Beating Burnout on the Job

Timothy Johnson at his computerSix years ago, Timothy Johnson ’89 was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a disorder that would pause his breathing for minutes at a time while he slept. Because sleep apnea disrupts a good night’s rest, Johnson was tired and sluggish all day, and he snored loudly at night. The diagnosis, though, brought on a realization that changed his life: Sleep apnea was similar to what he saw in organizations every day in his work as a consultant. “There’s a lot of noise going on,” says Johnson, “but everybody is walking around feeling groggy.”

Johnson coined the term “accomplishment apnea” to refer to this lack of motivation and productivity present in many organizations and decided to do something about it. So he founded the firm Carpe Factum, which means “seize the accomplishment” in Latin. “It’s a fun paradox to have such a dynamic, living concept like accomplishment conveyed in the ‘dead language,’” he says.

Carpe Factum is dedicated to helping clients accomplish goals, like overcoming office politics, managing projects, finding solutions to tricky problems and sparking creativity — all essential to the work of a productive organization or company. He has found his clients often need a lot of help when it comes to the fundamental but sophisticated work of management. “When a project is failing, usually the participants have lost focus from the important things that must be done,” says Johnson. “My first step is to bring order and direction to the chaos by establishing a project plan and issues log.”

Starting his own company was a thrill, since Johnson was able to use many of his skills, like writing and public speaking, that were dormant while he was working in project management himself. Plus, the independence and the variety of the work means he never gets bored or suffers from the grogginess he sees in his clients.

At Central, Johnson was a business management major with minors in accounting and mathematics/computer science. Coupled with his classes, Johnson’s extracurricular activities — radio, newspaper, theatre, intramural sports — taught him how to be flexible and overcome challenges. “My time at Central taught me that I have to be in charge of my own destiny, and that there are always new avenues to explore,” he says.

From consulting, Johnson has also moved into publishing and speaking at conferences. He’s written three books, including SWAT: Seize the Accomplishment, and has two more in the works. He’s also an advisor for In his spare time, Johnson reads, blogs, cooks, rides his Trikke (at right) and spends time with his two daughters.


10 Ways to Breathe Life Back into Your Job

By Timothy Johnson

  1. Find your passion and never let it go. If it’s not fun and it doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not your passion; keep hunting.
  2. Build a community of resources to help you on your journey. You never know who may be able to help you down the road. Be prepared to help them in return.
  3. Live beneath your means. That way, you will always have the resources to pursue new adventures and opportunities. You’ll never have to say “But I need this job,” when you only need the paycheck it provides.
  4. Be noticeable. Don’t be afraid to stand out among all the sameness of your co-workers. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
  5. Be engaging. Master the art of the “professional flirt” by making people curious about you and by pulling them into the conversation. (And return the favor by being curious about them, too.)
  6. Add value. Figure out how to make an otherwise boring presentation sing, or shorten a meeting everyone dreads. Make others grateful you’re their co-worker.
  7. Have a strong identity that shows through all your accomplishments. When you submit a document, develop such a strong voice that they’ll say, “I know who did this,” even if your name is not on it.
  8. Be real. There are too many fakes and posers in the world. Emulating others is no way to live your life. Let people know that when they’re in your presence, there’s no bull. Accept the consequences of genuineness graciously.
  9. Define a purpose or direction for your life. You may know it before you graduate or you may not discover it until you’ve been away from Central for a few years. Always take control of your path from point A to point B.
  10. Pay it forward through volunteering and mentoring others. The greatest rewards I’ve received in my career are those times when I’ve given the most of myself freely.




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