Guest blogger Lisa Froelings is a business and productivity consultant with over 4 years of experience in human resources working for a major retailer in the country before she decided to build her own business. Her interests include technology, mindfulness as well as time management. You may connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can find her portfolio with more tips here.
Everyone has felt burnout at some point. The lack of motivation. The exhaustion. The decline of self-worth.
The symptoms of burnout are common; the difficulty lies in identifying when they combine and push someone to a breaking point. If we trace these symptoms back to their roots, two causes become apparent: a lack of structure and growth opportunities in the workplace, and a lack of time with friends and family. These absences will lead to an unsustainable lifestyle in the future, so take control of your work life now with these tips to overcome burnout and increase your work-life balance:
1. Try remote work. If your burnout symptoms stem from a lack of time with your family and friends, try remote work. Not only will you be at home where you can see your family, but you also cut out your commute time, giving you more time to work or socialize. In fact, remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts, and while remote workers should be aware of burnout too, remote work has many perks that can leave you feeling rejuvenated within a week, such as taking an exercise break during that mid-afternoon slump or working late if you’re a night owl. The flexibility of remote work lets you introduce new things to your schedule, ensuring that you never fall into a rut of repetition.
2. Prioritize your schedule. Creating a schedule makes it easier to visualize what you need to do and what you want to do. Be sure to find a balance between them. Set aside time for yourself or your friends and family every day, even if it’s just an hour or two. It’s called a work-life balance for a reason. Use tools like Wunderlist to plan out your day and make sure you stick to the priorities, both at work and in your personal life, that you’ve set for yourself that day. The best way to avoid burnout is to stay productive and happy, so be sure that your schedule includes activities that make you feel both.
3. Channel your stress into productivity. If you’re stressed at work, that’s not always a bad thing. At its best, stress is an excellent motivator to get you to focus and accomplish your goals, while at its worst, stress is a sign that you should talk with your boss about setting realistic expectations at work. However, this isn’t the same as burnout. According to Harvard Medical School’s Steven Berglas, “There’s a fundamental distinction between stress and burnout. Stress comes from facing demands that are beyond your sense of competence. Burnout, on the other hand, comes from facing goals that are too readily achieved or have already been met.” To overcome burnout, don’t focus on stress as a negative aspect of your life. Use stress to your advantage and fuel the fire of your productivity, whether you focus better at the office or release that stress at the gym. In the right doses, stress can help you avoid the boredom of burnout and revitalize your sense of purpose in the workplace.
4. Say no. “No” is one of the most powerful words in the English language, so don’t be afraid to use it when you need to. If your schedule is full or there’s a task that you’ve done a thousand times and want someone else to do, then say “no.” Not “I don’t think so” or “I’d rather not,” but “no.” You don’t always have the option to say no, but being emphatic and clear about what you want and what you are capable of will help you avoid burnout and make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
5. Check email once a day. Take a tip from VINAYA CEO Kate Unsworth, and only check your email once a day. For certain professions, you can’t afford to only check email only once a day, but in that case, set aside specific times to handle email, such as first thing in the morning and right after lunch. Stopping your tasks mid-way through to reply to an email as soon as it comes in reduces your efficiency, and you’ll end up spending more time at the office when you could be out living the rest of your life. Batching tasks and maximizing productivity at the workplace will help you achieve a sense of accomplishment at work and make it easier for you to disconnect at the end of the day.
6. Leave work at the office. In many ways, this is the hardest step, but to achieve a true work-life balance, you need to leave work behind once you leave the office. TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes took a famous stand with this last year when she established that she would not check email or work-related activity after 7pm or on weekends while encouraging her employees to do the same. “Work will happen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if you let it,” Rhimes said in an interview with Fresh Air. If you want a work-life balance for yourself, you have to make it happen. No one will do it for you.
Burnout can happen to anyone, so be on the lookout for any symptoms in yourself or others at your workplace. These tips can help you fend off burnout and establish a balance between work and life, but remember that success in these areas ultimately comes down to you and asserting your own needs. There is no perfect answer, so take control of your own work life and optimize your productivity, understand your needs, and build momentum to live the changes that you dream about.