Did you drag yourself into the office today? Maybe it’s just the normal Monday morning gear-shift — or maybe it’s a sign of a bigger problem. If it’s getting harder and harder to go to work, and you’re getting less done while you’re there, it’s time to consider whether you’re dealing with job burnout, and not just normal day-to-day stress.
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At Forbes, Lisa M. Gerry describes a period of time in her career when she burned the candle and both ends and wound up too exhausted to be productive:
As time went by, any semblance of a balanced life went out the window. I had no energy or desire to hang out with my friends, I was neglecting my health and I had become disillusioned with my work. There wasn’t one single catalyst — it wasn’t that I stopped liking the kind of work I did, generally speaking.
Instead, it was a classic case of burnout: multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time left me totally drained and no longer performing at my best. In a few short years, I went from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to seriously burnt out.
To avoid winding up in the same spot, you need to recognize the signs of burnout, before you have to restructure your whole life — or worse, quit your job. Here’s what to watch out for:
1. Cynicism and detachment.
2. Feeling ineffective or unproductive.
3. Cognitive difficulties, including forgetfulness.
4. Low energy.
5. Lack of patience.
6. Changing sleep habits.
7. Work-life balance problems, including having difficulty finding time for friends, family, hobbies, or exercise.
8. Frequent illness.
9. Anxiety and/or depression.
10. Abusing food, drugs, or alcohol.
If you recognize some of these signs in yourself, now’s the time to make changes — before work starts piling up and you’re faced with losing your job or trying to find another one in a hurry.
The first step is to figure out how much of your situation is within your control. Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to work-life balance. If you’re working nights and weekends to impress the boss, consider whether you’d be better off taking some time to unplug. That doesn’t mean you can never put in extra hours; it just means that you need to pick and choose when to do more, and when to take care of yourself.
Next, remember that if you don’t take care of your body, you can’t do your best work or live your best life. Schedule exercise and rest in your actual calendar, if you have to, but make time for it the way you’d make time for a meeting with your manager.
Finally, if you truly can’t carve out more time to rest, recharge, and look after yourself, consider whether this is the job for you. It’s better to start looking for a new job well before you get to the point where you’re too burned out to do well at the one you have. It can take months to find a new job, especially as you climb up the corporate ladder, so it’s best to start as soon as possible. That way, you won’t be at less than your best during the interview process, and you won’t be tempted to jump at the first offer you receive, possibly landing in a worse position than the one you’re in now.
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