The Recipe For Burnout

I got to spend my afternoons this week playing. First, it was afternoon snack time. Then, it was play time.  My work life went to the back burner for the night. Throwing rose petals, mixing up Rice Krispies Treats, and playing in a sandbox with my best friend’s 2-year-old was my priority. 

In order to make my list realistic for a shorter work day, tasks had to come off my to-do list. While that seems like a simple practice for most people, picking which ones is always a challenge for my task-loving mind. The sensation of checking the box is just so satisfying. It scratches an itch – the feeling that busy is best. If I am doing something, that’s better than doing nothing at all. Deep down, I have always believed that all the work will always add up to something. That if I just do enough, work hard, develop in whatever area – my dreams will be just one step away. 

That’s the formula I used to burn myself out for my entire career, but especially over the first four years of running my company. Then, van life interrupted me. I couldn’t just work my day away any more. I had to move the van, make the drive, get the groceries. I had to prioritize my safety and sunlight over technical tasks for work. 

To my surprise, I got the work done. At least, the work that really mattered. It became more clear what I could pass off to the team and what needed my touch. Moments when I could let go. I listened to my gut when it came to saying no. I actually said no with confidence (sometimes). I proved to myself it would all be ok. 

Still, as I’ve transitioned into a more stationary life of 6 weeks traveling and 6 weeks at home, I am falling back into that burnout routine. I find myself buried in the tasks that aren’t worth my time but keep me up at night. You know the ones. The littlest things that linger on the to do list. The ones I use to talk myself into working on a Saturday afternoon because they wake me up at 4 AM. The ones you do because you have time or you’re not doing anything else. Just me? I think not. 

But this week, breaking my routine interrupted the beginning of burnout to remind me that every action isn’t equal. As much as I spend time checking off the list, it’s more critical that I take a step back to prioritize than to get more done. It was a reminder that I will always do what must be done and that working to “earn” a dream I never defined will have me right back where I started. Burned out. Tired. 

Instead, I’ll choose to sing baby shark and play blocks. To make time to rest. To have a time where I leave it all behind to play and get on my way to Sesame Street instead of a burnout I’ll have to heal from.  

Weekly Letters

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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