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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

Four Reasons to Be Reflective at This Time of Year

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks

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As one season ends and we make way for the next, it is the perfect time to reflect on our careers and our personal lives.

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks. If you are a career professional, particularly if your career is thriving, you have many reasons to be thankful.

Perhaps you get to arrange your office in the way that you choose. You work with people who share, presumably, your vision in terms of advancing the organization. Perhaps, you are able to take off numerous weekends, not to mention have some extended vacations.

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A Little Reflection

It behooves each of us to stop and reflect as to how lucky we are. Regardless of any current challenges, on balance, most of the time, each of us experience a life that intermittently contains excitement, disappointments, wonders, triumphs, sorrows, and moments of pure joy.

If it has been hard for you to be reflective over the years, but you nevertheless recognize the benefits, here are four reasons why it makes sense to do so now:

1) If you have your health, it has been said, you have everything. While that might not be exactly so, health is still one of the individual treasures of our existence on earth. Everyone who deems themselves to be healthy, myself included, should acknowledge this truly great gift on a continual basis.

2) Consider your family, friends, peers, coworkers, and other professional associates. Within that broad swath of humanity, clearly there are people whom you care about deeply. There are people who make a difference in your life. There are good friends and peers who add great value on a regular basis. For this, we can be thankful.

3) Whether you live in the U.S. or abroad, presumably, you can be thankful for the many benefits of living in your respective country, where you are allowed to pursue your livelihood, make a decent income, are a respected member of the community, and look forward to years more of being held in esteem by those around you.

4) In anticipation of the next few months, and all the adventures and triumphs that are forthcoming, who would not be thankful? Right now represents a time of opportunity. We are not merely robot clones proceeding in life, looking through the rear view mirror, exhibiting only the behaviors and characteristics that we have previously exhibited.

Many Chances

We have many chances to proceed in new ways – to make new explorations, take on new challenges, assume new types of behaviors, and, indeed, even wholesale reinvent ourselves. For that capability alone, we can agree about the importance of being reflective and thankful.

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Break Free from Your Electronic Shackles

You owe it to yourself to have quiet, uninterrupted stretches throughout the day

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As the end of 2021 draws near, it’s as good a time as any to reassess our relationship with our personal technology. I encounter career professionals in all types of endeavors who cannot bear to be away from their smart phones or mobile devices for any protracted period. Their fear is the risk of missing a vital call, one that could lead to, say, a huge business contract.

Today nearly everybody proceeds as if they are constantly at risk of missing out on something by not being near their smart phone or other communication device. Sadly, such individuals can’t consistently muster the concentration levels necessary to executive their tasks. The notion of being immersed in a project with no possible distractions is seemingly out of the question. This mind set represents irrational thinking for many reasons.

Jumping for Every Call

On most days, most of the time, no call is coming that is so critical that you have to be attuned to commutation devices around the clock. Even when a big opportunity comes your way, if you position your business correctly, you don’t need to be overly concerned with having to answer the phone call or the inquiry the moment it comes.

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Establishing notable differentiation in what you offer in your target niche increases the probability that callers and inquirers who are seeking your product or services will not abandon ship merely because you weren’t available the first moment they made contact. Indeed, my entire career, as a professional speaker has been based on this concept.

When someone calls my number to book me for a speaking engagement at their conference or convention, fortunately, they usually are calling because they want me in particular. I hold the registered trademark as “The work life balance expert” and have established this niche over the last 24 years.

Typically inquirers are not seeking a “time management speaker” or a “stress management speaker,” although on occasion that does happen. My strategy has never been to be perceived as a rank and file time management or stress management speaker. The inquirers I receive invariably are from those people who wanted something different and, in particular, wanted me.

Differentiate or Die

Likewise in your business, or in your career, when you differentiate what makes you unique and or better than the competition, the obsession with being available the moment anybody inquires vanishes.

Suppose you haven’t clearly differentiated your product or services. Even then, you don’t have to be totally attentive to smart phones and mobile devices around the clock. You merely need to establish a trade-off between the times when it makes sense for you to concentrate on the task at hand, versus those times when you are available to all inquiries.

Especially for entrepreneurs in solo or small companies, you can offer automated or posted messages that tell inquirers the best times to reach you. Most people can understand and respect that. Yes, there will be instances when the inquirer goes on to the next party down the list and you lose that opportunity. That, however, cannot be the rationale for your being a slave to communication technology around the clock.

A Lost Prospect Equals Death?

Years back in a course I attended, the instructor said that if you’re in sales, for example, and you’re overly focused on making this one sale, you won’t be at your best. The prospect can feel your anxiety. Why would you be so anxious about this sale? The presenter said, too many people unconsciously contemplate a string of potential disasters. If they don’t make this sale, they might not make quota and their income will suffer. By not having considerable earnings, they may have to do without. Their spouse might be upset. Their children might starve.

If other sales prospects fall through, they could lose they could be in dire financial straights. They could lose their home. They could imperil their company. As a result of this, they might fall ill. They might not have the funds to take care of themselves, and then they might die.

In other words, amazingly, many sales professionals, as well as entrepreneurs and executives in a wide variety of companies, approach a current opportunity with the subconscious mind set that if they are not successful at this particular juncture, it leads to death.

The Larger Toll

Missing an opportunity is not the end of the world, even missing a large contract because the inquirer went to the next party on the list. Conversely, what is the toll taken on you for being available 24/7? How effective have your solutions been clients when you are not able to focus on the task at hand, offer your complete and undivided attention, and hence do you best work?

As we proceed into an ever faster future of greater technological capability, the risk of missing something important versus being able to do our best work will become a larger issue. It’s vital to establish parameters now as to when we will maintain “an open door policy” of being accessible via electronic communication, and when we will safeguard our ability to focus and concentrate by removing or at least limiting any such intrusions.

You owe it to yourself to have quiet, uninterrupted stretches throughout the day and the week when you can think, evaluate, and make the kinds of decisions that propel your company forward.

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