I’ve written before about how important it is to find work that is enjoying and fulfilling. Staying at a job you hate has major negative consequences. Just as important, though, is striking the right work life balance. Even those of us who love our jobs can easily burn out if we overdo it.
My client, Mike, was experiencing burnout in a job he absolutely loved and had no idea how or why he had reached that point since he genuinely enjoyed what he did for a living. It was hard for him to see from his perspective, but I could see from a mile away that he had really overdone it at work, despite how much he loved what he was doing.
It’s not always easy to detect when things shift and one area of your life starts to take over to the detriment of others. It starts out subtle, but it leads you down a slippery slope.
1. Learn how to let go of things. Trying to be perfect and be everything to everyone only ensures failure. Learn how to say “no” when it’s warranted. Cut out the things in your life that are stressing you out and just don’t matter. The weight lifted will likely be heavier than you had realized, and it’ll free you up for more important things.
2. Establish boundaries at work, and stick to them. Technological advances enable employers to offer flexible work environments, a job perk that employees consider very important, but these technological advances also mean employees are accessible 24 hours a day. Sit down with your boss and discuss what the expectations are of you, and set boundaries on things like your availability outside of work to take calls and emails and how often, if ever, you’re able to work overtime. When you and your employer are clear on what you expect of one another, you’re far less likely to fall into a pattern of working around the clock.
3. Prioritize your time. At the end of every day, do a brief assessment of your daily activities. How did you spend your time? Which parts of your day were most and least productive? Are there activities or people in your day that don’t seem to add anything? If so, cut them out. Your time is too valuable to squander on meaningless activities and is best dedicated elsewhere.
4. Be selfish about your “me” time. You can’t be the best version of you if you’re run down and don’t get a chance to recharge. Self-care is imperative. Even when you hit a rough patch and your calendar seems like it’s on steroids, don’t give up the time that you have dedicated to yourself. Hit the gym — exercise will improve your health and increase the production of endorphins, chemicals that make you feel happy. Take half an hour in the morning to meditate — just 30 minutes a day is enough to reduce stress and anxiety and increase social enjoyment and happiness. Watch an hour of mindless television before bed. Regardless of what you choose to do with your “me” time, don’t be tempted to give it up when your calendar starts to get full.
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5. Ask for help. We are more productive and happier in our lives when we have a strong support system around us. So reach out to your network. Vent to a friend if you need to. Ask a co-worker to help you pick up some slack on an overdue project. Learn to accept that sometimes the demands upon you are greater than what you can shoulder, and humbly ask those around for you help. But always make sure that when the tide turns you’re willing to pick up slack for those in your support system when they need it, too.
We all have competing demands in life, and the busier we get, the easier it is to get swept away into an unbalanced dynamic. Fortunately, though, it’s not too hard to hit the reset button and find that happy medium again.
That’s what I was able to help Mike with. We made some adjustments in his routine, including scheduling time for himself and capping the number of hours he worked each week, and he’s happier in his career than he’s ever been. Take his lead, follow these simple steps, and you’ll be at your ideal equilibrium again in no time.