Moving from Reactive to Proactive Burn Out for Instructional Designers

November 2, 2023

I have been thinking a lot lately about burn out, but perhaps not in the sense we are used to hearing. Yes, we are all burnt out. But, the term “burn out” has become one of those educational buzz words thrown around with solutions of meditation, go for a walk, talk to a colleague or a therapist or both, take a vacation, etc.

But, how do we become proactive to burn out rather than reactive.

In education, we are often driven by our need to make a difference. We take on more and more projects, responsibilities, problems, etc. with the goal of promoting student success. We attempt to become experts in a multitude of different areas in the hopes that we can solve all of the world’s problems (I may be just speaking for myself here).

As an instructional designer, I have tried to become an expert in everything, including:

  • Coaching and collaborating with SMEs
  • Teaching and Learning best practices
  • Inclusive teaching strategies
  • Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning
  • Course design
  • Engagement and interaction
  • User experience
  • Media integration

The list could honestly go on and on.

But, what I have realized over the past two months is that this is not sustainable. It is impossible to be an “expert” or a “go-to” in all of these different areas. As much as I would love to be an expert in instructional design, the components of the field have become too large and broad.

So, what is next?

For me, I plan on spending the next few months reflecting on which topics I feel the most passionate about within the field. I often have a mindset that I must do everything right now and learn everything. But, what I have learned is that makes me a novice in everything rather than an expert in something. As I head into the next phase of my career, I want to be looked at as the “go-to” for certain topics. The one people can rely on to have knowledge, expertise, and experiences to help them tackle problems in their own areas.

Now, you may be asking yourself “why areas you are passionate about, rather than what you are good at?” Passion will be there when there is burn out and lack of motivation. Passion will push me to move forward. It will ignite a fuel to learn as much about a subject as possible to be able to guide others in that subject within the instructional design field.

How have you tackled your feelings of burn out?

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