You may already be familiar with an article written by Anne Peterson on ‘How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation’ that went viral when published on Buzzfeed earlier this year. The article resonated with many who felt that ‘errand paralysis’ – a term Peterson coined for when completing simple tasks like returning online orders seem impossible – accurately summarized our agonizing incapability to get even the most simplest of tasks done.
There couldn’t be a more accurate description for my current situation whereby my Wunderlust account (yet another failed attempt at using an organisational app to solve my problems) includes an endless stream of tasks such as ‘sign up to gym’ and ‘book hairdresser appointment’ that remain un-ticked. Combined with my Gemini tendency to procrastinate over the simplest of tasks (because as a millennial, I at least somewhat have to account for my stars involvement), those close to me can attest for how indecisive I am at the best of times, making these seemingly minuscule tasks a huge burden. Peterson explains that the paradox of choice is heightened when we are burnout, making the smallest of tasks become difficult – also known as ‘decision fatigue’.
I’m not alone. A study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation published last year found that, in the past year, ‘74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.’ and that ‘60% of 18-24 year olds’ cited feeling the pressure to succeed as the cause of stress’. On a similar note, a survey by Gallup on millennials in the workplace found that ‘nearly three in 10 millennials are very often or always burned out at work’.
More specifically, a recent article by Fashionista honed in on ‘Fashion Industry Burnout’, which they accurately described as being ‘characterised by a series of dualities like long hours met with low pay; slashed budgets and greater project deliverables; the need to produce more content or product in a saturated market; and an insatiable social media machine’.
My current typical work day
As I’m writing this article, the time is 00.46am. Today I woke up at 8.00am and worked my usual 9.30-5.00 for my full-time role as a retail and runway analyst. Men’s Fashion Week is starting which means it’ll be a busy month full of tight deadlines and quick turnarounds to produce timely reports. During my lunch, a quick tap into my gmail app allows me to check my personal emails. I had a few messages from brands and PR’s that need my attention for some campaigns I have on the go and urgent reminders of Instagram posts that need to be published. I wondered when I can find the time to squeeze to shoot some content and logged it into the back of my mind to come back to later. After work, I started on my part-time job as a personal stylist. Today, I had 3 hours of work to complete which took me until 9pm. Then, I opened my laptop once again and finally got around to finishing an overdue draft on millennial burnout…
So, how can you avoid burnout?
Emma Gannon, author of bestseller The Multi-Hyphen Method, is an advocate for the slash generation, as so it was previously called, but explains in her book that being a multi-hyphenate is not about working long hours all week and then working your side-gig at the weekend, but instead, working in more shorter bursts of energy on projects that fulfil you.
In her chapter on burnout, Gannon advises to:
- Start saying no to projects and plans that don’t excite you
- Prioritising sleep and self-care habits – such as getting outside for some fresh air
- Focusing on the important aspects of a to-do list, breaking them down into bitesize, digestible chunks for larger projects.
Whilst there is no solid one-works-for-all answer on how to tackle burnout, I think the first and most important step is simply making the time every so often to check in on how you’re feeling. Even just taking five minutes to write out how you’re feeling and what’s on your mind can relieve some tension, as you’re taking the thoughts out of your subconscious and releasing them onto paper.
If you do find yourself feeling like you’re strapped for time, juggling numerous projects at once with a seemingly endless to-do list, then the next step is reassessing what is working for you and whether your work is still benefiting you and your goals. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive and it’s important to make sure that your work is equally working for you. If not, don’t be afraid to let go of anything that has stopped genuinely serving you or see how you could possibly make some changes to get back on track.
If you’re feeling riddled with ‘errand paralysis’ or ‘decision fatigue’, then I’d love to hear from you so we can continue the conversation and offer ways to support each other, even if it’s just lending an ear to listen to. Burnout is real and we have to remember to prioritize our mental health and wellbeing above all, after all, we are all we’ve got.
Words by Heather Ibberson