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How to Rediscover Your Purpose in a Fast-Paced Career

Business moves very quickly today. Here’s how you can keep up and stay motivated.

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Photo by Jopwell
Photo by Jopwell

by Angela Roberts

Business moves faster and faster each and every year. One year, business is booming, and the next it’s disappeared. When things are changing so rapidly, it can be challenging to find a way to keep your motivation up, keep pushing forward, and maintain your purpose. Here’s how you can rediscover your passion in a fast-paced workplace.

First, it’s essential to recognize the challenges that come along with a fast-paced work environment. As the speed of business continues to increase, there are some well-documented drawbacks that go with it, but there are ways to manage them and help improve your likelihood of success. Here’s how.

Know That Multitasking Makes Us Slower and Dumber

Neuroscience tells us that the idea of multitasking is a myth. It turns out that trying to handle more than one task at a time makes us dumber and slower at all the tasks we try to do. In fact, there are some serious long-term effects of trying to multitask.

One recent study out of the University of London shows that people’s IQs drop as a result of trying to multitask repeatedly over time. Even though we may feel like we are accomplishing more by keeping all the balls in the air at once, we are, in fact, damaging our ability to go deep on topics and focus for more extended periods of time. Our use of the internet and social media continues to deteriorate our ability to focus and hold onto information for an extended period of time.

It also turns out that multitasking can do real damage to your brain tissue, too. A 2014 study shows that the amount of gray matter in our brains, the stuff that helps us retain and use information and manages things like our emotions and self-control, is significantly reduced in individuals who do a lot of multitasking over more extended periods of time.

Just like social media use and the constant connectivity we have thanks to technology, multitasking also impacts us emotionally. When we constantly feel like we can successfully switch from one task to another, we get small hits of dopamine, the reward chemical, and our brains become addicted to it. That’s a big reason why these kinds of behaviors become addictive in many ways.

If You “Slow Down,” You Can Undo the Damage of Multitasking and Focus on Your Passion

The answer to all this doom and gloom is to slow down. First, learn to say no more frequently. By limiting the number of things on your plate, you can dedicate more attention to those things that are both business-critical and ignite your passion for work.

Second, you should set times to disconnect and step away from your constantly connected devices and spend time connecting with your friends and family. As I have written before, the time away from work can be just as rewarding and beneficial to creativity and peace of mind as having a good solid work ethic.

Finally, practicing mindful awareness of how you are feeling and what you are doing is crucial. Rather than continually being tempted to look at that phone notification or check that email, ask yourself why you want to react and what actually needs to be done before responding. This will give you the time and space to decide what takes priority at that moment, and you can help reverse the damage that multitasking has done.

Being “Always-On” Means That You Risk Burning Out

It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that being constantly connected and juggling thousands of tasks at once in a fast-paced workplace leads to burnout.

A 2018 Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent of employees report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent report feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. While those statistics are a bit old at this point and the world has changed significantly in the last two years, they’re still important factors to keep in mind as you rediscover your purpose in a fast-paced career.

  Know the Signs of Burnout and Take Steps to Alleviate It

If you see burnout coming, it can be incredibly damaging to your passion at work. It can literally suck the life out of a job you once loved. It’s important to know that you can take steps to stop burnout in its tracks, though.

First, you must recognize the symptoms. If you’re having trouble sleeping, not taking care of yourself, feeling depressed, or even doing your best to avoid work, you may be burnt out.

The best way to battle burnout is to find a way to get some downtime, whether that means doing a digital detox for a weekend or just booking a vacation away for a few days. You can also use mindful breaks throughout the day to help battle burnout. Just taking a five-minute walk outside can make a world of difference if you are feeling burnt out.

Finally, know that you aren’t alone if you are starting to feel burnt out. Reaching out to people you know and trust can also help alleviate the burnout that can come with working in a fast-paced environment.

Fast-Paced Work Environments Can Be Isolating and Stressful

If your work environment moves at a very fast clip, it can both consume all your time and leave you feeling incredibly isolated from the world. If you’re always tied up with work projects and continually having to make cognitive switches to keep up with an ever-growing to-do list, you’re going to feel like an island in the middle of the ocean. That kind of experience can lead to depression, poor job performance, and significantly increased stress.

In fact, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-quarter of workers attribute their stress to work, and the World Health Organization has called stress a “global health epidemic.” Stress can be one of the top factors that impacts on-the-job performance, too, and it can be a tricky thing to manage for yourself both as an employee and as a boss.

Build Your Resilience Muscle to Battle Stress and Isolation

It’s not all bad news, though. You can and should work to build your resiliency in order to battle isolation and stress in a fast-paced work environment. Here’s how.

You don’t have to sit on a meditation cushion and repeat a mantra to become more mindful. All it takes is a good sense of yourself. If you are aware of when your peak productivity is and when you’re at your most creative, you can use those times to your advantage when you are feeling stressed. Got a big project to tackle? Use your natural biorhythms to your advantage.

At the heart of becoming more resilient is being more mindful. If you can cultivate a mindfulness practice and return to it when you are feeling pressured or isolated, it can give you the space and time you need to step back from the experience and digest it. Being able to know when you need a break and what your stressors might be can also be great side effects of a well-honed mindfulness practice.

Making time for breaks throughout the day is also of vital importance to build your resilience muscle. Sometimes all it takes is a quick walk around the block in the sun and fresh air to reset our bodies and brains and come back refreshed. It’s also really good for your body, too.

Finally, be sure that you put as much work into your social connections as you do into your work. Don’t let family and social relationships suffer because you become consumed with what happens in your office. Becoming withdrawn from friends and family is a sign of depression and can lead to poor on-the-job performance and health problems. Think of it like going to the gym: We are social animals, and in order to remain healthy, we have to maintain our social connections and find some time for enjoyment. Programs such as Google Hangouts or even a phone call are great ways to connect in light of recent events.

How to Thrive and Rediscover Your Purpose in a Fast-Paced Career

While fast-paced workplaces can take their toll on you over time, they can be invigorating and enjoyable, too. Many fast-paced work environments draw passionate, creative, and intelligent people who can be inspirational in and of themselves. Drawing on that passion and surrounding yourself with it can help boost your own happiness and passion, too.

In the meantime, staying present, being mindful, maintaining your social connections, saying no more often, and managing your multitasking can make a world of difference in a fast-paced workplace. It can even help you reignite your passion and find your purpose while the business world moves incredibly quickly around you.

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