Blog Entry #3. December 7th, 2019
"Try not to burn yourself out."
That's probably the most understated statement in the visual effects industry. It's something that is always impossible to avoid, yet everyone says you can avoid it. What causes it? How can you avoid it? What does it feel like? Does it ruin careers? And should I ever consider taking a break because of it? Let's tackle these questions.
Burnout is essentially work stress that leaves you so exhausted you no longer find joy in what you do. My first experience with burnout happened in the first production I worked on, which was about 6 months into my career. It happened around the time we were about to deliver the project, and overtime was through the roof. I had no time to exercise, see sunlight, family, or do anything I wanted to do for fun. If i needed to print something, call someone, or eat dinner, I had to do it at the office.
Or I thought I had to. Being a junior I assumed that I had to be at my job until the problem was solved, or that I was always on thin ice, everyone was judging me, or everyone was commenting on my work quality. So I felt obligated to stay late and try to prove myself. This is where I think burnout starts in the industry.
My greatest advise to avoid it is just leaving the office when the work day ends. You'll get more sleep and socialization that way. Plus, when you're more relaxed, the more answers will come to you regarding problem solving. Yes, everyone at some point has to do overtime. But do overtime when you need to do overtime. If you can't fix the problem tonight, then leave.
Another thing I think leads to burnout is commuting times. If you live far away from work like I do. You'll probably be the first or last one to the studio every morning. Or the first one to wake up, the last person to go to bed. Sometimes moving closer isn't an option. My only advise here is try to make your commute more enjoyable. Bring something with you that you'd like to do on the bus or train. For me, that is sleep.
One thing I like to do to try and affect the feelings of burnout is to make sure I have one day a week to do something for myself. Whether that be ordering 3 rolls of sushi only for me, seeing a movie with my friends, or having a day creating something I'd like to create. If you have a larger family, then spend as much time with them as you can.
Should I Ever consider taking a break? I think this question should be changed to: Did going on a vacation ever hurt anyone? Exactly. Consider it, but don't consider taking a break giving up. Consider it a vacation you earned or deserved because you've worked so hard, and achieved so much. If you're a person like me who has to stay busy all the time, then maybe plan ahead to something that you'd like to do. For me, I'd like to go get my Autogyro-copter license. (Mini helicopter). It's something that will probably keep me busy and I'll enjoy. But it's not a vacation, and I'll will achieve something out of it.
Does Burnout end out end careers? Yes. I know someone in particular who did have their visual effects career ended by burning out. Without giving away too many details, I'll use them as an example. This person was incredibly talented compositor. They worked on a few major productions and over the years they started to feel as if their job was never leading anywhere. Their work environment never changed, they started to socialize less, end up at the bar more, and make fewer and fewer smarter decisions in their career. To a point where they no longer understood why nothing is working out for them. I feel bad for them, but at the same time they never took time off, they never put time away for significant others, and never took a break for themselves. Which is something everyone, regardless of where they work needs to do.
I hope this gave some insight into burnout in the visual effects industry. There is a ton of more things I could mention regarding this issue, but I felt as if this was a good place to leave it.