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Getting Too Intense About Work

Getting Too Intense About Work

It’s easy to get intense about your work. Most people, deep down, believe what they do is valuable and important. They care about it. The employees most likely to feel burnout are the ones who put more of themselves into their job, spend more time at work, and take work more personally. But it’s a major step from there to treating your job with such intensity it starts to take over nearly all of your life.

Are you working harder and harder and feel like you’re getting nothing done? The problem may lie in your mind, not in your ability to organize your schedule. Piling on the intensity is the typical response of a potential workaholic to increased job demands. It’s also likely to be a major part of the cause of the increase. Overwork and frenetic intensity are great ways to lower productivity and increase mistakes and reworking. The employee who is approaching burnout is likely to be the last to see it. Until then, he or she will probably try methods of coping that make the problem worse — like increasing the hours spent at work, becoming even more personally involved in work problems and trying to drive away the blues by increased effort and concentration. You may be able to outperform your colleagues, but you can’t outperform your own limits.

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Surviving Burnout

Don’t just shrug off burnout as superstition or think you’re immune. It’s a serious issue that can wreck lives and produce problems for other people as well. The good news is burnout is entirely survivable. And your teammates and coworkers are more likely to be part of the solution that the cause of the problem.

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In most cases, they’ll already know there’s something wrong. They’ll have sensed the difference in your behavior and seen the change in your mood. If they’re keeping their distance, you’ve probably been growling every time they came near you. Any good manager will already have started to investigate to find out what’s wrong. It’s their job. But not every manager is good; and some see the problem and apply James Thurber’s classic remedy of “don’t think about it and it will go away.”

In the end, it’s up to you. Your health and well-being is more your concern than anyone’s. Change comes best from within. Slow down. Take time out to think and reflect on your needs. Break problems down into smaller pieces. Start with the most obvious bit and ignore all the rest. Then take the next piece. Never try to drive ahead and work your way out of the problem by making still more effort.

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As long as you take on tough assignments and push yourself you run the risk of going to far. What you need it to learn where your limits lie and stay this side of them. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t work for you. Forget the macho nonsense that you can take whatever the world throws at you. You can’t and nor can anyone else. If they say they can, they’re fools. The sooner you slow down and allow your own best ways of coping with life to guide your actions, the better off you’ll be.

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Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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