You’re stressed, tired, exhausted, lack motivation, don’t want to do what you have on your desk, feel uneasy and have a serious case of ennui. You are wondering: “What’s wrong with me?” and get frustrated and upset with your inability to manage and direct yourself. If procrastination has always been challenging this might not apply so much to you but if you are a strong performer and experiencing a serious case of ennui, it’s likely that you are suffering from a case of workplace burnout. Burnout or not there are three easy steps you can take to relieve that pressure and invigorate yourself once again.
- Recognize that you are burned out and identify why
- Take positive steps to alleviate the burn out
- Prevent burnout from happening to you again
1. Recognizing Burn Out:
Part of recognizing burn out is knowing what might cause it. The Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health identified ten likely stressors that can result in burn out. They are workload, random interruptions, pervasive uncertainty, mistrust and unfairness, unclear policies and no sense of direction, job ambiguity, inadequate feedback, feeling unappreciated, no communication, and lack of control. Are you suffering from these in your workplace? If so, and you are angry and stressed, you might be suffering from burn out. This is not so easy as it is difficult for us to be with discomfort. We are quick to eat it, drink it or Tivo it away. Take a moment to be with your discomfort, it will help you identify the source of your burn out.
2. Taking Positive Steps:
Once you have identified the source of your burn out, clearly define the problem. Suppose you are given a project and present your work only to find that your boss wanted something different. Now you are angry and stressed at having to do it again. Determine whether you should have asked more questions to begin with or whether your boss gave unclear direction. Ask how to avoid this in the future. Make sure that before you start you have been given clear directions and that you thoroughly understand.
If you are regularly interrupted in your work take stock again. If you work for yourself and the telephone is the culprit, don’t take calls between certain hours. If you work in a cubicle in a busy office, would your employer allow you to work at home for a few hours of concentration? If interruptions are inevitable in your job because that’s the nature of the business culture, recognize the reality of your situation and learn to accept it. If you do, much of the stress associated with those constant interruptions should be relieved. For many of my clients this was a “aha” moment. When they gave themselves permission to close their door or tell people “No, I am not available right now,” they become more productive and felt more in control.
If you have colleagues at work who share your frustration, work together. Talk to your boss or schedule an appointment to go together to human resources. There is power in numbers and if you don’t have to take on a fight or the “corporate culture” all alone, you will feel better.
In short, once you have recognized that you have a problem, identify its source, figure out whether the stressor can be relieved and, if it can, take active steps you need for relief. If it cannot be relieved, you must internalize ways to accept it as part of your job or you will never overcome your burn out.
3. Prevent Future Burn Out:
It seems to me that if you are burned out, you want to avoid having this awful debilitating feeling in the future. So, how do you do that?
- Slow down – take a deep breath and drink some water. Give yourself a break. Before you start on the next project, let it simmer, make sure it is clear in your mind, stick to a reasonable schedule. You may have to overcome your tendencies to jump right in, but breath!
- Rely on Support Systems – it could be that going to lunch once a week with friends who allow you to vent your frustration helps. Maybe it would be helpful to get some professional help. Many corporations have mentor programs and offer assistance in the form of an executive coach. Your Human Resource Department should be able to direct you.
- Assess Your Goals and Priorities – make sure that your life is heading where you want it to go. The best example I have is my friend who opened a beautiful art gallery but found that she was miserable sitting in a store day after day. She gave it a real chance but once she knew this was never going to fulfill her, no matter how much success she was having in the business, she walked away and found a more fulfilling career.
What You Can Learn From Burnout:
Neuroscience tells us that our brain is wired for survival. No matter where we are or what’s going on, unconsciously we are always concerned with our long-term survival. When you are feeling burned out, your survival is more at stake and you are bound to be less effective. Burn out is a painful, energy-sapping feeling. But, it gives you an opportunity to reassess what will satisfy you and what you really want to do in your career. It gives you a chance to examine if you are your own worst enemy or if something in your environment can be changed for the better. It provides you the opening to finish what you have started and start anew. And, it sets the stage for having breakthroughs.