When Anne Helen Petersen published her seminal Buzzfeed News article on millennial burnout, 2 voices rose up in response: one of joyous relief that someone had finally validated their life experiences and one of critical judgment about the inferiority of the aforementioned generation By indulging in this second common narrative, we are ignoring the reality of who this generation is today. They now make up a majority of the American workforce and are overworked, always on and suffering from rampant burnout. 7 in 10 millennials report feeling its effects some of the time, more than any other generation of workers. However, by promoting the practice of deep work amongst their employees, companies can help heal and prevent this problem. Solving burnout in this generation of workers creates economic opportunity and gives employers who lead the way in championing solutions a competitive edge.
We’ve entered an age in which our ultimate longings center around the elusive sense of balance in our lives. Technology now leaves us fatigued from constant communication. In reaction we worry about its harmful effects and put ourselves on crash diets from social media and our smartphones. Just as crash dieting is not the way to lose weight healthily and maintain it, neither is it the road to productivity.
I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Even after some of the roughest days, when my brain feels like it’s been put in a blender, somehow I emerge from the steam of that tiled cave with the best copy or the clearest approach to a project I’ve been fighting with for hours in my head. Cal Newport calls this use of time productive meditation. Not only is this strategy offer efficiency for those of us with full schedules and lives, but it’s also a great technique to help increase your concentration to aid in deep work.
We underestimate the importance of taking breaks from our hamster wheels to do nothing. I shouldn't describe this use of time as being for nothing, because that's only the perception of our productivity focused culture. We are taught to view activities that are not directly in service to progress as useless. This judgement couldn’t be farther from the truth. Activities such as dancing, self-pampering or just general hermiting serve an important purpose.
I enjoy using social media personally, but I’ve never thought of myself as being addicted to it. I’m not naïve, though, to the widely discussed debate over its risks and side effects. I’d like to think I’ve focused on having a healthy relationship with this technology, one in which I’m benefiting more from the positives than the negatives. My self-assurance that I’m doing the right thing, though, isn’t enough. The time came last week for me to try to put my data where my mouth is. The challenge: no personal social media use for 5 days.
I'm a millennial and I work in social media. What image pops in your head when you visualize the type of office space I have at work? If you saw a hyper-modern, open room with bright white walls and glass doors where dozens of workers type away on long countertops, then you wouldn't be too far off. This image of the cool looking open office has become the default prescription for today's knowledge workers. Those of us in creative and tech-forward jobs are told we want and enjoy these types of spaces because they offer increased opportunity for collaboration and help us increase buzzword behaviors such as synergy. But are these spaces really supporting the kind of work we need to do, or are they just aesthetically trendy?
Once upon a time I was Rory Gilmore, able to sit in a crowded cafeteria or a bumpy bus and loose myself in the pages of a book. Now I’m more like Dug, that dog from "Up" whose focus switches on a dime at the sight of a squirrel. What happened to me? Apparently, the same thing that’s happened to many of us. Our increasing habit of reading on digital devices is altering our reading styles. Even when I’m enthusiastically interested in a piece of writing, I now fight my eyes’ physical compulsion to skim over the lines rather than digest the beauty of each word. The idea of getting lost in a piece of writing now feels more anxiety-inducing than comforting.