In Career Discussions

By Marie Johnson, Contributing Author at Enlightened Digital 

Are you headed toward burnout?

Everyone has days when, under the pressure of a tight deadline or big project, they feel like they’re running on fumes. But when the feeling of being completely overwhelmed at work persists, it can spiral into burnout — a growing epidemic with serious consequences for your health and your career.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported experiencing burnout at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. Although burnout isn’t considered a medical diagnosis, it can have serious effects on your mental and physical health. 

Some telltale signs include:

  • physical and emotional fatigue
  • detachment
  • insomnia
  • lack of focus
  • negative feelings like anger or cynicism

If you’re burned out, your job performance will suffer, your personality will shift, and you’ll be too exhausted to function.

However, some proper self-care, mindfulness, and personal boundaries can help you prevent burnout before it starts. Here are a few tips to avoid burnout at work: 

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Long hours at work can contribute to burnout — and many of us are putting in more time at the office. Over 33% of Americans work 45 hours or more per week, and on average, spend 6.3 hours per week checking in with work via electronic devices. In order to reduce the amount of time you spend in the office, be sure to take a look at your weekly schedule from a 20,000-foot view. Are you spending too much time in meetings that don’t pertain to your core responsibilities? Do you spend an unnecessary hour each day perusing through social media? Take the time to assess where you spend your time and how you can effectively balance your workflow.

Related: 5 Keys to Improved Work Ethic

In addition, be sure to take advantage of any time-off policies your company might offer. It’s been reported that 55% of companies will be offering Summer Fridays this year, allowing their employees to either leave the office early or take the day off at the end of the week. Whether your organization offers Summer Fridays, unlimited PTO, or the ability to work from home, be sure to use these benefits to get some much-needed R&R.   

Keep in Mind the 8-8-8 Rule

Are your days starting to feel like you wake up, head to the office, and work a full day, just to come home and head to sleep? When working a traditional 9-5 style job, it can often feel like it’s difficult to fit in hobbies, social activities, or simply some time to just chill. 

However, it’s important to maintain a proper work-life balance. The secret to managing your time effectively and treating yourself to the work-life balance you crave could be as simple as breaking your day into bite-sized blocks. Many people have adopted the “8-8-8 rule” for this reason, which allows you 8 hours for work, 8 hours for you, and 8 hours for sleep. The 8-8-8 rule reminds us that we have just enough time in our day to work and to spend time doing the things we enjoy. 

Learn When to Say No

It can be easy to say yes to everything, especially if you have that go-getter mentality. Not taking on every task that comes our way can be difficult, but saying no helps to avoid burnout. But how do you effectively turn down a project without feeling guilty or looking like a slacker? 

A 2012 study from the Journal of Consumer Research recommends saying “I don’t,” instead of “I can’t” when turning down an additional responsibility. For example, “I don’t have the bandwidth to take on an extra client right now.” This strategy is powerful because “I don’t” establishes a firm rule about your availability and willingness to do something. On the other hand, “I can’t”, leaves room for the asker to make assumptions about your work habits or suggest scenarios in which you could take on the task.  

Maintain Proper Self-Care Habits to Avoid Burnout

We all know that activities like proper rest and meditation are good for us, but acting upon this knowledge can often be easier said than done. We often leave our self-care to the wayside when urgent work matters arise. However, not taking the time to decompress, relax, and get a good night’s sleep can be detrimental to both work and social life. When you’re exhausted, you don’t have the energy to socialize, cook healthy meals, exercise, or make enough time for friends and family.

Be sure to carve out time for your wellness activities on a weekly basis. This way, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with them. Whether it be meditating, taking a walk, or reading a good book, scheduling time to take care of yourself can go a long way toward arriving at work full of energy and enthusiasm. 

Burnout is stressful, harmful, and can be a huge hindrance to your work and personal life — but you don’t have to get to that point. Be sure to check in with yourself regularly, maintain proper self-care habits, and learn to effectively balance a busy schedule. When you start to see burnout in yourself or others, pay attention to it and take the time you need. 

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