3 Ways to Be Indispensable at Work Without Burning Out

Calling all overachievers.

Grace Cary / Getty Images
Grace Cary / Getty Images

When we don’t feel like we’re making an effective contribution to what our company does, it can be difficult to find a sense of purpose in our day-to-day. It’s natural to want to feel like a valuable member of our team, but it can also be too easy to forget our own needs in the process. Research has even found that our drive to impress our boss and colleagues at every turn — a symptom of hustle culture – can lead to burnout.

So how can we feel like you’re making our mark and adding value without compromising our well-being? These Microsteps can help:

Pause before you say yes

In a quest to be indispensable, some people bite off more than they can chew. If being a “yes to everything” person is leading you to the brink of burnout, the first step is to understand what’s causing your inability to set boundaries in your work, says clinical psychologist Michelle Golland, Psy.D. Could it be, for instance, that you’re a people-pleaser, and you have a long-held belief that saying no will lead to rejection? Or does it come down to a need to control, and not trusting your colleagues to do a good job if you let them take the lead? Once you’re clear with yourself about your motivation, you may be more willing to let things go. Spoiler alert: Having too much on your plate can compromise the quality of your work, and that’s not a good strategy for winning over your boss — or anyone else.

Ask for feedback

Many of us shy away from raising our hands and asking for honest feedback – but when we do, it can actually help us see where we can make more effective contributions, and where we can add value without getting overwhelmed. For example, you might be putting a significant amount of effort into certain tasks that you could be delegating to others. Having an open conversation with your manager about your priorities can help you see where you can shift your efforts to make sure you’re being an effective member on the team without risking burnout.

Train yourself to clock out

For an overachiever, there may be no end to the workday. But regularly letting work spill into your off-hours can lead to burnout. To prevent this, create your schedule so you have a set number of days per week in which working late is simply not an option. To make sure your most important tasks are getting done on these days, divide your to-do list into two columns: “critical” and “can wait.” Then, prioritize accordingly. At Thrive we call this “relentless prioritization” and “getting comfortable with incompletions” of those items that aren’t absolutely essential. Ultimately, embracing incompletions allows you to set boundaries and recharge — and bring your indispensable self to work again the next day.

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This article was updated on 06/27/2022

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