It happens every year, almost always at the same time. Autumn kicks in, the weather starts getting cooler, and my mood swings upwards so much that I never fail to notice how much happier I’ve suddenly become and start commenting on how Autumn is my favourite time of year.
It’s only recently that I’ve realised this upswing for what it really is: Recovering from burnout.
I don’t know if its a seasonal affective thing each summer or just coincidence but I definitely feel the change when its over, I just don’t really realise it at the time.
When I think about the effect that burnout has on me it always seems to be my right brain that’s affected more, my desire to create, design and make awesome things takes a back seat for a while. Its not that my creative output entirely vanishes, I still need to function as part of a creative team, but I do feel less of a desire to do certain things, especially outside of work.
I know GitHub’s little green squares aren’t a reliable indicator of productivity and the signs are subtle, but they’re there if you squint hard enough
Fortunately enough, I still have my left-brain pick up the slack and keep me productive (and employed). I instinctively swing into the more of the technical side of my job for a while; writing more code, tests, documentation or looking at things like our build process with a renewed intensity. Over the past few weeks I had a whale of a time implementing visual regression testing on our design system, something that I wouldn’t have had much interest in looking at if my creative brain was taking the lead.
I’ve been thinking about what I could do to plan around this for the next time. Perhaps while my internal pendulum is over in my right-brain I need to stockpile my creative output ready for the swing into my left-brain, when I’ll have the technical mindset to develop and implement the backlog of things I’ve got ready to build out.
Hopefully I can figure out a way to prevent creative burnout from affecting me for so long, whether that’s making time each week for purely creative ventures when I’m in left-brain mode, and vice-versa, by forcing myself to do technical tasks when I’m in right-brain mode. The first step is understanding, now it’s time to find some form of healthy balance.