How I Do Everything Without Burning Out
I'm no stranger to burnout. But I don't accept it as my "final form".
If you know me at all, I'm always doing something. It's no accident that I don't burn out as often as I used to.
I have a system, a life philosophy, and a support system & painstakingly handcrafted environment that allows me to thrive under pressure even when I'm pursuing massive undertakings.
Let me explain.
I have ADHD & this is why I'm successful
No, you don't need ADHD to be successful. Most people have a harder life because of ADHD, not in spite of it.
I'm successful because ADHD was the fire under my ass that I needed to design my life for success. I was barely surviving as an adolescent/young adult with ADHD. I got picked on because I couldn't read social situations very well, or I'd impulsively do things that got me in trouble with teachers & authorities. I'd procrastinate on almost all of my homework, miss class in college because I was distracted by what I was doing, wade in & out of depressive episodes due to social rejection and feelings of incompetence...the list goes on.
I carried a lot of emotional weight because of ADHD, on & off medication. I felt extremely disorganized and inconsistent. It sucked.
As I grew up and needed to take on the responsibilities of an adult, I realized failure was going to be increasingly less tolerable to the people in my life. Nobody criticizes a child for missing a homework assignment, but everyone will punish an employee for chronic attendance issues at work.
I've tried a lot of different things and found what worked for me. I'm going to share some of the systems I use right now to keep the "ADHD Monkey" off my back, and who knows, maybe you'll find some of them useful.
Scheduling & Micro-Scheduling
Right now, my weeks look like this:
|Bike to work OR Start the day with Sam (wife) & feed Sadie (cat)
|8 am - 5 pm
|Full-Time Job/Workout/Engage on X for 10 minutes, 3 times
|Cook dinner/Relax with Sam
|10 pm - 5 am
|5 am - 9 am
|Write 1 blog post + 1 X thread
|Schedule 21 tweets (3x/day for following week)
|9 am - 10 pm
|Enjoy my damn weekend
|Enjoy my damn weekend
Weekends are still messy, but I'm ironing that out. I've only been at this system for 2 weeks now, but that's not the point.
Without a schedule in the first place, I'd wake up and have no sense of direction. I'd probably play video games until Sam woke up, or scroll social media, or read the articles on Google's Featured list, or some other waste-of-time activity that doesn't serve my vision.
I keep this schedule in Notion, which I can access from my phone or browser.
I also use my Apple Calendar for EVERYTHING:
And I include all relevant information when I create a calendar event, from video call links to address information, even a note on the event so I remember what I planned to do or talk about. I leave nothing to chance.
If you've seen the Christopher Nolan movie, Memento, I treat myself like that guy. I assume I will forget everything if I don't write it down somewhere, because I often will. Calendar events, timers, alarms, to-do items on my custom ADHD Work Planner, you name it. If I think it'll help, I use it.
Notion & To-Do Lists
I use Notion as my personal dashboard. I discovered it a couple years ago thanks to one of my wife's ex-coworkers, and I've become obsessed with it. Notion Team, if you're reading this, I'm always open to an affiliate deal (they don't want me).
I keep a detailed list of Monday-Sunday to-do items that I update daily. I keep items pegged for the following week if I can't slot them in this week. I celebrate my wins every week so I can look back and skim through my weekly accomplishments to gauge my velocity.
Whenever I spin up a new project, it gets its own folder in Notion to act as its dashboard. I keep track of any content ideas, project ideas, etc., in lists and tables so I don't have to expend energy remembering anything. I don't believe in remembering information if it can be documented instead.
I call this practice "world-building".
This is my phrase for building a virtual extension of your mind.
It's a mind palace, but it's also the manifestation of the vision you have for yourself and the world. It's where thoughts take up residence & new resources come into existence.
Our world has structure. It has the intangible structure offered by the laws of physics. It has physical structures like buildings for people to live in. It has social structures like the laws we set in our governments. It has biological structures like the myriad organisms that inhabit the earth.
So building your own world needs to have all of these structures, too.
Intangible constraints - scheduling, morning/nightly routines, to create consistent output
Physical constraints - living space, working space, relaxing space, to create consistent input
Social constraints - friends, family, romantic partner, to create community
Biological constraints - physical & mental health routines to create energy
All of these things have an impact on your ability to avoid burnout. Your world is either one that's on fire constantly or "up to code" with the "fire department of the universe".
If you view everything in your life as connected to burnout or not-burnout, you begin to see where your world needs some improvements.
Seasons of Life
By this point, you're beginning to understand that I don't see "tactics" as the panacea for avoiding burnout. I use mindsets to filter my reality so I don't end up doing the things that lead to burnout.
Just as our world has seasons, so too must your world.
My world has seasons that look like this:
Winter - rest
Spring - high volume, high frequency
Summer - low volume , high frequency
Fall - low volume, low frequency
These seasons are found in any area of my life. The "volume" is the amount of time I put into an activity in 1 session, and the "frequency" is how many sessions occur in a week or month.
We can't be in Spring for everything. In fact, I'm only ever in Spring for 1 or 2 things at a time.
This is important because you have a finite amount of energy. You have to be able to live with pursuing 1 thing rabidly until you make enough progress, while putting other things on hold or in a maintenance phase.
I tend to have a predictable pattern:
Go hard on a new thing until I understand my roadmap for it (Spring)
Double-down on the 20% that gives 80% of results (Summer)
Find ways to do that 20% of things in less time (Fall)
Let it simmer while I decide on my next high-leverage activity (Winter)
You never want to stay in 1 season for very long, because the world thrives on cycles, not stagnation.
What does not move or grow or evolve eventually dies.
This is a universal principle.
Some Fast Life-Hacks
Okay, maybe you didn't come here to read about my philosophy of work & productivity.
So here's a listicle for you.
You need at least 1 uninterrupted hour to yourself every day. Doesn't matter when it is, just find it & guard it with your life. This is where your personal development can take up permanent residence & begin to serve you.
Don't let your ego make you work so hard. Let other people, your reminders, AI tools, etc., help you offload some of the physical and mental labor you're putting on yourself. You need that energy for more important things.
Leave any and all situations that don't give any emotional, physical, spiritual, or intellectual benefit to you. Everything you do in life, anywhere you live, whatever social circle you run with, should offer you something in return for the money, energy & time you give to it. If there's anything that leaves you feeling chronically empty or resentful, throw it in the trash & move on.
Actively find problems with your situation. Not to be upset & stew about it, but to identify improvements you can make. Anything you can do to increase your baseline money, energy & time reserves is going to have positive ripple effects into every area of the world you're building for yourself.
Relax. If you don't know how to relax, that's the first problem you need to solve. You don't need money to relax. You don't need people to love you to relax. You need to find love for yourself first. If that means solving a basic, annoying problem in your life, go solve it. Earn respect for yourself or you'll never have what you want in life, and you'll never forgive yourself for taking time away from work. That's really it. Burnout is a result of, at its core, a lack of self-respect and the behaviors that arise from that. Respect is a prerequisite of self-love.
If you still have questions, I recommend you take out a piece of paper & pen, or open a Google Doc or something, and fill out this chart for yourself:
|What is my worst problem?
|What is my greatest dream?
|What do I rate myself on a scale of 1 to 10 with how satisfied I am with this area of life?
|How will this area of my life look in 5 years if I do nothing different?
As I've heard from many and found to be true from my own experience:
Most people just need clarity.
Get after it, folks.