We’ve all been there or about to be. The feeling of dread. The loud heartbeat in your chest. The headache that doesn’t go away. Absolutely drained.
Burn out at work is unfortunately more common than folks think. If you are no longer interested in your job, feel less capable of doing your job and just absolutely exhausted, you are burnt out.
See if some of the tips below help you.
Consider taking a day off.
If you are at a point that you can’t function as you used to, then take a day off. PTO or sick or even unpaid. The purpose of your day off is to do nothing. You just let the day happen. Maybe you feel like a jog or a quick yoga (look at you, you health nut) or you seamless coffee, breakfast, lunch and not move from the couch (what a fantastic mode) or you get into your car and just drive. Nothing is planned.
The ONLY goal you have is to not think of work. Every time you find yourself thinking about it — say “I’m thinking about work” out loud and acknowledge it. Once you do, get your attention back to your beautiful day of nothing.
We’re 24/7 in our minds and especially when the world is in a difficult place, we tend to get darker thoughts trapped in our minds. A day of nothing — just flowing- is a break for your brain, nervous system, shoulders (I bet they’ve been stiff from stress) and your whole body.
Make a list of to-do and put down EVERYTHING.
Usually the reason for burn out is due to being overwhelmed with the amount of work assigned to you.
Lists are powerful. They can be daunting but the action of writing down is another way of acknowledging something that’s been occupying your head which may be causing more stress.
The smallest thing goes down to the list: take the dog out in the morning, prep a bottle for the baby, charge your headphones, send email to Jeff about the comps, check with Nancy about resourcing, schedule meetings with HR on upcoming PTO etc.
You will notice that your list is MASSIVE. That’s great — now we know why you are about to lose your mind.
Break down larger tasks.
The large things go on the list as well but they need to be broken down. “Do expense reports” should actually be “Gather all receipts in one place. Take photo of each receipt. Upload receipts. Rename all receipts. Fill out expense report. Attach receipts. Take a final look at receipts. Send report. Remind manager to approve.” Yup, there are 9 steps (probably more if you have the worst system) to creating an expense report.
Breaking down tasks also makes the main task easier to conquer because you are actually making a plan on how to attack it OR you are recognizing that you have a blocker that’s been subconsciously bothering you.
T-shirt size your tasks:
Even though you breakdown your tasks — guess what — they don’t take the same effort. T-shirt sizing is a great way to start categorizing a few things.
I personally use Small, Medium and UGH which gives me three categories:
- Small: Pff super easy, I’ll just do it now and get it out of the way. These go on the smallest post it or get a yellow sticker
- Medium: I might need to get some help or prepare myself mentally but it’s not too bad. These go on 3x3 or get an orange sticker
- UGH: I really don’t want to do this and I am going to procrastinate but I know it will be beneficial down the road. These go on a 4x4 or just marked with some red and obnoxious.
Even though in your head you know what this is, having it laid out visually in front of you changes the dark thoughts into an actionable plan.
What tends to happen is small tasks become an urgency and they interrupt larger tasks. That leads to your focus being broken. The flow is gone. Regaining focus tends to be overlooked in the workplace and can take a lot of effort. When planning your day ensure that you either don’t get interrupted (that phone booth with no windows seems to be a good place to hide) or allow time in your plan to regain focus.
For me: I automatically assume an additional 15 minutes for every 30 minute because I am always interrupted due to the nature of my job. If I have my own work piling up, I simply block my calendar, shut off slack/email/cell so I can get in the flow.
Admittedly — Sometimes I fail at this. It’s fine. At least I made an effort and I need to try again.
Maybe it’s time to move on.
Sometimes burn out is also a sign that it’s time for a new gig or a whole new career. This is one of my favorite mental states. Looking for new opportunities, meeting new people and testing my skills to find something new.
Burn out is an absolutely temporary situation. If you feel it’s becoming permanent with all the changes you made, speak to a professional to ensure that you are not struggling with depression.
You got this.