If you're anything like me, you either work too hard or don't work at all; there's no in-between. I sometimes get so productive that I can work on something for hours without even taking a bathroom break, but other times, you'll find me stay in bed for five days straight. My problem (and probably yours too) is that I don't really take a break. Instead, the break finds me. (Yes, it is as menacing as it sounds)
To feel productive and satisfied with ourselves, and to somehow offset the procrastination and fun that we have had before, we try to fill up our to-do lists with more tasks than usual. And we try harder than usual to cross off those items to get the “high” that we’ve been yearning for. The problem with this is that it can sometimes be addicting, which is why I used the term “high” instead of “satisfaction” here. Once we are satisfied with ourselves and love how productive we’ve been, it can sometimes be difficult to take a step back, and what we do instead is intensify our productivity game even more and over-work ourselves because we feel like there’s no stopping us, hence the word "high", again. But then, we are stopped, whether we like it or not, by this little annoying, pesky thing called a “burn-out”. You can get it no matter what you do. If you’re an artist, sometimes you get in the zone and want to stay in it, so you create art nonstop. It feels amazing, because you’re coming up with all this awesome ideas and are getting inspired nonstop; of course you don’t want that to end because you feel too great.
The same can be said with studies. Maybe you planned on preparing for an exam or project a bit early, and not only are you really in the mood to be productive and feel like every information you’re reading is staying in your mind, but you decide to read from a few extra sources or complicate your project even more and go all the way because you simply feel like you can. But this over-exertion will show its effects sooner or later, and you’ll be sorry. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all suffered the consequences. Some more than others.
My mom has always told me, “Too much of something is too bad, and so is too little. Moderation is what’s healthy”. This was about everything. Food, fun, studies, friends. Basically, life. And here I am saying it to you. Sometimes, you might even need a break while you’re in the middle of a break. That’s perfectly normal. Here’s an example of that: You’re in quarantine. In the beginning, you were excited because you had all this free time, so of course you were gonna use it to binge watch as many shows as possible. But in the middle of that fun, there must have been a point when you were somewhat sick of shows. You were in your couch or bed, staring at your screen, not in the mood to be productive because this was supposed to be the holiday you’ve always prayed for, but you don’t want to watch things anymore. So you’re sorta just existing in the “in-between”, not inspired to do anything, and just wanna melt into the nothingness you feel towards everything. This has happened to me several times in these few months, and I know it’ll happen again and again. It’s normal and there’s no need to hate yourself for “not using this golden opportunity to its fullest”.
This is why taking a break is important. Because these burnouts can happen at any time. And they’re very deadly. No, you won’t literally die from burnouts, but your will to do things will "die" because of the exhaustion. And the harder and more frequently you push yourself, regardless of the activity, the more frequent your burnouts will be, and that’s counter-intuitive as your goal is to finish something, not slow down or even halt the process.
The way to fix this is to plan and do things moderately. If you’re binging a show, watch as many as you want, as long as you still feel excited. Don’t try to watch episodes just for the sake of having less episodes to watch in the long-run. If you’re planning to be productive, do what’s actually achievable and don’t set too high of a goal for your day. And take frequent breaks in-between to give yourself a change of energy and a boost of it too. This way, when you return to your initial task, you’ll deal with it as if it's the first time you're tackling it.
A big reason for why we sometimes over-exert ourselves is because we’re trying to somehow either compete with other people, or worse yet, ourselves. But life’s not about competition. It’s not about how soon you finish something or how much you get done, what matters is that you take things at a pace that you enjoy and you’ll feel like you get something out of it. You don’t have to complete an entire task in one seating, you don’t have to run 5 kilometers every single day, you don’t have to finish 2 seasons in one day. Sometimes, you can just go for a walk instead of running the usual 5k. Or you can just choose to watch 5 episodes instead of 25. Just enjoy what you're doing and don't think of it as a task that has to be done immediately - unless, well, it is a task that is supposed to be finished immediately, but that goes without saying.