How to not be mentally drained by this job?

I just started a role doing investment research at a LO AM after college. My work hours are about 60 hours a week and I'm covering Medtech names, doing mentally-intensive deep dives on various new technologies and health conditions, as well as the usually financial analysis and forecasting.


Everyday, I find myself mentally exhausted by 3-4 pm. I don't know how people manage to do this for their entire careers (and ramp up to 70-80 hours a week at pod shops). I understand that IB is a lot of menial tasks like aligning logos, but this work requires constant concentration which is taxing mentally. 


How do I avoid mental burnout? My lifestyle is healthy; I work out for 1 hour 5-6 days a week, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and have a group of friends I hang out with on the weekends. My caffeine intake is probably 2-3 cups of coffee a day. Do I need to start taking cognitive enhancing supplements, meditation, or other things to stay mentally sharp all day long?

 

Based on the insights from Wall Street Oasis, here are some effective strategies to avoid mental burnout and maintain sharpness throughout your demanding work schedule in investment research:

  1. Optimize Your Work Environment: Make your workspace as comfortable and distraction-free as possible. This could involve investing in ergonomic furniture, good lighting, and perhaps noise-cancelling headphones.

  2. Scheduled Breaks: Integrate short, regular breaks into your daily routine. Even a 5 to 10-minute walk or some light stretching can help refresh your mind and reduce fatigue.

  3. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can significantly improve your mental focus and reduce stress. Consider starting with just a few minutes per day and gradually increase as you feel comfortable.

  4. Hydration and Nutrition: Continue to hydrate adequately and maintain your balanced diet. Sometimes, small adjustments such as reducing sugar intake can help maintain energy levels throughout the day.

  5. Limit Caffeine: While coffee is a go-to for many, too much can lead to crashes. Try to limit your intake and consider substituting one or two cups with green tea, which has less caffeine and contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation without drowsiness.

  6. Physical Activity: You're already doing great with regular workouts. Consider incorporating some form of yoga or stretching in the morning or during breaks to help manage stress and maintain mental clarity.

  7. Sleep Quality: Ensure you're getting enough restful sleep. Sleep is crucial for cognitive function and overall health. If you're having trouble sleeping, consider routines that promote good sleep, like winding down without screens an hour before bed.

  8. Professional Development: Engage in training that helps improve efficiency in your work processes. Sometimes, feeling more in control of your workload can reduce stress and prevent burnout.

  9. Social Support: Continue to nurture your relationships. Social support is vital for mental health, providing a valuable outlet and helping you gain perspective.

  10. Reflective Practices: Keep a journal or engage in regular self-reflection to monitor your mental state and recognize early signs of burnout.

Implementing these strategies can help you manage the mental demands of your role more effectively and sustain your performance over the long term. Remember, it's also okay to seek professional help if you find these strategies aren't enough. Sometimes, talking to a therapist or counselor can provide additional tools and insights.

Sources: Life Hacks during WFH | How do you avoid burnout?, How do you stay sharp while working long hours, Work/Life Balance: Equity Research vs. Investment Banking - (A Definitive Guide, Part 1), Handling Stress / Burnout in Private Equity, How do investment bankers handle long hours?

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Second this, went to the doctor two weeks ago and had a blood test. Found out I was severely deficient in vitamin D (common in americans) and I've seen a dynamic shift in my attitude and energy levels since taking the supplement. 

 

Set realistic expectations. It takes at least a few earnings cycles to ramp up coverage and have a sense for what your companies do. Once you have established a base-line level of familiarity with your industry (key players, drivers etc.), the job gets much easier. And mental fatigue is quite normal for recent graduates. It is likely the first time you are focusing on one task for an extended period of time (very different than going from class to class which gives you the opportunity to reset). You will develop the energy and focus required over time, as everyone before you did. Keep up the healthy lifestyle practices you mentioned, try to get some sun in the morning, and sleep for 7 hours. You will be fine.

 

This is the price we pay for ambition. 

Meanwhile, I know from experience that people who truly loves what they do never complain but cant wait to go back to their work during their breaks. 

 
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You never end up not being drained, because as you adapt as a new grad you will move up to higher-value added work with requires more rigorous thinking (so even working 50-55hrs per week, you are ON that entire time)

I could NEVER do pods or frankly even typical L/S, would just be mentally destroyed after about 1-2yrs of doing that.

Couple ways to help manage -- either move to a role where you are working on more boring companies (i.e. core stuff) or to shops where you cover fewer names like maybe 5-10.

I'm still young and interested in working on companies a bit earlier on S curve (but not too early -- could never be a software analyst for instance). Will likely move to a role like that where my coverage load is 10-15 names (15 tops). I'll try that for probably 2-4yrs and then figure out if that works, if it doesn't then I'll readjust 

I don't think there's a perfect answer. Give it 2yrs and see how you feel and ADJUST -- that can be anything from leaving the industry to finding a role that has a better balance of hours + utilization of high intellectual horsepower during those hrs 

 

Thanks for the answer - you seem to have the view that the burnout gets worse vs. everyone else here saying it gets better as you adapt to the job. Was that the case for you?

 

Burnout is a strong word, I wouldn't characterize it as life getting worse as you move up. Just that the intensity will remain high for a long time -- perhaps once you hit 10 or 15 YOE you'll have been thru a few cycles and have been at analyst for 5+yrs (maybe a lot longer) so you get better at managing 

The thing that is somewhat stressful is the structural decline of the industry. It's something we all know and then dismiss but as you get higher up the pressure remains high because you know that getting kicked out can often mean no viable path back in (not always of course, but happens a fair amount). So that keeps you from getting to really dial down a bit as well

 

From what you said it sounds less like your mentally drained and more like your genuinely unhappy being where you are. Maybe I’m wrong but you should evaluate how can I make my day better, how can you do sometbing that will bring you happiness later or now.

 

Sounds like you're already doing most things I would recommend (sleep, exercise, diet). I'm sure there are many (myself included) in these sort of roles, where compared to banking the total hours worked are not extreme (I rarely work more than 50hrs) but during the day you are 100% mentally switched on and focused. My advice is to have hobbies and regular activities that allow you to completely disconnect after work. A team sport, musical instrument, gaming, reading fiction, something that is mentally in a completely different ballpark that allows you to mentally disconnect. Then when you get in the next morning you don't feel mentally drained, you feel like you have a full mental battery.

I'm also a strong believer in growth mindset. Focus and attention are also skills. When you practise them, over time you find it much easier to enter the 'zone' and storm through highly complex work that requires intense focus.

 

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