If you’re one of the millions of web designers, writers, artists or other creative people who spend most of your workday on the internet, I’m talking to you. You’re doing it right now. You’re distracted.

Listen. You’re not alone—I’m right there with you. Really, so is most of our team, because when your job involves working on the internet, it also involves social media. And when your job involves social media distractions are a fact of life. Let’s get something straight right away though: there’s nothing wrong with that.

Distraction is just a symptom of burn out.

And burnout is the problem.

At least it is for me. It’s something I’ve noticed in the last hour of a work day for months now. Burnout sort of creeps up on you. Sometime between building another webpage or exporting to PDF-X1A-whatever you just crash. You try to keep going but you know your mind is fried deeper than extra-crunchy chicken from Kentucky.

It’s time for a break, but the clock says no. So you head to Facebook, or Twitter, or Reddit… just to take your mind off of that mountain of work before you. Why? Because—again—the clock says no.

But what clock are you actually keeping? Is it your own time card? Is it an employer? And if most of the last hour of work is spent in a burned-out haze of Twitter feeds and articles from the Atlantic, why even be there at all?

Seriously. Before you stop and laugh, think about it for a minute. If you’re in the creative industry, you’re likely to have at least some margin of flexibility in your work hours, so why not take that extra hour of time you normally spend burnt-out and use it to recharge instead?

Last week, I started doing that.

How to reverse the burn

At 4:00pm on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I checked out. I just got up from my desk and walked away. What did I discover? Well, first: there are many forms of burnout.

1: Monday’s burnout was an angry one. I had gotten to the office early; at about 6am I was already grinding away in the maelstrom of Monday emails. By 4 o’clock, I was fed up and angry. My Spotify playlist had shifted from early-morning James Taylor to angry-afternoon Disturbed. There was zero chance of creating positive momentum going into Tuesday—at least from my desk. But it’s really amazing what a 30 minute run will do for your day.

By 5:00 on Monday I had already run a mile, gotten a fresh shower and was mentally ready to knock out some after hours work. And by the time I got back to my desk on Tuesday morning, I actually had a jump on that day’s schedule. Spotify “James Taylor” resumed.

2: Wednesday’s burnout was not an angry one. But around 4:00 the symptoms started showing up again. Wednesday’s burnout was straight-up fatigue. I guess Redbull and Three 6 Mafia can only carry you so far through the week, and rather than fight the power I checked out for a little R&R.

#protip: R&R doesn’t mean you have to take a nap. I actually just hopped in my car and took an hour to get out of the city and drive a bit. Ya know… just to drive. Windows down, some music on. By 5:00 I was back home; and that seemed to work pretty well. After all, it’s pretty difficult (and unsafe) to be plugged in while you’re behind the wheel.

3: Thursday. Thursday was anxiety burnout. That’s the kind of burnout you get when an overwhelming pile of projects is on your plate for the following week, and you know that pile of work won’t be done before the weekend. In a controversial call, rather than put the hammer, er… mouse down and battle through, I chose a more escapist approach.

Thursday at 4:00, I hopped on my mountain bike and hit some local trails. Technically, this might have been cheating. After all, it was premeditated (I had to store the bike in my car most of the day) and I wasn’t home until about 6:30. But hey… whatever. We’re talking about reinventing the rules here, not playing by them.

So Thursday was great. If I’m honest, it was the best of all remedies. Sure, that Olympus-sized stack of work didn’t get done; but that work isn’t due until next week…and isn’t that the reason you’re reading this in the first place?

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