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Filed UnderBurnout

On the consequences of burnout and importance of doing nothing

August 16, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

In the spirt of full disclosure: over the last two months, I’ve been suffering the effects of burnout.

I’ve been exhausted most of the time, sleeping a lot and struggling to find the motivation to do anything. Reality also becomes detached and distant, and I’d find myself unable to remember what day it is or what I’d been doing for the days previously.

It’s getting better now (I’ve been resting a lot and have help).

And I’ll write more about this another time.

But for now, I want to share an email I wrote more than a year ago when I was in New York. Some of the things it talks about are out of date now (for example my PhD is long finished), but it contains an important message that I believe everyone should pay attention to.

Indeed, it’s one I needed to remind myself of, too.

—– START —–

These last couple of days I’ve been thinking a lot about doing nothing.

You’d think it’d be easy.

But actually, it’s really not.

Now, for context I’ve been doing my friend Hitomi’s “One Day One Unit” online course.

And this got me thinking about something I want to do, but have never seemed to be able to get to grips with.

Doing nothing.

What tends to happen is either I’ll be busy with something, and this will force me to use my time effectively.
Take last week: I had to get my final PhD thesis edited and submitted by Sunday evening (to be in on Monday morning). But I also had to keep going with various tasks like videos, these daily emails and MEFA homework feedback. So every morning I’m up early with a clear plan, checking everything off my list so that I can get on with the main, long and difficult task of editing a thesis from lunchtime.

And I’m super productive!

But at the end of the day, I’m totally exhausted and dead.

Then there’s this week: I’ve got plenty of time to do nothing. But I’m NEVER doing nothing. Because what happens is I get up late. Then faff around procrastinating. Of course, I’ve still got to do videos and MEFA homework feedback…. but I’m putting it off until later. I’m not doing ‘nothing’, because I’m thinking about having to do all these things and can’t just switch off as I should.

Like today, when I had to work out. It took me 15mins once I actually did it… at 5pm, after thinking about how I can’t be bothered since 9am.

So at the end of the day, I’m STILL totally exhausted and tired.

Instead, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to:

Doing nothing is an important and time-consuming task. Just as important as proofreading a PhD thesis or any of the other things I do. And it needs to be given priority.

And just like anything else super important, this means I need to get up, get everything done.

Then I sit and just do nothing.

Doing nothing is a task. An important one to be scheduled like any other.

And the result of this is that at the end of the day, I’m relaxed and energised. I sleep better, think better and get up better.

Now, this is very relevant to you.

But this is getting super long, so I’ll talk about this more another day. in the meantime if you want my help mastering English once and for all, consider joining us in MEFA.


Dr Julian Northbrook

P.S. For interested people: on August 30th I’ll be doing another “special” live training event. This time we’ll be discussing how to help your kids learn English along with you.

If you don’t have kids this won’t be of interest.

But if you do, you’ll probably want to be there.

As always this event will be free to active MEFA and EES members (I don’t have any plans to make it available to anyone else).

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