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Burnout (n.) A post-traumatic stress disorder caused by excessive investment in an imbalanced project.

Most individuals who undertake significant projects undergo burnout, though few would formalize their symptoms as such. The stages of burnout, from start to finish, are expressed by clear emotional states as follows:

  1. Naive enthusiasm, in which the individual undertakes a project of heroic impossibility. This phase can last for a year or so.
  2. Brave optimism, in which the individual works on the project, understaffed and undercompensated. This phase can last for a few months to several years depending on how successful the project is. Note that project success often just makes the burnout deeper.
  3. Cynical abandonment, in which the individual suddenly and without warning abandons his project. At the least, the individual "drops off the radar" with no explanation. In the worse cases the individual tries actively to destroy the project so that no-one else can take it over.
  4. Active disinterest, in which the very mention of the project raises urges to vomit and break things. This usually lasts about the same as the period of brave optimism.
  5. Cautious reawakening, in which the individual tries to re-engage, hopefully with some new knowledge of wtf happened.

Rules for avoiding burnout:

  • Don't work alone on killer projects.
  • Delegate so you are replaceable.
  • Take breaks when you feel you need them, don't be a hero.
  • Don't work with or for exploitative b*!*!*!ds.
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