Work can take over our lives if we let it, upping our stress levels and causing us to burn out while also taking a toll on our personal relationships. Setting firm boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and giving ourselves opportunities to relax and recharge can help.
- Take a break.
Taking a break can help you decompress so you can maintain your productivity and better manage stress—but only if you do it right.
Schedule your breaks. Putting a break on your calendar gives you something to look forward to and may keep you from taking mini-breaks to check the news or social media. Try to carve out 20-30 minutes of break time each day—and stick to it.
What you do on your break is important. Try taking a walk outside or watching something entertaining. Don’t just switch to another work-related activity. Also try to avoid exposing yourself to obligations or tasks you can’t resolve during the break, since this will just create mental drag. And definitely avoid looking at email during your break—don’t even glance at your Inbox before you leave your desk.
Source: “This is the exact type of break you should be taking when working from home,” Fast Company, Dec. 7, 2020
- Don’t self-sabotage.
Are you heading for a burnout at work? You may be falling into one of these self-sabotage traps.
- The overly adaptable trap. Being adaptable and always willing to take on new responsibilities can be a positive, unless you overextend yourself. Being too much of a people-pleaser can lead you to sacrifice your own well-being simply to please others. It’s time to stop automatically saying “yes” to every new request. Start with low-stakes projects, and try to set better boundaries to protect your recharge time.
- The perfectionist trap. Setting high standards for yourself at work is important—but make sure they are attainable and don’t take over every other aspect of your life as well. Remember that nobody is perfect. Try being kind and forgiving to yourself.
- The imposter syndrome trap. Starting a new role, getting a promotion or taking on a new project can make us feel like impostors—underqualified for the job and unworthy of the opportunity. To break free, start by recognizing these feelings of inadequacy and reframing your self-talk. Try to make self-compassion a habit, rather than focusing on self-criticism.
- The over-engagement trap. Loving your job is a great thing, unless you begin focusing so much of your energy on work that you begin to sacrifice time for things that recharge you—time spent with family, exercise and sleep. Try setting clear boundaries around when you work and your down time, and maybe even consider taking up a hobby or two.
Source: “Is Self-Sabotage Burning You Out?”Harvard Business Review, Nov. 19, 2020
- Maintain a healthy balance.
Hard work is key to job success, earning you praise and promotions. But some people take it too far, letting their dedication to work take over and sacrificing their well-being and personal life in the process. In short, they become workaholics. Here are some strategies for transforming those habits.
- Recharge: Your brain needs time away from work to recharge the tank, so to speak. Unplugging and unwinding when you’re off the clock can help you replenish energy reserves to create a healthy work-life balance.
- Set boundaries: Creating a clearer time to start and stop work is crucial to developing a sustainable routine. If you’re working from home, try also designating a specific workspace to help create that separation.
- Talk it out: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you learn how to turn negative emotional reactions to certain scenarios into more constructive and positive feelings. The process can also help pinpoint the root motivating factor behind your incessant need to work.
Source: “When does a hard worker become a workaholic?” Inverse, Nov. 21, 2020
- Don’t let exhaustion keep you down.
This past year has taken a huge toll on our physical, mental and emotional reserves, leaving many of us too exhausted to figure out how to make things better. Here are some simple, practical steps for dealing with exhaustion.
- Start by admitting to yourself that you’re exhausted. Putting your head down and grinding on is not a long-term strategy for success. When you’re feeling exhausted, you need to step back and assess—for example, through journaling.
- Examine your to-do list. Go through your to-do list and calendar for items and events that could be postponed, dropped or cancelled. Ask yourself: Is this a nice-to-do or must-be-done?
- Change up your input. Giving your brain fresh input—maybe by reading a new book or listening to a podcast—will help change the way you think and even how you do things.
- Do things that bring you joy. Start a new hobby. Go for a walk and take in some nature. Bake cookies. Binge a series on NetFlix or Hulu.
Source: “What to Do When You’re Feeling Exhausted,” Eblin Group, Dec. 8, 2020
- Reprioritize now or regret later.
Is your work-life balance out of whack? It’s time to free yourself from unhealthy patterns. That means taking a good look at yourself and learning how to reprioritize.
Take a step back and ask yourself: What is currently causing me stress, unbalance or dissatisfaction? How are these circumstances affecting how I perform and engage with my job? How are they impacting my personal life? What am I prioritizing? What am I sacrificing? What is getting lost?
Now it’s time to reprioritize. Think about what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Are you overly focused on work and ignoring your family and friends? Your health? Is it really necessary to work extra-long hours, bring your work home, and immediately answer every email or work call?
Consider your alternatives and take action. You can make small but meaningful changes by setting self-imposed boundaries—choosing not to work on evenings, weekends or during holidays/vacations; turning down new projects and responsibilities. Or you can take a bigger step by taking on a new role that’s less demanding or allows more flexibility.
Source: “Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement,” Harvard Business Review, Jan. 29, 2021
- Give yourself time for R&R.
Feeling off your game? You may need to start treating rest and recovery more seriously.
- Listen to your body. It knows when it needs rest; it tells us when it’s fatigued; and it relies on us to take notice and take action.
- Do what feels right for you.Take a bath. Take a 30-minute nap in the middle of the day if you need it.
- Get a good night’s sleep. That means getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep; keeping to a basic sleep schedule; developing a wind-down routine that avoids stress and worry by embracing relaxation and positive visualization techniques; avoiding substances that interfere with sleep, particularly caffeine and alcohol.
- Build rest into your schedule. Short-term recoveries might include ensuring you find 10 minutes between meetings to sit in a comfortable chair or stare at the clouds while listening to music you love. Long-term recovery requires taking some vacation time.
Source: “To Be Resilient, Rest Like an Athlete,” NOBL Academy, Jan. 11, 2021
- Don’t skip lunch.
Taking a daily lunch break can increase productivity and job satisfaction. That means making time each day to step away from work and eat lunch or go for a walk—not eating at your desk while you keep working away.
It’s just as important, as a manager, to make sure your team feels safe taking time for their own lunch breaks.
Take lunch—visibly. When managers take time to step away from their desks and take a break, it creates an environment where we don’t always have to be busy (or act like we are) to be considered productive. In the remote work environment, that could be creating an “at lunch” notification, mentioning at the team meeting that you’ll be away from your screen during lunch or verbally acknowledging in the afternoon, “I’m back from lunch.”
Limit meetings at some mid-day hour. Days filled with back-to-back meetings can cause employees to skip lunch. Consider designating a time for all employees to eat lunch or even run an errand or two every day.
Source: “Take Your Lunch Break!” Harvard Business Review, Jan. 21, 2021