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Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is regarded as a distinct type of stress related to demands on the job, and you can keep it at bay

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In this ever-changing, covid-plagued era, many people today are experiencing unprecedented pressures and stressors. As the stress builds up over time, these individuals suffer from burnout and feeling as if there is no time for their lives.

Burnout is a term that has made the rounds in business and general literature over the last decade and a half. It’s actually a unique type of stress that involves:

* diminished personal accomplishment,
* emotional exhaustion, and
* de-personalization.

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Although researchers are still exploring the nature of burnout, it is widely regarded as a distinct type of stress related to demands on the job.

At Risk

Who is most susceptible to burnout? Those in helping professions, or in positions that have significant amounts of interpersonal contact. This includes people in customer service departments, municipal services, and health care.

While burnout is costly to organizations, unfortunately, those organizations in which employees feel the effects of burnout, often do little to be of service. How do you know if you’re heading for burnout, or are already there?

Have you been evaluating yourself negatively lately? Does it seem to you as if you’re not making any progress or have even lost ground? If you feel as if you are not as competent and successful doing your job as you have been in the past, you’re experiencing the sensation of diminished personal accomplishment.

Depersonalization

Another clue to burnout is depersonalization. This occurs when you rotely do what you’re supposed to, but withdraw emotionally from what you’re doing. In the health care industry, this could be characterized by a nurse who follows correct medical procedures, and is cordial with patients, but no longer cares about them on a personal basis.

In business, depersonalization can be seen as detachment, a blase attitude towards peers, clients, or customers, and perhaps to one’s organization in general. If you begin to see others as objects rather than human beings, beware, you could well be on the burnout path.

The third component of burnout is emotional exhaustion. Here, it feels as if you don’t have the capacity to respond emotionally to others. Your energy level is low. You are irritated or tense. You know that you can’t give of yourself like you have in the past. Following a long weekend, or time away from work, you still loathe the thought of going back to work.

Emotional exhaustion often is the first of the three characteristics to appear when you’re in danger of experiencing burnout. Long hours and heavy demands can drain your emotional resources. People who may have been optimistic about what they could achieve on the job, and had high expectations for themselves, are particularly susceptible to burnout as they begin to experience set-backs and frustrations.

Antidotes

Among the emerging antidotes are 1) the ability to know, observe, and be involved in the outcome of your efforts, and 2) the opportunity to engage in a self-evaluation.

The first remedy allows you to maintain a mental link between what you do and what results occur. Said another way, it’s highly stressful to work at a job all day long, perhaps interacting with many, many people, and not know if what you’ve done has been of value, or been appreciated.

The second remedy, self-evaluation, involves looking at what you do with some measure of objectivity, perhaps using a chart, checklist, or scale developed during less trying times, that includes most of the key components of your job description and responsibilities.

One of the best safeguards for not falling prey to burnout is to accept the input and advice from others. Your spouse, co-workers, and friends often are able to notice changes in your behavior that may be detrimental to your well-being, long before you are aware of them. Please, listen up when somebody says “take it easy.”

If you’ve ever saw Star Trek: the Next Generation, you know that when Counselor Troi told Captain Picard to take it easy, at first, he always resisted. Then, he relented, and followed her advice. Captain Picard, I postulate, never missed a day on the bridge due to burnout.

Tune Up the Old Bod

Particularly if you’ve been putting in long hours and facing high-expectations, schedule a regular preventative medical exam, complete with cardiovascular and cancer screening tests. Many people who appear to be in good shape find out the hard way, either through a heart attack or sudden death, that all was not well internally. You and I don’t have the capability to determine how well everything is going on inside, solely based on the way we feel and perform.

Some top athletes in our time, among them Pete Maravich, Hank Gathers, and Sergei Grinkov were in top physical condition, but perished at an early age because of long-standing coronary problems that went undetected. In some cases, well-conditioned athletes who act with unknown coronary problems, actually live years past the time when a non-athlete in the same condition would have lived.

By the time you reach your forties, and certainly mid-forties and fifties, heart disease becomes the leading cause of death. Heart disease is brought on by a variety of factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking too much, experiencing too much stress, getting too little rest and so on. Curiously, as more women rise to higher and higher ranks within organizations, the risk of heart disease rises as well.

Surrounded By Workaholics?

Despite the well-known, high prevalence of stress and burnout in the contemporary working world, and the resulting dangers, some organizations still maintain a culture in which employees have it tougher than it needs to be. Too many managers have the misguided notion that only wimps are stressed. These are the same managers who tend to give out stress in abundance. If only they knew that stress is real, and exacts a cost on both individuals and the organization.

Someday, organizations will be held responsible, both socially and legally, for the mental health and well-being of their employees. Until that day, you’ll probably need to accept it as a given that if you want to flourish in an otherwise potentially stressful environment, there are not many places you can look for help. You’re going to have to help yourself.

Suppose you work with a boss who unduly heaps piles of stuff on your desk with little or short notice? What are some of the strategies you can employ to keep your job, maintain your relation with your boss, and yet not be overwhelmed?

When Your Boss Wants You to Be a Workaholic

With great tact and professionalism offer these words, “I’m really over-committed right now, and if I take that on, I can’t do it justice.” Other appropriate responses:

* “I appreciate your confidence in me. I wouldn’t want to take this on knowing my other tasks and responsibilities right now would prohibit me from doing a great job.”

* “I’d be happy to handle this assignment for you but realistically I can’t do it without foregoing some other things I’m working on. Of tasks a and b which would you like me to do? Which can I put aside?”

* “I can do that for you. Will it be okay if I get back to you in the middle of next week? I currently have blank, blank, and blank in the queue.”

* “The number of tasks and complexity of assignments I’m handling is mounting. Perhaps we could look at a two or four week scenario of what’s most important to you, and when the assignments need to be completed, versus what I can realistically handle over that time period.”

Flexibility Matters

All the while, stay as flexible as possible. Frequently, your responsibilities and assignments will change. Your ability to adapt to your boss’s needs will go a long way in helping you flourish at your position,  and diminish the feelings of being overwhelmed.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Business

Bite-Sized Motivation

The insights or wisdom we need to get us going often don’t have to be more than a few words

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I’ve spoken to 1075 audiences at conventions, conferences, and meetings, and have had the opportunity to hear probably 800 other speakers as well.

The insights, perspectives, or wisdom we need, to get us going often don’t have to be more than a few words. Here are 52 of my own six word “speeches,” drawn from my keynotes and breakout session on the topic of work-life balance. Some of these likely will resonate with you:

Choose from what you already have.
Everyone needs breathing space, especially you.
Information overload obscures meaning and relevance.
Deep breathes are essential for well-being.

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Make every day an organized day.
Allow your natural rhythms to rule.
Stay confident and in control daily.
Manage your time, manage your life.

Slow down to plot your course.
Look for the best in others.
Make yourself indispensable on the job.
Compete with yourself, not with others.

Learn to take control of today.
Manage your time to make time.
Take control of your desk clutter.
You’re the best when you’re fresh.

Do something to take control now.
Major projects often require a jumpstart.
Methodically pare down your paper piles.
Don’t attempt too much at once.

Evaluate your situation and what’s important.
Narrow your priorities to stay focused.
Avoid making promises you can’t keep.
Learn to embrace your many talents.

Take the time to become organized.
Become aware of how you react.
Arrange your space; help isn’t coming.
Manage the flat surfaces in life.

Periodically challenge yourself to perform better.
Take long, deep breaths as needed.
Reclaim your places, spaces, and graces.
Start big projects well in advance.

Don’t rush the truly important things.
Make the best use of today.
Schedule accordingly: plan for your future.
Be kind, cut yourself some slack.

Opportunity knocks, but are you answering?
Conventional wisdom has diminishing value.
When practical, substitute time for money.
The market for top talent lives.

The self-reliant survive and thrive.
Leadership requires forethought and super-vision.
Learn from and capitalize on mistakes.
Firmly face the future with confidence.

“Now” holds a lot of opportunity.
Control but don’t curb your enthusiasm.
Treading water won’t propel you forward.
Have you ever really tested yourself?

Life goes on; do your best.
Continually seek out the higher ground.
Luck is distributed evenly, but disguised.
You must be doing something right.

 


 

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Work-Life Balance in Your Life

It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life

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Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.

Supporting Disciplines

Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:

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1) Self Management

Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.

2) Time Management

Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.

3) Stress Management

By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.

4) Change Management

In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.

5) Technology Management

Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.

6) Leisure Management

The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.

Entirely Achievable

Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.

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