How to avoid burnout?

watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)March 20, 2007

I work as a technician for an interior landscaping company. After a few years, I feel burnout starting to set in. I love what I do and I'm good at it, it just seems to be getting a little stale. It probably doesn't help that one of our best employees moved away and now things just don't run very smoothly any more.

I've thought about trying to move up in the business, but I really don't want to do sales or management.

Any suggestions on how I can regenerate some enthusiasm?

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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Do you have design skills that would allow you to propose an interior plantscape design role you could add to your current work, or to advance to beyond your tech/care position?

If you are bored with the technical care of plants, and there is no flexibility to expand responsibilities that would allow you to be creative, then I'm not sure how to generate new enthusiasm. You might simply have outgrown that kind of work and maybe need to explore other areas in the field of horticulture.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 4:45PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

I felt like there weren't alot of responses right away because many of us feel the same burnout-even though it's spring, my favorite time of the year, it's also stressful for people in our line of work. I can understand how moving up to management or sales wouldn't help- at this point, our store has too many chiefs & not enough Indians-a core group has been there for awhile, has alot of plant knowledge, but what's really needed now are cashiers (the POS system has become more difficult in the 2 years I've been there & the pay is minimal).

The thing that still keeps me going to my job (besides seeing what new plants are coming in)are the customers-working retail is hard, but garden store customers are different. I still enjoy talking about the weather, new plants, commiserating w/ insect/disease problems. I love to hear people tell me about their plans for their gardens, whether it's a few packets of seed or truckloads of plants, soil, furniture, & fountains. Now, ask me again in June?, I may feel differently...

Maybe, just find something in your own garden to focus your attention on, a new interest, to get you through this slump...I wish I had some better suggestions.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 6:31PM
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Burn out is a very hard thing to avoid. I think the lack of responses is because no one has the answer. Even the people at the top tier fall victim to it.

I know that when I am in a group situation with coworkers suffering from 3rd degree burnout I stay as far away from them as possible - it seems contagious. Like I will adopt their problems and take them on as my own. When questioned about my 'arms distance' nature I often explain that they are in a rut that they dug for themselves and that there may be no way out but to leave and work somewhere else. One weird thing that will help me (but may not work for everyone) is to take a day off and DO NOTHING. No work, no play - just be lazy all day long. Walk the dog, read books, watch boring daytime tv... anything except problem solving, lots and lots of sleeping. Drive yourself crazy with boredom. For me it makes me work extra hard the next day. It won't solve all the problems but I somehow feel recharged.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:00AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I've noticed that putting on a tank top, playing some Jimmy Buffett music and drinking beer while tagging tomato transplants helps!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 4:48PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Well, well, triangle, you're a genius - I happened to spend most of Tuesday exactly as you described, doing essentially nothing, and I did feel lots better Wednesday! Plus I managed to have a long talk with my boss and discovered he is aware of our internal company issues and dealing with them. You are right about toxic coworkers - we have a major personality conflict going on between two of them. Luckily, I'm not around them much.

sandy, I also blasted some Jimmy Buffet on the radio yesterday, and that helped too, although I sure wished I had the makings for margueritas when I got home!

cady, I don't have any formal design skills, but I have a good eye and understand issues of scale, color, contrast, texture, materials, etc. I just don't see myself as the type to make up pretty design plans and pitch them - not my cup of tea.

thistle, I did two years working retail garden center and it was about the hardest thing I've ever done! I did like chatting with and advising the customers, though. I was a lousy cashier. I left it because I didn't like having nothing to do all winter - around here, most of the garden centers close down completely or almost so for January and February. Which would work fine for me if I had no family - I would just go to Florida or Hawaii for those two months!!

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 6:02PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

One thing that helps me avoid burnout is the fact that I'm a part-timer, right now, I work school hours, 8:30-3:00, usually Mon-Thurs., but for the next couple of weeks, I'm on Friday, too. I don't work later than that or weekends, because I have kids,(& I pay my babysitter as much as they pay me). I worry about what's going to happen this spring, because they haven't been able to hire any new cashiers (& I've told them it's not as easy as it looks & that they don't pay enough)...our garden center has a busy Xmas business, I didn't work too much in Jan., but I was ready for a break. Unfortunately, I'm very attached to the place now, really like the people I work with, & alot of the regular customers I see...

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 9:20PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

thistle, I went part-time about a year ago. I had started in the biz working school hours like you, then when I started with the interiorscape company, the only position available was full-time. After a year, I was going bananas and was able to switch to three days a week. This helps keep me from going totally nuts.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 10:08AM
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"I felt like there weren't alot of responses right away because many of us feel the same burnout.."

Words of wisdom !! I saw this post when it first appeared .. I wanted to post something but was just to burnt out !

I think you have to figure out what's burning you out and then either eliminate the cause and/or deal with the symptoms. The causes are different for everyone .. it's normal though to hit a mild burnout after two to three years in a new job .. so don't panic .. I've been in the field over twenty years and deal with big time burnoutof an ugly kind.

Try not to get to attached to your work .. it's just a job .. do it and go home .. live the rest of your life .. the important stuff. We are not our jobs.

Good Day ...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 11:34AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

mohave, "I wanted to post something but was just too burnt out!" Too funny!

I guess I got nervous because in my previous non-horticulture jobs, after about 2 years, I would hit a wall where the learning curve slowed down tremendously and I was just bored silly, or else I realized that I just didn't have the passion or the temperment for what I was supposed to be doing. I'm convinced I'm in the correct line of work now, I just get irritated when company inefficiency or politics bogs everyone down. Guess that's life, though.

A little nice weather to allow working on my big plans for my backyard garden should help tremendously.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 12:40AM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Great replies. I, too, get burnt out of course, and when I do, I work in my own garden! Buffett music definitely helps too. heh.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 11:01PM
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A counsellor advised us, a bunch of restless students, to stop studying a subject if we lost concentration or interest; we could play ping pong or similar physical activity OR study a more interesting subject! Either choice worked. Since then, I have found it useful to find something interesting in a task if it started to wear me out. I once had to prune a long 'hedge' of oleander about 10ft. tall, with hand tools and a step ladder. It took me two weeks but I found it quite interesting because I had the opportunity to find out why the oleander caterpillar could feast on a plant, every part of which is poisonous, and yet live on.
At a more fundamental level, "Variety may be the spice of life but routine is the bread and butter".

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:30PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Good point. Even on my days off, I have been attending an awful lot of plant shoes, reading web sites and magazines, working on my own plants, etc. I guess I need to remember to pursue some of my other non-horticulture hobbies for variety!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 6:13PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Conversely, it helps to be passionate about your line of work so that your hobbies, too, are industry related. I attended a seminar this week for entrepreneurs and those considering starting or buying a business. That is one of the key points several speakers stressed -- develop industry-related hobbies and "live" your passion, and it will help you succeed. That may work effectively for employees too.

I know that I find it relaxing to work on my own garden every weekend after working on other peoples' day after day. Also, I am noticing that even the books I am reading (right now I'm enjoying "The Tulip," "Flower Confidential") are about plants, gardening and the industry.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 8:55PM
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thistle5(z7 VA)

I'm taking a break next week (my kids are on spring break from school) & I'm going to miss going into work-this is the best time of year-all the new stock coming in, everybody getting mulch & soil & tools. Of course, I have a ton of stuff to do in my own yard, so no worries about staying busy.

I love getting inspiration from gardening books, too,-one of my alltime favorites is Robin Chotzinoff's 'People with Dirty Hands'. Some that I have checked out from the library are Rob Proctor's 'Gardening on a Shoestring', Edward Smith's 'Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers', Lee Reich's 'The Pruning Book' & 'Weedless Gardening', Gordon & Mary Hayward's 'Tending your Garden' (not that I will ever be that organized in garden maintenance!)...

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 11:36PM
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mdvaden_of_oregon(NW Oregon)

Maybe its time for another college class to network and learn. Maybe a new facet of the trade.

I like what I do, but was getting burned-out from the aches and pains. We moved to southern Oregon with a plan for me to quit the trade.

Soon, in weeks, I hurt worse from sales work than from landscape and pruning. So I started business again, and feel better than ever. Pacing myself better, eating better, and drinking water more often.

Now we are headed to the Portland area again after our house sells. This area south, is not exactly a joy for landscape gardening and tree care - nor for hort education.

For me, I found college classes to be refreshing for meeting people in the industry - fun times, new ideas, new avenues.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 9:19PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Unfortunately, there is little in the way of college classes nearby - the nearest community college that has a hort. dept. is well over an hour away NOT during rush hour, and I don't think they offer much at all for interior landscaping. I do try to network locally and there is a great local one day a year conference I go to. I've considered going to one of the bigger multiday conferences in Ohio or Florida someday, but so far the timing hasn't been right, the cost is a bit prohibitive, and they aren't really geared to someone in my current position.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:22AM
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I think I must follow Cady's point of view. I've been doing this work for going on 15 years now and have yet to experience burnout other than the normal bone aching fatigue that comes with the seasonal peaks. I spend all day working with plants in some capacity and then come home and do more of the same, either in my own garden or by writing and doing research. Horticulture is an endlessly fascinating occupation/avocation and I find it consumes me. Not a day goes by when I don't look forward to what's on my agenda :-)

To be honest, my job(s) offers a lot in the way of diversity so there is far less chance of burnout from repetition. I work retail so have considerable customer and vendor contact which always presents unique sitations. I also have my own design/consultation business and do a large number of classes and presentations and have started writing professionally as well. The variation in activity has never produced any kind of mental burnout. My biggest concern is finding enough time to fit in everything I want and need to do!

I think both the passion for one's occupation - and I'll have to disagree with Mohave here: my occupation IS my life to a large extent. It defines who I am and very nicely, too! - as well as the diversity of activities involved with it will go a very long way in deterring burnout. I'm not sure how any of this can be applied to watergal's specific situation, but it may be something to consider.......try branching out into other, but related activities if this is truly where your passion is.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 9:46AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Oh yeah, it's been my passion since I was 6 years old!! I have considered branching out into writing and teaching, but haven't worked hard enough at it yet to make it happen. I did work retail for a while, and frankly, it's not my cup of tea! I have great respect for people who can put up with all of that aggravation.

After some reflection, I think what I'm dealing with is not really burnout. More of a reaction to some internal problems in the company that are creating friction and not being dealt with as quickly as I would like. I'm a very impatient person. I also get frustrated really fast with laziness or inefficiency in an organization, but I'm not ready to start my own company - too much financial risk and time commitment at this point in my life - so I'll just have to deal with it, I guess.

Time to go work in my garden - wahoo!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 11:18AM
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What always works for me is watching someone of the female persuasion wearing a tank top dancing to Jimmy Buffett music. In my more philosophical moments I compare myself to a rose. In the winter I may be mistaken for dead but don't push it, remember the thorns. I'll skip any reference to pruning, if you don't mind but when the spring comes I perk up and you should see me in the summer. Man, am I blooming. The fall comes and I hang on as long as I can. It comes and goes you see and we shouldn't demand peak performance when dormancy is more appropriate. So perhaps IT is not burned out only resting and when the time is right you will be ready. BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 6:44PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

ink, the tank top thing just doesn't do much for me. :)

Good point. I have severe seasonal affective disorder, and winter is always tough. I have various therapies and coping techniques, but March is always a kind of manic/depressive month for me. Once April comes, I'm happy again. Plus it's fun seeing all the plants put out new growth after sulking all winter.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 7:17AM
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redcedar(W. WA (z8)(s4))

I haven't felt burnout since I became my own boss. It's when my labor is filling someone else's pockets that I get bitter and depressed. The only thing I worry about now is staying in good physical shape and avoiding injury. As I get older I hope to be able to work as long as I can. As far as the day to day, it's important to stop to smell the roses (pun intended). It's spring and if you are too busy to daily sit, do nothing and just absorb the garden and appreciate your hard work, then you are just a tool.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 1:51AM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)

I agree with redcedar; being my own boss has almost elimated most of the burnout. I just get really tired around August and usually need to take about a week off to recover before the onslaught of fall planting and cleanup begins.

In the past though, the biggest thing that used to bug me in this industry was making $7-8 hour for back breaking labor without an occasional 'thanks' or 'good job guys from the boss. In theory, you're not paid to be 'thanked' by your employer but working at my former bosses millionare clients and watching most of the money go into her pocket was a little aggravating at times especially when you have to work 10 to 12 hours straight with only one break.

I think when people are even occasionally gracious, it goes a long way to making one's job more rewarding.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 11:24PM
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Gonativegal, I hear ya. A little thanks goes a long way, and is rejuvenating in itself.
I am a plant technician for a large interiorscaping company. Our company implements a partner program (two people per route), and I am a "lead" tech. I'm responsible for a 2-person, 2-week route full time and get paid pretty much squat.
But I love my work. I grew up in small business my whole life. Before coming to this company I worked for a very small interiorscaping company, a job that luckily fell into my lap. I feel like my present company has taken a rewarding form of art...of creating and maintaining beautiful landscapes and green areas indoors...and turned it into cold, hard, corporate bottom lines. It is so depressing sometimes.
One day I too would love to start my own business. Personally I like the 'family' feel of almost any small business, and know that if I had my own business it would bring back the satisfaction and pride that seems to be diminishing lately...feelings which make the sore muscles and chapped hands of hard work feel like it was all worthwhile and productive.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 1:26AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

iamsam, if you ever move to Maryland/DC, we'd hire you in a minute!

Is there any way you can find a small interiorscaping business to work for? I work for one that treats its people well and takes pride in what they do, and we don't have any of the corporate BS to put up with. I have met people who work for the company that I suspect you work for, and most of them are pretty demoralized.

Find someone who appreciates you until you can go out on your own!!! An experienced tech who likes their work should have no trouble getting a job with another company.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 3:30PM
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There are several companies here in the city that I could work for, but I have 2 kids and need the benefits my company offers. A lot of the employees are seriously burnt and morale is low right now. Part of it is management, and part is our workload. Everyone is getting so many new accounts we can hardly keep up. I care for over 4,000 plants every 2 weeks, and if they would just hire a new team (easier said than done) then it would help everyone immensely. I loved working for the smaller company. Now when people come up to me and say "Oh your job looks so relaxing! My mother is in her 60's and needs a nice part time job...she would love this!" I have to tell them how physical it is pushing and pulling water tanks and 20-gallon rolling buckets around, walking miles every day 40 hours a week. People are astonished.
Actually, people are even astonished that we get paid to do the work we do! It's still the only job I've ever had that I can say I love.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 10:13PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Your company is the only one offering benefits? Have you checked with some of the others - it wouldn't hurt to investigate.

What happened to the smaller company you used to work for? Were they bought out by the big one?

I know what you mean about workload. We just hired another tech and I was able to shift some of my acccounts to her, and now I can come home at night without needing a nap on the sofa before I cook dinner!

It is amazing how physical the job it. I don't think the average person has a clue how heavy 20 gallons of water is. But I love it too. And I don't need to pay to join a gym!

I do wish the field paid a little more, though!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 10:13AM
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Wow does all this bring back memories...I was a 'tech' for a few years and can remember the 'burn out'. In my case it was the routine, same plants, same clients, day after day. So for the past 8 years have worked in big box garden centers, and it has it's own set of problems. No matter how well you are liked by the customers, you have to deal with managers that don't have a clue about plants. Am seriously considering starting up my own interiorscaping company, part time, to try to find a balance.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 9:34PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

plantwork, yes it does get routine. Lately, I've been handing over some older accounts to a new employee and getting some nice new high-end ones, so that's been fun.

I worked at a garden center for a couple of years, and it does have very different problems. I prefer the 'tech' problems, myself, but to each his or her own.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:20PM
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Burnout, I haven't had a day off since christmas. It's the business you either love it or hate it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 1:13AM
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Gardengal48, I hope you don't mind my jumping in as a nonprofessional, but I have access to NC State University. I'm a 45-year-old female who is burned out from doing medical transcription (at home - so boring). I'm in decent shape, and I enjoy doing my own gardening. During the growing season, all my money goes for plants and gardening books. I don't want to own some big company, but if you had to start over with your schooling for horticulture, would you go for a 4-year-degree? What degree/courses would pay off most? I'd sort of like to design little ornamental gardens and put them in and maintain them. Working for somebody else would be fine, but does that mean making $10 or less an hour? I don't have to get rich, but it sure would be nice to be valued and be able to use a little creativity and advise people on choices, etc.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 1:08AM
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I seem to have found help at the NCSU website. Who'da thunk.

Here is a link that might be useful: NCSU helpful site

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 2:06AM
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