Expert tips on how to pace yourself even if that ambition has you fired up and ready to burn the midnight oil
If you love the work you do, it can be easy to get caught up with projects and exciting tasks and adopt the “I can do it all” mantra. But while that can feel like the recipe for a go-getter, it’s also a sure fire way to experience burnout at work. Somewhere along the solidly booked meetings, hours of to-do lists, and high ambitions, you push away from the desk and feel totally drained. No matter how much you like what you do, everyone experiences a moment where they feel like they just can’t anymore.
While your career is naturally going to be a series of ups and downs, there’s a way that you can fight burnout from happening at work. Some days will be rougher than others, but if you know the pitfalls that lead you directly to hating your job, you can side-step them and weather those tougher weeks with a smarter strategy. Below are expert tips on how to fight the tension and drudgery of over-stress at work, and how to pace yourself even if that ambition has you fired up and ready to burn the midnight oil. Remember: It’s better to go nice and easy than to spin out and crash.
1. Get Off The Comparison Train
When you start comparing yourself to every Leslie Knope in your office it’s easy to get the sense that you’re falling far behind. With that seed now planted in your head, you might feel the need to step up your game and take on every project, extra shift, and responsibility you can grab at… which will only lead to a mental breakdown.
Sallee Poinsette-Nash, Business and Brand Troubleshooter tells Bustle, “NEVER, EVER compare yourself to others, it’s a one way ticket to feeling absolutely horrid! When this happens, which it inevitably will, simply thank your mind for the unhelpful comparison and return to the work you need to do to move yourself, at your pace, in the direction of your aspirations.” You’ll get where you want to go eventually — keep at your own speed.
2. Stick With Your Strengths
Obviously it’s important to branch out and learn new things, but if you feel like work is getting tough stick with what you’re amazing at and delegate the rest if you can. Janet Wise, a strategic Talent and Career Strategist at Wise Advantages, recommends over email, “We all have our unique brilliance and we have the most impact when we know what we bring to the party. Look for ways to be a more of who you already are. With my clients I tell them to stay in your brilliance, play to your strengths, and delegate other tasks as appropriate and you’ll avoid burnout.” Don’t feel like you need to add every little job onto your roster — rather, focus on what you kick butt in.
3. Get Organised
Don’t underestimate the power or a good planner or an old-fashioned list. According to emotional intelligence researcher Dr. Travis Bradberry at Huffington Post, “Much of the stress we experience on a daily basis doesn’t stem from having too much work; it stems from being too disorganized to handle the work effectively.” When we’re organized, the load feels much more manageable.
4. Do Something Just For Yourself
Not everything has to revolve around work, and when it does it feels like the 9 to five is more like a continuous 9 to 9, 24 hour circle. In order to combat that, make sure you have a hobby you can cannon ball into after the workday. Poinsette-Nash recommends, “Make time for creativity, something that uses an entirely different skill to your weekly grind and pursue it with passion. What was it that you used to love doing before you sold your soul to the working week?” Pursue it with a greedy-like relish.
5. Surround Yourself With People
Even if you’re packing in the hours at the office, you don’t have to leave feeling like you’re a ball of stressed out nerves. The trick here is to pad those tough work days with fun and contact.
Career writer Sara McCord at The Muse explained, “Sometimes when you feel surrounded by work, it’s because, well, you’re surrounding yourself with work. So, be deliberate about taking time before work, after work, or on your lunch break to step away from the office.” Schedule in dinners, bar hangs, or coffee dates into your planner so you stay balanced.
6. Reward Yourself For Tough Days
Rather than feeling like you’re tumbling down an avalanche with work, spin the hardy work load in a different way. Rather than stressing over how much is on your to-do list, recognize that this is your dedication to the job — and make it feel like a job well done with rewards. McCord suggested, “Finally, even when you don’t get a vacation day, think about other ways you can reward yourself for everything you’ve accomplished. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to frozen yogurt each afternoon, or pick out a new pair of shoes.” That way, even a hard day can feel a little fun.
7. Connect Your Assignments To Goals
Hard work can feel invigorating and meaningful when you’re aware that the tough times lead you closer and closer to a big goal. Journalist Rebecca Knight at Harvard Business Review explained, “Connecting your current assignment to a larger personal goal — completing this project will help you score that next promotion, for instance — will help you fight the temptation to slack off and will provide a jolt of energy that will give you what you need to barrel through that day or the next couple of days.” Knowing that the long nights are needed to excel, you’ll feel more proud of yourself and less burnt out when they’re finished.
8. Take Your Time Off Seriously
Don’t bring work back home with you during those demanding weeks, and take your time off seriously by jam packing it with pleasurable and relaxing activities. Career writer Lisa M. Gerry from Forbes advised, “Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.” By balancing out hard days with fun and interesting nights, you’ll come refreshed and ready to the office every morning, rather than dragging your feet.
9. Take Breaks
It’s not enough to just take a quick snack-machine break during moments your eyes feel droopy — you have to take breaks regularly and often in order to stay in peak-productivity mode. Dr. Bradberry shared, “Physiologically, we work best in spurts of an hour to an hour and a half, followed by 15-minute breaks. If you wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s too late.” Don’t fatigue yourself unnecessarily — give your body what it needs and you can go for longer.
10. Take Control Of Your Situation
Don’t let people steamroll you with assignments, meetings and requests — if you’re not interested in the work or have a max-capacity inbox, take control of your situation. Career writer Tai Goodwin from Careerealism suggested, “Are there too many meetings and tasks on your to-do list? Become a guardian of your time and energy by mastering your schedule.” Bow out of meetings, postpone projects, and don’t take on more clients than you can handle.
11. Read Uplifting Material
When work feels like it could be killing you, re-energize yourself by remembering why you got into your field in the first place. If you constantly keep yourself in a state of enthusiasm and creativity, even those harder work days won’t lead you down a path of burnout. Poinsette-Nash recommends stalking your nightstand full of encouraging industry books, like “BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Pray, Love). In this book, Gilbert shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the creative process, showing us all just how easy it can be.” Knowing that your hours contribute to creating something cool and useful will keep that exhausted feeling at bay.
And when you stay fresh and energized, who knows what you can manage!
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