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11 Simple Ways To Avoid Burnout

11 Simple Ways To Avoid Burnout

    Are you exhausted, annoyed, and ready to throw in the towel on something that once made you leap out of bed with joy every morning? I know that feeling well. It’s one I suffered from often in the past and still encounter occasionally. It typically signals an impending burnout.

    Not the type of burnout you get from dropping your 93 Honda Civic into 3rd gear at 6,000 rpm’s. The type of burnout that makes you avoid work, question the value of your existence, and eat large quantities of Oreo cookies while watching bad television.

    How can you avoid burnout and stay in a productive rhythm? Here are 11 ways you can start safeguarding your life against burnout:

    1. Schedule regular social activities

    Remember when you used to spend time with people you were neither working with nor sleeping with? You watched movies, ate meals, played games, and went on trips. You were active and you had fun!

    You can regain some of that emotional fulfillment by contacting some of your old pals and scheduling regular activities. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Sure, rafting in Alaska would be fun but a monthly brunch with people you don’t see every day will do just fine. The point of this exercise is to expand your social horizon and crush the feeling that you’re stuck doing the same thing every day.

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    2. Follow a fitness plan

    Why we give up exercise in order to sit in a chair and work for an extra hour at a lower level of intensity is beyond me. I used to do it myself. I dealt with stress by eating and worked instead of working out. The result? Not only did I burn out but I got really chubby, too!

    If you want to avoid burnout, resurrect that New Year’s Resolution and figure out what it takes to get you exercising on a regular basis. Apart from all the physical benefits of exercise, you’ll enjoy the mental satisfaction of knowing that you’re taking good care of yourself again.

    3. Pursue a hobby

    Pick a hobby that has little or nothing to do with what you spend most of your week doing and pursue it with passion! A hobby that uses an entirely different skill set can provide your heart and mind with a satisfying break from the weekly grind and set you on a good path for increased productivity.

    You probably won’t even need to worry about picking a new hobby out. The one you abandoned when you sold your soul to the work week is waiting for you to return. Shine up those golf clubs, get out the fishing gear, or buy a new pair of boxing gloves and get moving!

    4. Volunteer

    Nothing brightens the soul or warms the senses like giving to another for no reason other than to give. If you’re feeling run down by life, I implore you to seek out somebody less fortunate than yourself and work to help them.

    Reach out to your local soup kitchen or professional organization and ask for referrals to local places that need your help. They’ll be glad to get you started and you’ll soon forget about badly you thought you had it!

    5. Write a manifesto

    Have you forgotten what you want out of life? It’s easy to lose track of time and even easier to forget about what makes us glad to be alive. What can you do to bring back that focus? Take a day or perhaps an entire weekend and write a manifesto, a declaration of purpose, for yourself.

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    The process will give you focus as you put your intentions into writing. You’ll also discover that stepping back and looking at your life as a whole has a way of putting the stresses of the moment into perspective.

    6. Ask for help

    This is a tough one, especially if you’re a resourceful I’ll-do-it-on-my-own type of person like me. But it’s worth the time it takes to ask for help making sense of something that’s been dragging you down. It’s worth the embarrassment of admitting that you can’t do something on your own to really get help.

    Whether your struggle is with a particular part of a project or with something general, like time management, asking for help will get you to a solution faster than you could ever hope to alone. If you want to avoid burnout, you’ll need to swallow your pride on occasion and reach out for help.

    7. Make others laugh

    Humor keeps us sane even through the most stressful of circumstances. Laughter is fun and a great way to reduce stress. Even better, finding ways to make others laugh doesn’t just reduce stress for all involved. It allows you to begin viewing yourself as a source of fun and laughter in your social or work group.

    You’ll find it hard to be glum and entertain unhappy thoughts when the people around you are excited and happy to be near you. There’s no need to be a genius comedian. Start out by learning a few good jokes and add as you go!

    8. Make an escape list

    An “escape list” is a list of everything you’d need to do in order to escape a situation that’s driving you nuts. In a work context, your escape list might include things like turning in a final presentation or asking for a raise. It might also include smaller things like submitting your resume to a new opportunity or drafting a letter of resignation!

    You might never follow up on the items in your escape list but the process of writing one will help clarify in your mind that you are not truly stuck. You have options. Perhaps not the best or most fun options, but you are certainly not stuck.

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    9. Embrace a morning ritual

    Are you starting your day on the wrong foot by waking up late, rushing about, and skipping out the door at the last minute? Try slowing down your morning instead. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual and spend the “extra” time sitting in a sunny spot in your living room with a cup of coffee and a good book.

    As you slowly add more to your morning, you’ll develop a fierce attachment to “your” time. Why? Because you’ve chosen to start your day with a focus on taking care of yourself instead of busting out of bed like a bomb squad.

    10. Stop making excuses

    Is everything that’s dragging you down right now because of something your boss, partner, friend, or client did? Getting caught up in how much everybody else is screwing up will put you on the fast track to gray hair and a stupendous burnout.

    The fix? Accept responsibility for your part of the problems that plague you. Then start digging your way out. Once you’ve given up on blaming others you’ll start seeing more of the good in your life and the sordid claws of desperate solitary thought will no longer draw you down.

    11. Be accountable

    Accountability is something we’re all familiar with but rarely put into useful practice. You can use accountability to drive your personal development and avoid burnout. The trick is find somebody you can trust to give the down and dirty on what you’re trying to do and how you’re moving forward.

    For best results, have your accountability partner NOT be a relative or somebody you’re dating. They typically won’t have the capacity for objective review of your progress. People who love you will often make excuses for you and you want to avoid excuses at all costs.

    “Accountability breeds response-ability.” ~Stephen R Covey

    Avoiding burnout is a matter of constant vigilance and regular maintenance. What are you doing to avoid burnout? Do you have any tips to add? I’m glad for your thoughts!

    Seth Simonds is an editor here at Lifehack.org. Have a lifehacking tip and want to be featured in a future article? Follow @lifehackorg on Twitter, say hello, and we’ll go from there.

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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