How burnout makes us less creative | The Way We Work, a TED series

Translator: TED Translators admin
Reviewer: Krystian Aparta A few years ago, my obsession
with productivity got so bad that I suffered
an episode of burnout that scared the hell out of me. I’m talking insomnia,
weight gain, hair loss — the works. I was so overworked that my brain literally couldn’t come up
with another idea. That indicated to me that my identity
was linked with this idea of productivity. [The Way We Work] Do you feel guilty if you haven’t
been productive enough during the day? Do you spend hours
reading productivity hacks, trying new frameworks
and testing new apps to get even more done? I’ve tried them all —
task apps, calendar apps, time-management apps, things that are meant to manage your day. We’ve been so obsessed with doing more that we’ve missed
the most important thing. Many of these tools aren’t helping. They’re making things worse. OK, let’s talk about
productivity for a second. Historically, productivity
as we know it today was used during the industrial revolution. It was a system that measured performance
based on consistent output. You clocked into your shift and were responsible
for creating X number of widgets on the assembly line. At the end of the day,
it was pretty easy to see who worked hard and who hadn’t. When we shifted to a knowledge economy, people suddenly had tasks
that were much more abstract, things like writing,
problem-solving or strategizing, tasks that weren’t easy to measure. Companies struggled to figure out how to tell who was working
and who wasn’t, so they just adopted
the old systems as best as they could, leading to things
like the dreaded time sheet where everyone is under pressure to justify how they spend
every second of their day. There’s just one problem. These systems don’t make a lot of sense
for creative work. We still think of productivity
as an endurance sport. You try to churn out as many blog posts or we cram our day full of meetings. But this model of constant output
isn’t conducive to creative thought. Today, knowledge workers
are facing a big challenge. We’re expected to be constantly
productive and creative in equal measure. But it’s actually almost impossible for our brains to continuously
generate new ideas with no rest. In fact, downtime
is a necessity for our brain to recover and to operate properly. Consider that according
to a team of researchers from the University
of Southern California, letting our minds wander
is an essential mental state that helps us develop our identity, process social interactions, and it even influences
our internal moral compass. Our need for a break flies in the face
of our cultural narrative about hustling, in other words, the stories
that we as a society tell each other
about what success looks like and what it takes to get there. Stories like the American Dream, which is one of our most
deeply rooted beliefs. This tells us that if we work hard,
we’ll be successful. But there’s a flip side. If you aren’t successful, it must mean that you’re not
working hard enough. And if you don’t think
you’re doing enough, of course you’re going to stay
late, pull all-nighters and push yourself hard
even when you know better. Productivity has wrapped
itself up in our self-worth, so that it’s almost impossible
for us to allow ourselves to stop working. The average US employee only takes half
of their allocated paid vacation leave, further proving
that even if we have the option to take a break, we don’t. To be clear, I don’t
think that productivity or trying to improve
our performance is bad. I’m just saying that the current models
we’re using to measure our creative work don’t make sense. We need systems
that work with our creativity and not against it. [SO HOW DO WE FIX IT?] There is no quick fix for this problem. And I know, I know, that sucks. No one loves a good framework
or a good acronym better than me. But the truth is everyone
has their own narratives that they have to uncover. It wasn’t until I started digging
around my own beliefs around work that I began to unravel
the root of my own work story, finally being able to let go
of destructive behaviors and make positive, long-lasting changes. And the only way to do that is by asking yourself some hard questions. Does being busy make you feel valuable? Who do you hold up
as an example of success? Where did your ideas
of work ethic come from? How much of who you are
is linked to what you do? Your creativity, it has its own rhythms. Our energy fluctuates daily,
weekly, even seasonally. I know that I’m always more energetic
at the beginning of the week than at the end, so I front-load my workweek
to account for that fact. As a proud night owl, I free up
my afternoons and evenings for creative work. And I know I’ll get more writing done in the cozy winter months
than during the summer. And that’s the secret. Dismantling myths,
challenging your old views, identifying your narratives — this is the real work
that we need to be doing. We aren’t machines, and I think it’s time
that we stopped working like one.

46 Replies to “How burnout makes us less creative | The Way We Work, a TED series”

  1. Resting the overactive, overthinking mind is very important today along with resting only the body

  2. Time sheets are horrible but bosses hate them too. We have to track hours to account for capex and opex. It’s not that we don’t trust our workers and need to know how they spend their time.

    It has tax implications. Good video otherwise. Knowing when to start playing video games in the middle of the day is a part of mental health too.

  3. The amount of high schoolers I know who struggle with this is unreal. I don’t think people bring up this topic enough.

  4. Busy people bring that madness and judgement into the office effecting everyone. I've outlived a few of them who died too early in life. Have a passion you enjoy in life outside of the job site then add some self esteem to that so the rest of us can do our job and go home peacefully.

  5. In my journey, burnout is something I've been thru and witness too often. Most successful people manage their time wisely therefore they become more effective during their work time. We all have 24 hours in a day no more no less. In my personal journey meditation has been a key factor in my productivity. I've made a video about this for those who are curious. Wishing you all positive and blessed vibes Beautiful People ✌

  6. Nice Explanation indeed!
    What I feel "Less Rest and more work" this term is very popular as well as important. But for long run yes we should have balance in life and that's why we need some breaks. Taking optimum break will trigger our productivity and creativity. Otherwise Stressed body will harm you physically and Mentally by releasing more Cortisol Hormone and other Bio Chemicals which is not good at all. To overcome burnout people prefer to have Liquor or smoke which will trigger their energy and Productivity for sometime but it gifted us many other things like – Chronic Inflammation, Toxic Respiratory System, Poor Immune system etc. So the solution is to know our body and Set a healthy management for better life with properity.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Pragyan Sportyfitz (INDIA)🇮🇳

  7. I'm sorry but I think the title is crappy.
    I'm an artist and I survive as an artist and I've been doing art 3 / 40 years and creating in all mediums.

    ….. when it pertains to the workplace*, I would assume that she is not talking about an artistic job along the lines of creativity because any real artist would harness the emotion and pressure and Circumstance and actually transpose that on to a different form of creativity which would actually amplify one's creativity by medium or audience or topic.
    …. I may get to watch the video but the word creative probably should not be used unless she's talking about art and some form.
    …. and if she is to that I would say anyone that can't amplify is week and hasn't gained the knowledge and power to harness their skills and gifts and abilities with that.

    …. and if she's not talking about art then maybe she should use the words: :"finding resolutions and solutions and Alternatives and options"…. the word 'CREATE' is based on conception.
    ….. with the title people only create limits and obstacles for themselves.

  8. Technology Entertainment Design and This.
    That being said, I really want to know — no, I NEED to know — the clown college giving out BAs in Digital Anthropology. Please and thank you.

  9. None of this matters. There is only one god in capitalism. Profit. Profit for your investors and shareholders. Stop working like a machine and you can find yourself another job. Oh wait…

  10. thinking that if the whole issue could be addressed and rectified in a sane fashion, would be less mental health issues and substance abuse. needless to say, some social constructs and other "Expectations" placed on individuals, relationships..etc…
    well, huge subject of endless debate.
    be nice to have a position as an employee to simply do what one was hired for, and do without the politics that come with certain occupations…
    being "multi tasked" when short handed on capable hands due to varied reasons.. big source of burn out right there. gets to be no energy for ones own individual responsibilities at home after a long day and drive home..just kinda collapse like a rag doll at the front door for a period of time then head to bed to do it all over again the next day…then come the weekend if so blessed to not be scheduled.. well..
    eating right and exercise…
    guess some have it all figured out.. but get sick, injured…
    takes longer to heal physically and mentally.. if at all.
    don't have the answers..
    not sure why I'm writing this…
    will probably end up as a strike against me upon the next go around looking for work seeing as they do research your social media and net activity before considering you for employment.

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