Dealing with Burnout
A guest post from Blessing Benjamin, one of our fantastic CAPSLOCK learners. When it comes to their studies, we give learning and mentoring support to all of our learners, but there’s no denying that our cyber security retraining courses are intense. In this guest post, Blessing discusses various productive methods and mindsets for coping with study burnout.
A couple of weeks ago I dealt with terrible burnout that left me completely drained. I was highly disappointed as I felt defeated. Truth is, you want to study everything. You want to complete virtual labs and build home labs. You want to learn to code or be better at Linux. But as they say: “The more you learn, the less you know…”
Journeying into cyber security, you will definitely come across several likeminded and passionate people. The passion and determination within a lot of us sometimes leads us to staring at screens late at night trying to crack labs, research or study for exams – well, this was the case for me anyway. All this alongside trying to balance your home life, not abandoning family and friends, and most importantly – not forsaking self care and your own mental health.
The burnout led me to a complete stop. I took a break. Burnout isn’t mentally or physically healthy, but looking back now I am grateful I went through it as it taught me some valuable lessons and helped to better manage my time.
Here’s some things I learned:
1. Don’t Put Pressure On Yourself
It’s You vs You!
Going into a new industry isn’t easy. There is a lot of pressure to catch up to more ‘advanced’ people, but despite this you have to remind yourself that this is YOUR journey, and every day it must be You vs You. What do I mean by this? I simply mean that you should only be competing with yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Once you think from this standpoint, you will be able to more easily manage any feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome.
So if there are a couple of days that you don’t even do any labs, or read a textbook, it is fine! You are human, you get tired. Don’t forget to listen to your body, rest and pick it up when you’re in a better position mentally.
2. Time Management for Burnout
Manage your time! This is definitely easier said than done. For me, the burnout was almost a blessing in disguise. During my downtime I was able to look at my life as a whole and began to plan how I could manage my time on a daily to weekly basis.
I started with the fact that I obviously have 24 hours within the day, about 6 hours are spent sleeping and another 5/6 are spent during my daytime remote lessons. Then, I was able to write down how many hours ideally I could spend post or pre lectures: studying for exams, doing labs or making content. I was able to utilise a template online that I now have on my phone and on my wall.
Here is an example. (I would ideally fill this out weekly but because it is generally going to be the same for the next 8/9 weeks, the only thing I change is the topics and labs I would like to go through each day.)
After filling this out and adding up all my study time per week, I am definitely doing a great amount without neglecting me time, or my family and friends. Pretty simple right?
I thought that working remotely meant everything would be much easier to manage. Wrong! Being remote actually means you need to implement more discipline and structure to your day, otherwise you could literally spend all day stuck in front of your screen.
This reminds me of a quote by Benjamin Franklin that says: “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.” Just taking out a good 1-2 hours of your 24 hour day to actually plan your studies seems like quite an obvious thing to do, but once you not only plan but actually follow the schedule, you realise how much more organised your day and week is as you go along with it.
3. Study Methods for Coping With Burnout
Find a good study method that works for you. I was searching for a good way to actually study materials for my exams, and after a couple of weeks of putting it to practise, I’m happy to say that I actually live by this method. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique!
Put simply, it’s a time management technique that breaks down work/study into 25 minute intervals followed by a 5 minute break. After about 4 short breaks you would then take a longer 15-30 minute break.
I didn’t initially understand the importance of doing the 5 minute breaks, but when I kept at it I realised how helpful they are in avoiding burnout. As much you’d want to continue studying or complete a lab, I now have to take the 5 minute break and come back to it refreshed. It definitely increases my productivity.
Check out some videos about this method here:
I love to do this along with a “Pomodoro, study with me” video on YouTube cause it actually feels like I’m studying with someone else and puts me in “study mode.”
So, here’s to all of us breaking into the industry! It’s hard work but we certainly don’t have to burnout whilst getting there.
Thank you for reading and I hope this helped.
More of Blessing’s articles can be found on her blog, Cyber Bae.