Job burnout. It’s a very real thing that can happen to all of us, especially those working in the 24/7 world of IT. So how do we avoid it? Of course there’s the mindset of “if it’s work, then you chose the wrong career,” which is a great sentiment and while mostly true, we know that’s not always the reality. Throw summer into the mix and all of a sudden you’re covering the workloads of coworkers on vacations while simultaneously staring out the window at the gorgeous day and daydreaming of everything else you would rather be doing. It could be a recipe for burnout disaster… but it doesn’t have to be!
Thanks to our trainers, our social media community, as well as our own experience, we’ve come up with a list of top tips for avoiding job burnout.
10. Participate. Your company’s HR department doesn’t organize those activities for their own benefit. They are trying to build company morale and community. Whether it’s a company picnic, trivia night, or a foosball tournament in the break room, take time to participate. You might be surprised how much fun they can actually be and you’ll get to know coworkers better.
9. Become a task master. First and foremost, remember that working more hours does not automatically mean getting more done. Have you ever heard the saying “work smarter, not harder?” Working smarter will require planning, but it’ll be worth it. Figure out what your optimal workflow is. Spend the first 15 minutes of your day (or the last 15 minutes of the day) to go over the day’s tasks. Quit putting off those boring, tedious, down-right cruddy jobs. They won’t be any better tomorrow and you’ll end up getting burned out just dreading them. Save the good stuff so you have something to look forward to, thus motivating you to power through.
8. Reward yourself. When you get through that nasty list of tasks, or if you’ve just finished up a big project, take a few minutes to breath it in and appreciate the fact that you’re
kicking butt conquering! A 5-minute walk, coffee run, or fancy lunch can help you decompress and make the transition between projects easier.
7. Get a hobby (we promise we don’t mean that as an insult!). Extracurricular activities are important – gaming, cooking, running, beer brewing, reading – basically anything you can do that will help you completely forget your worries, for a least a little while anyway.
6. Laugh and laugh and laugh. Let’s be honest, sometimes when it seems like everything is going wrong, laughing is what keeps us from crying… or throwing something through a window… or going all Office Space on an old printer. The ability to keep a sense of humor when stress runs high is key to keeping your cool. Try and find the humor in the situation (or if that’s not possible, head to YouTube and watch some cat videos).
5. Think before you say yes. Don’t agree to things you can’t deliver. Be realistic about the timelines. If you tell someone a project can be done in a couple of days, but you know in the back of your mind that you also need to get “XYZ” done before you can even begin to think about a new project, you’re only going to stress yourself out. Maybe an additional project comes up that sounds great, but you know there’s no way you’d be able to take on just one.more.thing. It might be the hardest thing to do, but saying no could be the difference between loving and dreading your job.
4. Take time off. This one seems a little “duh” but it’s surprising how many people never take time to get away from work. Trainer Shawn Powers came to learn this one the hard way. “My first ‘career’ job was at a K-12 school. There was far too much work for me to do, and I worked alone, so if I left, no one else picked up the slack. And for years, I just worked myself to death. Almost literally. I had heart problems, anxiety issues, and gained a ton of weight. Then I got a new boss, and he INSISTED I leave at the end of the day and not work on weekends. My health, my family life, my attitude, and even my productivity improved, even though I spent less time at work!” Use that vacation time!
And unplug when you’re out of the office. If that’s hard because of the nature of your job, you may need to get creative. Instead of reading your work email when you’re out of the office, try setting up certain alerts and messages to come through to your personal account. That way, you’re not stressing yourself out with little stuff, but you won’t miss a big issue that needs to be handled right away.
3. Train others. If you’re the only one who knows how to do your job, how will you ever be able to take time off? You shouldn’t have to troubleshoot over the phone while you’re on vacation. Then again, it doesn’t always have to be about taking time off either. If you’re bogged down with things to do and stressing out, having someone else that knows the ropes means you can ask for help.
2. Keep learning. Of course, we can’t have a top 10 list without throwing this in there. Even if the job doesn’t require you to continue your training/education, why not challenge yourself? Attend webinars, go to seminars, read books… and of course there are always online videos! Take some time each week to learn in and out of your current field of expertise.
Trainer Keith Barker has a great tip for this: “For example, read 1 chapter a week of something related directly to your work, and 1 chapter of something motivational or educational that is outside of your current area of expertise. Get to know someone in another department and ask them to take 15 minutes a week to teach you something about what they do and volunteer to teach them something YOU do. Training someone always brings back my love of what I do.”
1. Be nice. Smile and be pleasant and polite to everyone. If you treat others that way, it’s more likely that they will reciprocate, which helps build meaningful relationships which in turn makes work more enjoyable, including during stressful times. The saying “mean people suck” is on T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers for a reason.
Bottom line is this, you are working for a reason, whether it’s to pay a mortgage, support a family, or feed your obsession for saltwater fish. No matter what tactics you use, making sure you have some way to avoid job burnout will make you a happier and healthier person. Remember that you work for a living, you don’t live to work. Life is too short!
If all else fails, buy some Nerf guns and have daily shoot outs with your coworkers. It works wonders here at CBTN HQ!
Bonus Tip: Don’t get a sucky job. (Thanks for that one, Shawn Powers; known henceforth as Captain Obvious)
Have any tips to add to the list? Share them in the comments below!