate all those Notifications, y’all. They are a particularly sneaky form of distraction.

Say No

I think the most insidious lies are the ones we tell ourselves. I often encounter dishonesty with myself when I over-commit. This is something that my partner helps me with. She can be ruthlessly honest and I need this kind of feedback to maintain some level of healthy self awareness.

Also I’ve been getting a little better at saying No to other people. I’m a bit of a people pleaser so this was a hard one for me. I consider my open source project management strategy to be a public investment in this.

Being a Parent

This also changed for me after I became a parent. Before kids, it was possible to over-commit and still fulfill those commitments because I could “crunch” on the project to finish it. With kids, time crunching is no longer possible. They wake up at 5:45am (okay yes, sometimes earlier) no matter what time I go to sleep 😱.

Time management became suddenly very relevant because my kids are my number one priority. I’m willing to fail all of my professional commitments before I’d fail my kids (acknowledging that they are intertwined because jobs pay our bills).

So in order to not do that 😇, I need to do fewer things. I’ve turned down offers to write books and run workshops mostly because those things aren’t what I’d like to do in my spare time. Yes they could extend my professional profile but for me—right now—the time cost is too high.

Say Yes

I think the other point here is that I want put myself in a position where I can say Yes to myself. I know what I want to work on so if I say No to others then I can say Yes to the stuff I want to work on more often.

Take care of yourselves, y’all (and don’t be afraid to ask for help) ❤️

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Bridgy for Webmentions with Brotli

Zach Leatherman IndieWeb Avatar for a builder for the web and the creator/maintainer of IndieWeb Avatar for https://www.11ty.devEleventy (11ty), an award-winning open source site generator. At one point he became entirely too fixated on web fonts. He has given 81 talks in nine different countries at events like Beyond Tellerrand, Smashing Conference, Jamstack Conf, CSSConf, and The White House. Formerly part of CloudCannon, Netlify, Filament Group, NEJS CONF, and NebraskaJS. Learn more about Zach »


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  1. Emma Wedekind 🐞


    Awesome thanks Zach!

  2. Jon 🇪🇺


    Nice to know none of us struggle alone. Thanks for sharing. I have a fantastic job in a fantastic industry, but my brain increasingly feels like a lot of melted cheese 🧀

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