5 Ways to Avoid Academic Burnout

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A common refrain I frequently hear from students is some version of “I’m so exhausted.” With classes, homework, exams, extracurriculars, standardized tests and all sorts of other obligations, it’s understandable why students feel stretched to their limit. There’s pressure to succeed from all angles, and it seems to only heighten with each passing year. Just as the academic rigor and demands increase, so does the potential for burnout.

According to Psychology Today, burnout is “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” While it’s easy to think of burnout as nothing more than normal high school stress, it is important to recognize it as a distinct experience. Acknowledging it as such is the first step to avoiding it. Here are some steps you can take to avoid and/or combat burnout.

1. Get Organized

Let’s face it, sometimes the onslaught of responsibilities seems never ending. Just as soon as you’re done with one task, there are another fifteen to tackle. Juggling everything at once may come naturally to a few, but for most, a better bet is to develop strong organizational skills. Use a calendar to keep track of priorities and deadlines. Set reminders on your phone so you won’t forget. Organize your notes and assignments to help you prepare for tests. Use whatever system works for you, but make sure there’s some sort of structure you can rely upon.

2. Manage Your Time

Breaking down your responsibilities into manageable chunks will help you focus, and focus is essential to getting your work done efficiently. Recognize which classes require more out of you, and allocate your time accordingly. Working in set time chunks and taking brief breaks throughout your studying will keep you fresh. Waiting until the last minute to get things done puts you on the fast track to burnout. Plan things out in advance to have a clear picture of what exactly you are responsible for and when it is due.

3. Set Reasonable Goals

Many students opt for the most rigorous academic course load possible in today’s competitive college admissions landscape, but try not to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to academics. Overestimating just how much you can handle academically is the quickest way to overload yourself. While colleges want to see you challenge yourself, they also want to see you succeed. Be honest with yourself and your goals to help you chart out a practical academic schedule.  

4. Develop Healthy Habits

Eating well, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep are often the first sacrifices for busy students. However, these are some of the most important steps you can take to reduce stress and stay on track with your responsibilities. To function at your highest, you should maintain a relatively active lifestyle and fuel your body properly. I’m not suggesting you have to be an Olympic athlete, but even 30 minutes of daily exercise along with a steady diet of fruits and vegetables can provide you with a much needed boost to power you through each day. I know it can be difficult to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but it’s worth it, it’s worth it, it’s worth it!

5. Limit Distracting Devices

Technology is rampant in this day and age, and while much of it can be utilized to assist with you with your work, the opposite is equally true. The instantaneous nature of social media may make you feel like you need to stay connected at all times, but that constant connection will drain your energy and eat away the time you should be dedicating to your work. Adding a steady stream of social information to your responsibilities only increases your levels of stimulation. Disconnect from the apps (particularly close to bedtime) and concentrate that energy on accomplishing your tasks.

All of the work you invest in high school is in pursuit of a higher goal, and keeping your goals in mind can keep you driven and motivated. It is completely normal to occasionally max out, but it is important to recognize your limits and deal with them appropriately. Utilizing the tips above, you should stay fresh and remain on track to your success.


Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."