Avoid burnout, even at a job you love

Have you ever felt burnt out, even at a job you loved?

I had lunch with a woman the other day who was feeling quite burnt out. As we talked about her situation, I was reminded of how easy it can be to fall into habits that lead to burnout, even in a job you love.

Yvonne recently started a new job, her dream job. But she began to feel drained by it. When she first started this job, she was so excited. She loved her work, and she was eager to contribute to the new place. She couldn’t wait to learn new skills and develop new areas of expertise. She wanted to give this job 100% effort, or more. She began to work extra hours right away, skipping breaks and staying late most days. No one had asked her to work overtime, but as she explained it, “I saw that there was always more to be done.”

Today she is exhausted from working all the time. As we talked, I noticed she kept checking her phone for missed calls, email, and texts. While we ate lunch, she never really stopped working. As we looked over the dessert menu, she began to gripe that she needs time off, a real break or vacation. But she won’t get vacation time for a few more months. Then her phone buzzed and before she could check another email, I reached out and covered her phone with my hand.

Yvonne looked at me in surprise, and then suddenly realized what she had been doing. Yvonne wanted so much to do well at her new dream job, that she forgot that part of working at her dream job included having time for other things in her life. Without even realizing it, she gave all of her time to this new job, without being asked. She was setting herself up to crash and burn from another case of job burnout. Only this time burnout would occur in a job she really liked.

I realized as I talked with Yvonne, that this is a trap for me as well. Perhaps you too can relate. Together, we identified a few tactics to prevent falling into this trap.

1. Schedule your work day, and honor that schedule.

If you plan to leave at 5, leave at 5. Allow yourself time at the end of the day to wrap up loose ends, and take notes on things you will complete tomorrow. It is ok to leave things unfinished. If it’s difficult for you to leave on time, then make plans to meet someone or schedule another appointment immediately after work, so that you must leave on time. If you have been staying late every day, then start slow. Target leaving on time 3 days a week at first.

2. Schedule days off.

Mark in your calendar at least 1 or even 2 days a week where you are not working, but where you do other things. Don’t allow work to slip in. Even when you love your job, you need time where you are not thinking about it. This is time to refresh your energy and renew your perspective.

3. Schedule technology breaks.

In today’s world, technology makes it easy for us to stay connected and stay on top of things. The flip side is that we can get a bit drained by always being connected, and end up feeling work is on top of us, pushing us down. Try this for a week: when you meet someone for coffee or lunch, turn your phone off during the meal. Just be fully present with that person and really enjoy your food and drink.

 

My lunch with Yvonne was a wakeup call for both of us on how important it is to pay attention to the choices we make. How we manage our time and workload can lead to more burnout or true enjoyment at a job we love.

What are the things you do to prevent job burnout? Please share your ideas on my blog.

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