RE: Burnout?

Subject: RE: Burnout?
From: Steve Shepard <STEVES -at- YARDI -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2001 11:46:10 -0800

surfer924 -at- earthlink -dot- net writes:
>So what's the problem? I think I'm getting burned out. Lately, the
>thought of going in and sitting in front of the computer all day
>writing documents that nobody is going to read is making it almost
>impossible to get out of bed. I get to work and I find myself watching
>the clock waiting for the day to be over.

>To those of you who are long-time technical writers, is this common?
>Is it a passing phase or did I pick the wrong profession?

To paraphrase Will Farrell doing President Bush: "This is harrrrd!"
Technical writing is harrrrrrd!"

To give you an example. UC Santa Barbara offers a technical writing minor.
Out of the 20 or so students that completed the program last year, I think
two actually went into the field. The #1 reason I have heard from those that
didn't go into the field? "It's really hard work." They all interned at
local tech companies and found out how hard it can be. One of my interns
(who is now a full time writer here) describes it as doing one term paper
after another. <sarcasm>Remember how much fun those term papers were back in
college?</sarcasm>

As well as hard it can be tedious in the extreme. I have a graphic design
background and love working on layouts and designs for our docs. I just
redesigned our docs for the next release. Lots of fun. Now I have spend that
last several days reformatting all our doc sets. Augghh! Talk about tedious.
Indexing? Boring. Help Context IDs? Hate 'em.

I go through periods of burn out. How do I deal with it? Trudge through
knowing that the next "thing" is coming (even if I don't know what it is
yet), knowing that the "fun" will start all over again. I also get away from
the work. When I am in the "fun" stage, I may bring work home with me, when
I am in burnout mode, I don't. I find the new "thing" in other areas of my
life. Currently, it's cooking. I get up from my desk and just walk around
and talk to people sometimes.

I also try to expand the kind of thing I am doing at work. As a manager, I
might have more opportunities than others for this kind of thing, but there
are things anyone can do. I am working at consolidating all the training in
our company under our department. I am learning XML. I am heading up an
effort to get technical notes from support in a searchable database and out
on the web. I read material related to the field. My wife (who works at the
same company as travel coordinator) and I are going to get involved in
planning next year's holiday party.

As a manager, I try to watch for signs of burnout. I can sense when my staff
(I have 7 writers working under me) is starting to get a bit frazzled. I do
things to break up the monotony. A few weeks ago I told that staff we were
going to have a meeting at 1:30 on a Friday. I told them at the beginning of
the meeting that we were going to do a team building exercise (I could feel
collective groan under their breathe). I popped in a video of Mystery
Science Theater 3000 and dragged out about the worst collection of junk food
you could imagine. We watched the movie, ate junk and laughed our asses off.
When the movie was over at 3:30, I let everyone go home. You could feel the
change in mood the next week.

Steve Shepard

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