Do you feel like you are getting close to being burned out? Or…are you already burned out? I think there is a lot of pressure out there for us to work, work, work, work and work more. Regardless of whether you are working in the home or outside of the home, for many it feels like there is always pressure to do more and to get more done. Many people spin their wheels and feel so busy, yet never feel satisfied that they are actually accomplishing anything that is rewarding.
In some organizations or industries, it is frowned upon when someone wants to take time to do something non-work related. In some places, not sleeping much at night is seen as a badge of honor. People brag that they worked on the weekend or took a very early morning flight to get to a meeting, leaving them with little sleep. People brag that they did not use their vacation time or that they “worked all night”. Some people make it a point to send emails very late at night and very early in the morning as a way of making sure others know how much they are working. I have been caught up in this in the past and it took a toll on me. It’s a slow and steady process until you wake up one day and realize that you are not living the life of your dreams at all! Your health has deteriorated, you are tired, and you are burned out or well on your way.
Tips to help you avoid this or to rebound if you are already there:
Practice self-care. This actually makes you stronger because you feel more fulfilled internally. Do things that make you feel good and allow you to recharge. Self-care is not selfish at all.
Use your vacation time. Yes…use it! Studies have shown over and over that people who take their vacation time return to work more productive, energized and creative.
Don’t check your work email or social media while on vacation. Yes…I’m talking to you. The person who takes vacation and then checks email, ends up working and being stressed out while on vacation. Stop that!
Schedule time for fun. Sometimes when things don’t go on the calendar, they just don’t happen. Make sure that fun time / down time are part of your weekly schedule.
Set boundaries with people at work. Are you someone who has people constantly “popping in” to chat or IM’ing with questions so that they can get their work done? If you allow this, you will never have the time or the ability to focus to get your own work done. As someone who has been in executive roles, I learned you can be approachable and also have boundaries that allow you the uninterrupted time to get your work done. Schedule office hours or meetings with people and ask that they save any non-emergency items for these times so that they can have your undivided attention. Say no to meetings you do not really need to be attending. Don’t answer every IM that comes in right away. If it is urgent, someone will let you know.
Set boundaries with people in your personal life. If you feel like others are frequently imposing on your time, set boundaries. Don’t answer every call or text right away if you are doing something else. If you have people who drop in unannounced, ask that they call first or if you feel uncomfortable doing that, ask that they don’t drop in unannounced on certain days of the week. If you have people who are always asking you to help them with something, practice saying, “I am not able to do that for you”. Notice that “I’m sorry” was not part of what I suggested. You should not feel sorry for sticking to your priorities. If you have overcommitted to events, activities, etc., start to back out of, or reduce how much you are doing.
Prioritize what needs to get done. Each month, week and day, think about what you need / want to accomplish. Figure out what is most important and start with that. Notice if you have things on your list that can be removed or that you can delegate to someone else.
Batch your tasks. Once you have prioritized what needs to get done, block chunks of time to tackle each task as uninterrupted as possible. Trying to fully refocus after a distraction can take over twenty minutes. Yes…you read that correctly. If you batch what you are doing, you can focus on just one things and get it done faster and without distractions.
Exercise. Even though it may feel like one more thing to put on your list of things to do, there are so many mental benefits, as well as physical benefits, that come from exercising consistently. Just having 20-30 minutes where you break a sweat can make a big difference in reducing your feelings of burnout.
Practice gratitude. Even when you are stressed out, frustrated, and overwhelmed, finding things each day that you can feel grateful for can change your mindset.
Practice mindfulness meditation. This practice will help you be more intentional about your thoughts, which are what cause you to feel stress, anxiety, and burnout.
Change your thoughts. What is happening around you is not what is causing you to feel burned out. It is the thoughts you have about what is happening that is causing you to feel burned out. I know that this can be hard to grasp if you have a lot of things that you need to get done but it is true. What needs to get done is not causing the burnout. What you think about what needs to get done is what is causing the burnout. So, notice what you are thinking and the feelings it brings up. Then, decide if there is a better thought you could be thinking about the situation. If you are able to change your thoughts, you are able to change how you feel.
It is worth it for you to take the time to figure out what is causing you to feel burned out and then try some of these action steps to reduce or eliminate those feelings. Feelings of stress and burnout will take a toll on you both mentally and physically if you allow them to continue ongoing. You deserve a better quality of life.