As you are reading this post, you are no doubt dealing with overload or overwhelm, or you’re concerned for someone who may be heading for burnout.
Let’s look at the types of habits and boundaries you can put in place, to keep you from reaching ‘destination burnout’. But first let’s take a look at the pathway that leads you there. .
You may not even know that you’re heading for burnout, because you don’t see the signs. I know because I’ve been there.
The most important thing you need to know about the pathway to burnout, is that the further you go down the path, the longer your recovery is likely to take.
First of all let’s take a look at the stages and signs…and then the steps you can take to deal with overload, overwhelm and avoid burnout.
It Starts With Overload
Overload can lead to ‘overwhelm’.
Which leads to ‘increased stress’ and on to ‘burnout’.
Which can lead to ‘serious health problems’… and when you become overloaded, you tend to lose sight of what your most important tasks are.
When you become overwhelmed, you stop prioritizing and start firefighting.
Overwhelm can be a natural occurrence when you take on a new role or are in the think of learning new skills. But when it’s workload overwhelm you can’t find a way out of on your own, it is very likely your stress levels are getting out of hand.
High Stress Levels or Ongoing Long Term Stress
Stress is great for getting us out of bed in the morning and it helps us to get things done, by creating some pressure.
A good type of pressure that pushes us to take action towards our goals and ambitions.
But we all know that too much stress becomes bad stress, which is bad for our health, and happiness.
When you become stressed, your ability to focus and problem solve reduces, which can increase your stress even more!
Long term or continual stress puts a load on your adrenal system, which can eventually lead you to serious health issues.
A good indicator that you are overly stressed and under pressure at work, is you spend your valuable free time thinking about, or talking about, your work to others.
Do you find yourself drinking more alcohol, or binge eating? Have you stopped exercising and doing fun things like visiting friends and family? Have you withdrawn from your usual hobbies and interests?
Often just being aware that you are harming yourself can be enough to help you to turn things around.
Try identifying your personal stress signals, and start nipping them in the bud (one at a time).
It’s sad but true, that when you spend most of your days and nights either working, thinking about work, or talking about work, you think you are productive.
Chances are you are far from productive and your body can’t sustain what you are doing to it. When something has to give, nine times out of ten it is your health that suffers.
It can be hard to accept that when you have reached burnout, or come perilously close to it, recovering to your former level of productivity and enthusiasm for your work is going to take time.
You will likely need some time away from work and the sources of stress that lead you to were you are now.
If you continue to ignore the signs of burnout, you are exposing yourself to a range of potentially serious illnesses.
Does this scare you?
Scaring you isn’t the goal of this post. But the truth is, the further you go down the path towards burnout, the harder it is and the longer it takes to bounce back to your former energized, enthusiastic self.
Hence, the constant pressure of a crazy-busy work life (which may seem normal in your circle of friends, or current workplace) is not the pathway to happiness, a healthy life, or success.
If you are finding work and life has become crazy-busy for you, why not…
The 8 Steps to Beating Overload
- Brain Dump – remove the worry and overload from your memory by writing everything down. Trying to keep everything in your head is a big mistake, as it creates overload and reduces your ability to focus on the most important tasks.
- Eliminate Distractions – turn off email and phone alerts to reduce interruptions.
Don’t let your email manage you. Have set times each day when you check and respond to email (2-3 times a day is usually adequate) this can give you blocks of uninterrupted time to get important tasks done.
- Urgency Vs Importance – determine how important something is ‘before’ starting it. Knowing that you are working on your highest priority task/responsibility helps to reduce worry and stress. Knowing what your main responsibilities and your organisations goals are, sets you up for greater understanding of ‘why’ you are doing certain tasks and if they are important.
- Other People – Don’t let other people’s lack of planning impact your workday – be a confident communicator. Don’t automatically say ‘Yes’ to every request. Always give yourself space to think and plan before agreeing to take on more work or responsibility. If you find it hard to say ‘No’ try saying something like “let me check my workload and I’ll come back to you.” Instantly saying ‘Yes’ to other people’s needs and wants is effectively saying ‘No’ to the things you already have to do.
- Avoid Multi-tasking – the time wasted between switching tasks is killing your focus, and your ability to produce quality work efficiently.
- Have a Daily Plan – A short list of things you will get done that day. Be sure to plan some downtime and fun into your calendar too!
- Be Realistic about how much you can get done in a day, week or month.
- Boundaries – The most effective way to avoid overwhelm is to know your limits and put firm boundaries in place.
The eight steps are simple to implement, but they are also easy to forget when you are busy…
Click on the image below to grab your copy of the 8 steps in a series of eight email reminders to help you work through the steps, one at a time.