We are all familiar with burn out. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, this natural reaction inevitably finds us when we are overwhelmed from the large amount of responsibilities on our plates. We can’t cut down our responsibilities, but we can decrease our chances of becoming a victim to burn out.
I have been presenting on the matter of burn out for many years. Twenty years ago I walked into IBM and present my first class on the topic. I remember being excited about the opportunity simply because I was able to leave my 3 crying babies with their grandmother for a day. Then, being a working mother with three young children, I was exposing myself to the changes of burn out. Now, many years later, I am an empty nester and I still regularly present on the topic. Only now, instead of having young children, I have my own business. No matter what stage of your life you may be in, you are subject to burn out just the same.
Personally, I believe the main cause of burn out is not only being over loaded with responsibilities, but also not taking care of yourself and not having something positive or exciting going on. Burn out is a combination of a chaotic period of time in your life mixed with negativity, whether it be an actual event that leaves you upset or simply the lack of something positive being present in your life. The good news is – all of these causes of burn out can be reduced and controlled.
Work/life balance is about acknowledging how quickly hours turn into days, days into weeks, weeks in months, months into years and years in decades. The easiest way to prevent burn out and to make sure time doesn’t pass you by is to do what you love and stay excited about your work.
The “Want to Do” List
It is also important to stay on top of your time. Organize yourself, and more than just a daily to-do list. (Even though that is important) I’d rather see a five year to-do list. Have you been meaning to go back to school? Would you like to have children? Did you want to remodel your house? We all have big plans in the back of our heads – don’t let the day to day craziness put them on the back burner. By maintaining your priorities, staying focused and having a positive and exciting goal in mind can decrease your chances of burning out.
The best example I can give is planning a vacation. This has been proven through various studies, that simply planning a vacation – you don’t even have to go on it – causes natural excitement and positive energy. You are so excited to plan your trip that when you finish work you leave work at the door – so when you get home you focus on finding that perfect hotel. You talk and tell people about it, you shop and get clothes for it. It forces your mind to be somewhere other than work and other than thinking about the 900 tasks you have. It doesn’t have to be a vacation, but balancing out the “I have to do list” with the “I want to do list” is essential to our wellbeing.
Another way to avoid burn out is to organize your responsibilities and that to-do list. Now I know this is an obvious one, but that doesn’t mean we all actually do it. Burn out is partially caused by being overwhelmed, feeling a bit chaotic. If you make a list and prioritize what you need to do, the big cloud of “work” hanging over your head can turn into a few various tasks that can absolutely be accomplished. Go at your list one by one, focus on literally JUST ONE bullet point, get it done, and cross it off the list. Once one responsibility is crossed off, then start working on the next one. If we make a reasonable list and go through it one by one, that list becomes a lot less scary to tackle.
Healthy Equals Happy
And finally, you can prevent burn out through maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Working out of course is important, but being healthy is more than just exercising, it is treating your body right. One of the main ways to stay healthy is by getting enough sleep. It is so important to allow your body to rest, striving for those 8 hours of sleep a night is a great way to stay healthy and avoid burn out. Also important is managing stress. Relaxing, meditating, deep breathing, walking – these are all ways to manage stress and clear your mind of negative energy.
So there it is, a few techniques to limit ones exposure of coming down with a bad case of burn out. We have all been there, and we know it is overwhelming and scary, so try using these simple suggestions to avoid going back to that chaotic place. Remember to laugh, smile, and be excited about life. Do what you love and break things down, and then those big lists won’t seem so unattainable.
Wendy Kaufman is the President and Founder of Balancing Life’s Issues, a national corporate training company. She can be reached at email@example.com.