A recent post on a banker's blog called Mergers & Inquisitions offers seven useful tips for avoiding burnout when you work 80 to 100 hours per week and may be on call even while away.
Its anonymous author says he got the idea from a reader who had recently completed a banking internship. Much of his advice is applicable to anyone who spends the majority of their time in an office.
1. Take vacations. They can be timed to coincide with the completion of a major deal or project.
2. When not at your desk, exercise, instead of watching TV or surfing the Web. This might require joining a gym that's open 24/7. Major cities have plenty of those, so you needn't worry about racing out of work to get to the gym before 9 p.m. Even while working out, you can still check your Blackberry every 15 minutes for urgent messages.
3. Take mini-vacations. If you can't afford a whole week off, there's bound to be a Saturday when things get slow to break away for a few hours at the spa, or even a day-trip to some lovely out-of-town spot.
4. Live with friends. Having company around during your minimal time outside the office fights burnout and helps you stay away from TV and Web surfing. Sharing an apartment cuts living expenses too.
5. Spend time with non-bankers.
6. Minimize unimportant work.
7. Learn to Say "No." Even if you're the low man or woman on the totem pole, you don't always have to take on every project that gets thrown at you. Mergers & Inquisitions explains: "If you have other looming deadlines that are more important, 'I can't do that right now - I have to finish all these other projects by tomorrow' is an excuse that works well (you can't do this right away - you need to have been there awhile and established yourself)."
What's more, there are diminishing returns to how much you learn with each new project, he observes. "You'll learn that putting in 20% more hours for a 5% higher bonus is often not worth it - especially if you don't plan to stay in the industry for the long-term.
"In private equity interviews and most other 'post-banking' type interviews, all you need are 2-3 good projects to discuss. So if you already have 5 deals under your belt, will the 6th one make a difference?
"I would say no, and so should you if you want to avoid investment banking burnout."