4 Questions I Ask Myself To Avoid Burnout

So many classical musicians I know are burned out, and yet…

Very few of them have a plan to fix the problem. 

One big way to fix burnout is to stop saying yes to every work opportunity that comes your way. 

Here are four questions to ask yourself every time you are offered a new work opportunity. 

If you can’t say yes to three of the four questions below, pass on the work, no matter how tempting it may be:

  1. Will the work help you reach your financial goals? Too often, classical musicians say yes to a job only to find that they end up working less than minimum wage when factoring in prep time and travel. Crunch the numbers to get a full picture of how much you will actually make on the opportunity before you say yes. A big question I always ask myself in these situations is this: “Can I make more money in less time doing something else?”

  2. Is the work meaningful to you? A lot of time classical musicians say yes to a job because the money is too good to turn down but they end up being miserable because the position is soul-sucking. Make sure you get a full sense of what you are being asked to do before you take on an opportunity.

  3. Will this work impact your ability to have life/work integration? Sometimes taking on additional work can limit the amount of time you have to think, plan, relax, create, and spend time with family. That limitation in time often leads to burnout. Be careful not to take on more work than you can handle from a time perspective.

  4. Does this work help you accomplish your career goals? Saying yes to an opportunity may help you accomplish your short-term goals, however, it may get in the way of your long-term creative pursuits. Think about how the work opportunity will help you reach your life and career goals in the next couple of years, and what long-term goals you have to sacrifice in the short term to do the work. 

While there are other things that contribute to burnout, asking yourself these four questions before saying yes to an opportunity can be incredibly empowering and a great way to help you gain control of the problem. Thanks for reading.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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