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5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

Though much advise has been published on balancing work life and personal life, it doesn’t always match up with your own reality. This is especially the case when it comes to the “life” part of “work-life balance”. It’s true that overworking yourself and allowing for little time to focus on other parts of your life is poor for your well-being and performance at work. It’s also always a bit scary to change a long-standing routine, even if it’s a bad one. And if you’re getting advice that’s detracting too much from work in an attempt to promote leisure, you’re likely to end up more stressed and unsure than you were before.

This last point is what author Matias Dalsgaard noticed during his quest to help people achieve practical work-life balance plans. Rather than advising people on how to escape stressful times completely, his tips take a subtly different approach that focuses on making the most stressful parts of our lives work within the whole system. And, hopefully, you can find some inner peace in the whole thing.

Most people seek some degree of inner peace at work, and it can be difficult to obtain. Work is stressful, and most of us tend to either overwork ourselves or we are, for other reasons, negatively affected by things happening at work.

The struggle to maintain one’s inner peace and avoid burnout has become a standard ingredient of modern working life. Many of us attend seminars on work-life-balance, we see therapists, we meditate, or we seek advice on how to handle stressful careers. The balancing of one’s personal life and work life is a challenge to all of us who aspire to be successful – by whatever relevant metric. It is not surprising that so much is being said and written on the topic.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a tendency to talk about the dangers of burnout at work in terms that provoke fear and panic in the stressed individual rather than lead him or her to slow down. Our methods of discussing the dangers of stress and burnout are too defensive and too reactive. We tend to think that the busyness of work is somehow dangerous, and that we need to balance out the busyness with the emptiness of non-work.

Our emphasis on practices such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness – or simply just periods of nothingness – as means of balancing out the stress of work illustrates this point. All of these things can be good and helpful in their own right, but they all stand for a “letting go” of things. They are defined by inactivity. This logic leads to a kind of life where the “active” is considered to be dangerous and something that should always be balanced out by the “inactive”. We oscillate between the two extremes – fearful of staying too long in any of the camps. This oscillation is stressful in itself.

It would be much better if we had a way of living that could embrace, enjoy, and handle the tough, everyday work life rather than constantly looking for ways to escape it.

I have five suggestions for how this can be accomplished.

1. Work hard

Working hard and achieving results individually or as a team is a source of satisfaction and fulfillment. Do not get trapped in the fear of working too hard and embrace the rush that hard work can give you. If your life becomes nothing but work, you will of course need to take a step back and reconsider your lifestyle. Periods of hard work and excitement should not be avoided – but rather enjoyed. Hard work is part of life, and you should embrace it rather than be afraid of working too hard.

2. Make bold decisions

Burnout centres on the loss of control. People burn out when they start feeling that they are just another brick in the wall, just another cog in the machine. Making bold decisions at work puts you back on track – suddenly it matters how you handle the situation, because the success or failure of a project is wholly down to you. This might sound stressful, and it can be. On the other hand, making bold decisions is invigorating and can inject new purpose into your work, turning you from someone whose life is run by others to someone running their own life.

3. Stimulate your imagination

Rather than seeking ways of emptying out your mind, you can use your spare time to “fill” it with ideas and inspiration instead. Read books. Watch movies. Enjoy art. Perhaps study religion or history. Nothing is a stronger remedy for burnout than being so rich on knowledge and imagination that you are able to mentally rise above the situation. Most burnouts occur when someone is stuck in a simple perspective on life. The burned out individual no longer sees the bigger picture or the meaning in what they do, and his or her life is narrowed down to being about work and merely surviving the job. Rich interests and a rich imagination keep one going when situations get tough.

4. Take time off

Even if I suggest means other than “emptying out” your mind in order to combat burnouts, you do need time off, time to think about things other than work. As does everybody. However, time off might not necessarily mean a weekend or a holiday in the traditional sense. What is important is that you find regular time to let your thoughts, your imagination, and your emotions run freely. Let your mind wander. This can and should happen every day, not only on weekends or during vacations. It is a sign of health if you are able just to let go of things – and enjoy free thinking and feeling. This can happen over a cup of coffee, in the shower, or wherever.

5. Have a sense of humour

The humorous person is larger than life. If you are able to find humour amidst hard work, the work will never control you. There is a pleasure in working hard, but it is important that you are able to rise above the simple problem-solving level of your job. Humour is a perfect example of how to do this. The humorous person sees things from another angle; he takes himself and his work less seriously. This is not intended to produce mediocre results, but rather to not be overrun by work. The humorous individual is playful and innovative in problem solving, and can do so because they are on top of things and not ruled by work.

Matias Dalsgaard is an author, Ph.D. in Philosophy and CEO of the successful Danish startup, GoMore. Read more in his recently published book, Don’t Despair – Letters to a Modern Man, which describes ways of preserving oneself in an environment of pressure and ambitions.

Five ways to avoid burnout at work and find inner peace | Matias Dalsgaard

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Featured photo credit: Home office from the Brilliance range/Betta Living via flic.kr

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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