How Burnout is like Sun Exposure

After spending a week on the beach, enjoying the sun and surf, I had some time to reflect on the work that’s waiting for me when I get back home. That’s because the past few years of my career have been a full of ups and downs that once left me in the unmistakable condition of burnout.

This week I realized that burnout is kind of like a sunburn. Once you’re burned, you’re pretty much stuck with it until you have had time to heal. Both conditions are uncomfortable, embarrassing and everyone who cares about you finds them strange, frustrating or sad…

I take skin protection very seriously because three members of my family have developed skin cancer from it more than once. As a result, I’ve learned that avoiding a sunburn can be easy as long as you take precautions and pay attention to your skin while you’re out in the light of day.


The graphic I’m sharing here is my very generalized attempt to provide a visual analogy between sun exposure and burnout at work. On one end of the spectrum, there’s a healthy level of sun or work, and on the other end is sunburn or burnout.

The key to avoiding either involves knowing what to watch for and taking a break before you suffer from fatigue – or irritated, hot pink skin for an extended period of time.

In the end, the extra time spent working on a project, campaign or program — or enjoying the sunshine — will only eclipse all the positives of your time investment.

At the end of the day, your health is much more important than the little extra sparkle you’re hoping to gain.