Civil Engineers and Architects: Work Burn-Out. Get Motivated!

February 15, 2012 at 9:30 am 6 comments

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Whether you are employed or looking for a job, undoubtedly you have experienced work burn out. It is inevitable at some point. Most of us crave security: we want to know we can pay our bills and play along the way. That is usually enough motivation for me. BUT, there are days, I admit, that I find myself staring at the computer and the phone despite having a great deal of work on my desk.

Work burnout is not only a problem for you, but the effects on your projects, colleagues, department, company and clients can be irreparable. Getting back to work with true enthusiasm can be a job in itself, but is critical no matter what your financial state. Here are suggestions that may help:

  1. Take a break. If you can only leave the office at lunchtime- then do it! Get some space between you and your office. If you are not able to break during the day then leave work at a reasonable time.
  2. DO NOT TAKE WORK HOME WITH YOU! If you are looking for a job, then stop at the start of the evening.
  3.  Prioritize tasks. Are you overwhelmed and stressed? De-motivation can occur when the tasks are many or too difficult and the light at the end of the tunnel looks like the proverbial train. Set priorities. Every task cannot have the same sense of urgency-even if clients are demanding it be so.
  4. Set intermediate goals and reward yourself when they are achieved. Motivation increases when rewards are received. Give yourself something positive when you meet a goal.
  5. Enlist the support of colleagues, friends or family. Perhaps you don’t want your office mate to know how unmotivated you really are…most of the time they have noticed. Talk about it with them. Most people are helpful and will be supportive.
  6. Tell yourself to be positive about work. Yes, we all participate in “self talk.” Usually it is negative but this time have positive conversations with yourself!
  7. Get back to work. Just jump in and before you know it goals will be achieved, projects will be completed and your motivation will come back.

When I asked several professionals how they pull themselves out of the burn-out track, they offered helpful ideas:

  1. Placing yourself at the place in time when you were most passionate about your work. Remembering specific experiences that made you thankful to be doing what you do.
  2. When you burn out… time to take a break and find yourself and what you love to do again… sometimes it’s returning to what you have always done, sometimes it is reinventing yourself, and sometimes it is returning to the roots of what you always loved but gave up to do something you’ve been doing for so long that now you are ready to return to past interests.
  3. Step back. Re-evaluate and find your desire for what you do.
  4. I segment my day (morning especially) into 50 minute periods with a 10 minute break that does NOT include answering email. A little Pilates, read the newspaper (not online), walk. Then another 50 minutes of focused work, etc. And when I’m really burnt out, I take a mental health day and simply enjoy myself reading, whatever. NOT thinking about work.
  5. If the opportunity exits, I would ask to be put on special projects. This has given me the opportunity to work with different people and feel like I’m contributing and solving problems.
  6. I find a way to help someone who’s just getting started in their career. To start with, the stuff I take for granted knowing just through experience makes me seem like a god to them and they absorb it like a sponge. I’m usually able to connect them with someone useful within my own network. There are many times through the years where this sort of “pay it forward” approach has come back to reward me ten-fold in addition to brightening up the day I initially helped them.
  7. I hit the refresh button and take myself on a “vacation” —- A walk , chat with a friend or a little reading or a little research into family history. It is the “away” time that allows me to refocus.
  8. Sometimes a change of workplace is required.
  9. We must take care of ourselves mentally & physically…whatever it takes for us to keep balance in our work & home life. Make the time to relax & do things that are fun for you…whatever you define it to be.
  10. One of the best ways I have found to eliminate burn out is to listen to classical music. It really helps to de-stress me – even on the very intense days. And, it gets the creative juices flowing. That is the most consistent way I can think of to get unstuck.

What has helped you to get your motivation back on track?

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6 Comments Add your own

  • […] Civil Engineers and Architects: Work Burn-Out. Get Motivated! (civilengineeringcentral) Work burnout is not only a problem for you, but the effects on your projects, colleagues, department, company and clients can be irreparable. Getting back to work with true enthusiasm can be a job in itself, but is critical no matter what your financial state. Written by: Anthony Alvarado on February 27, 2012.on February 26, 2012. […]

  • 2. Brandon  |  February 23, 2012 at 3:21 am

    I always like walking around the block or many blocks. And to keep my mind occupied, admire how everything around me was built.

  • 3. Steve Beaudry  |  February 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Exercise, force yourself to walk, do stairs, anything to stay alive! You will be surprised how that shakes the burn-out blues.

  • 4. Natalie Pettit  |  February 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I noticed the trend in advice of remembering how you were once excited and passionate about work, and why you even got into the field of work you’re in. It’s all about loving what you do! I definitely find that helping out with young incoming engineers helps to remember your roots. Also speaking to middle school, high school, or even college kids about what you do and about your field of work (just the basics). Trying to sell your career to convince others to try out the same path really makes you remember the positives of your job! Plus it helps out the community and recruits kids into engineering when they’re young.

  • 5. aepcentral  |  February 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Excellent idea…Thanks for suggestion! Carol

  • 6. youngmotivatedengineer  |  February 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Something that has helped me out in the past is cleaning/organizing my work area. Loose papers get filed or thrown out. If there are a bunch of to-do post-it’s I combine it into one list. Having a clean work environment helps me focus on the current task at hand as opposed to feeling like I have so much stuff on my desk to do, when in reality it’s most likely just stuff that needs to be filed away.


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