2024 Theme: Rekindle

Or how to go from burnout to burning again

January 5, 2024

I don’t know about you, but the past few years have been a LOT. There’s been the obvious global pandemic, violent wars, and insurrections. Closer to home, though, we’ve dealt with deaths, several family medical crises, a couple topsy-turvy years at work for me, and less time for relaxation. I recognized the signs of burnout, and I’ve tried to take it easy by stepping back from side projects and unnecessary responsibilities. But in the last few weeks and months, I’ve started to feel the itch again … to do new things, to write, to create.

A photo of my journal with a sticker reading Rekindle

So my theme for this year is Rekindle. But I want to do that smartly. I’m not looking to start a flash in the pan fire where I make a quick flame and then rapidly burn back out. No, I want to give myself space to figure out what really keeps my creative spark going and build up a system around those things so they continue to get the space they need to thrive.

Principles

  • Make time: So first things first, I’m going to block out specific times regularly for the things I most enjoy. Creative work, yes. But also, reading. Spending time with my family. Being outside.
  • Take breaks: I’m going to give myself permission to rest more, too. This has been a hard-won lesson of the past few years, but something that’s helped me avoid even worse burnout.
  • Establish new habits: When I went fully remote a few years ago, I did mostly the same things I did in the office … only at home. And that doesn’t make sense. New routines require new habits, so I will reevaluate what works and what doesn’t.
  • Celebrate wins: This may be the hardest for me to do. I will dwell for weeks on a minor failure, but any success is quickly followed by “Okay, what’s next?” I want to be more intentional about celebrating wins and let them fuel me.

Some specifics

One of the biggest things I’ve missed is writing regularly, both here and on UXcellence. So that’s really the first thing I’m going to get back to. Part of my hangup has been the notion that I needed to update this site or that (both from the CMS and the design aspect), but that’s been an excuse rather than a reason. I can still write and post on an old CMS, within an old design. I just let that excuse keep me from actually doing it. Maybe I’ll get around to working on a new design for one or the other site. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll update or switch the CMS powering the sites. Maybe I won’t. But I’m through letting those reasons keep me from writing and sharing the thoughts rattling around my brain.

I’ve retired a handful of projects over the past few years, but I plan to take a hard look at the things I’m still maintaining and see which of those I still care about and which can be set free. I can’t do everything, much as I’d love to. So I want to focus my energy on the things I enjoy most and that bring the most back to the world.

Finally

To start a fire, you need tinder and kindling - little bits of fuel that can catch the spark. The spark is that little bit of creative itch that I’ve been feeling. The tinder and kindling? This post. Little tweaks and fixes I’m making to this site. Things are starting to catch, and with a little luck, hopefully I’ll soon have a nice little blaze going.

But keeping a fire burning requires fuel, attention, and air. So my focus for the year will be identifying the things that really fuel me creatively, paying attention to them, and leaving space for them to breathe.