Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

I’m Running Myself Into The Ground and Trying Not To Burn Out – Denise Li

Denise has been busy lately. Very busy. And she’s trying very hard to keep her shit together …

Everyone’s busy. In that respect, I don’t think I am that special. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Oh things are peachy at work. My boss doesn’t care what I do, and I get to leave the office at 5.30pm every day!” I’m guessing, probably never.

I’ve been busy for, like, the past four years of my life, but never like this. Not only am I working on four projects concurrently for work, I’m training for a boxing fight taking place on April 4. Since the fight date was confirmed about a month ago, I’ve been trying to clock 10 hours of training every week (up from the usual three or four), and to say that it’s been taking its toll is kind of an understatement.

My day typically looks like this:

8.30am: Arrive in the office. Work on writing projects

11am: Meeting with client

12.30pm: Lunchtime training

2.30pm: Meetings or back in the office to write some more

5.30pm: Leave office for 6.30pm training

8pm: Leave training to go back to the office to write

10.45pm: Leave office for home to Skype

1am: Hit the sack


For the first two weeks of this schedule, it felt kinda exhilarating. Though tiring, I haven’t experienced such mental focus, like, ever. Knowing that I’m due for training or client meeting in the day makes me very productive in the office – I no longer muck around on social media or online shopping sites. I learnt to set realistic daily goals for getting work done. I sit down at my work station and do what I have to do.

Sometimes I’m so busy that I get annoyed if I have to use the washroom – which is another level of psychotic for even someone who suffers from a mild anxiety disorder.

Weekends are not spared either; though I usually give myself a break from work and training on Saturday, I’m back at it again on Sunday. I head into the office at around 11am, work till 2.30pm, and I leave to train in the afternoon.

Over this weekend, though, it all hit me. Hard. I felt completely drained. So while I still did work yesterday (Sunday), I took a day off training.

While I love my newfound sense of focus, something has had to give. Lately, I’ve been finding myself extremely on edge. Because I carefully and rigorously plan my time each and every day, I get edgy and bad-tempered whenever someone inadvertently “fools around” with my schedule, either by arriving late for a meeting, or if an event drags on past its starting time without showing any signs of, well, starting. I am filled with silent rage every time I just miss my bus or if I’m stuck in traffic in a cab.


My world feels like it’d fall apart whenever I’m not “on schedule”, and I hate this monster that I morph into whenever that happens. I’m usually a super chill person so acknowledging this Hyde side of my personality has been kinda scary.

The last thing I want is to annoy people or have them walk on eggshells around me, so I’ve decided to start putting measures in place to save my sanity. Here’s what I plan to do.

1. Add in another 15 minutes to half hour for meetings 

Other than incessantly texting them, there is little I can do if someone is going to be late. While I really hope that the people I’m meeting can be more respectful of my time, it’s not gonna do me or the person any good if I’m going to flip out in front of them. What I CAN do is assume I’ll be delayed and consider it a bonus if the meeting ends earlier than expected.

2. Schedule in guilt-free Me-time

Seems obvious, but lately I’ve been finding myself thinking about work even after I get home after a long day of training and being in the office. I need to be able to do something – anything! Spend an hour alone with my Kindle, or whatever – to switch off from work/training for at least an hour a day. I will turn off my phone during this hour so I won’t have to tend to a neverending stream of Whatsapp messages or Facebook notifications. And that brings me to my next point …

3. I will practise mindfulness as much as possible

The mindfulness movement has been gaining traction in the recent year, and I think they’re really onto something. Mindfulness is essentially a state of mind where you are full engaged in the present moment, rather than being distracted by the past or present. I think I’ve been practising mindfulness quite well where work or training is concerned. Admittedly, I am a lot less mindful and a lot more “absent” in other areas of my life, such as when I Skype with Alain (sorry, babe). He can immediately tell if I’m worried about work, and though he doesn’t guilt-trip me for it, him noticing it makes me feel really guilty. Clearly, he deserves my full and unadulterated attention in the half hour a day when we’re on Skype, and that’s what I plan to give him from here on out.

I know I’m probably not the only one feeling like I’m constantly running just to stay in one place; I’m always amazed at how our Material Moms do it, juggling a full-time job, taking care of stuff at home, and tending to their kids. Even with a helper and a husband willing to chip in, it’s still a sizeable burden to deal with.

At least I can look forward to a break from training after my competition is done and dusted in three weeks. Those of you who are similarly busy: who do you do it without losing your shit? I could really use your help here!

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

[If You Like This, Be Sure to Check Out …]

The Art of Staying Busy

It’s Okay To Let Go

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One thought on “I’m Running Myself Into The Ground and Trying Not To Burn Out – Denise Li

  1. Hey Denise, you’re not alone! i’m working full time and also trying to pursue squash competitively too. totally feel you when you mention about the dread that weighs you down before heading down to the gym after a full day at work.

    anyway, i’ve been burnt out a couple of times before and it’s really not funny la. to the point i felt like i was a failure in everything. over the years i’ve learnt to really be disciplined in resting. yup sounds strange but it IS a discipline to rest! at least once a week where i do ‘brainless’ stuff like hitting the movies, reading, hanging out with friends etc. these help keep me balanced.

    hang in there for your tourney! it’s heartening to see you compete too!

    Kar Yan


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