The Daily Challenge: Avoid Burnout


Burnout prevention is better (and easier) than the cure.


Stay Safe from Burnout

Time to Read: 3 Mins

For many professionals, burnout has become "just part of the job," a part that ironically can cause significant damage to their career.  

The MayoClinic defines burnout as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

Research shows that burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to seek a different job, are 13% less confident in their performance, and are half as communicative about their performance goals.

If you feel you may be at risk of burning out, consider how you can change direction. While it might seem more challenging, preventing burnout is healthier — and easier — than dealing with the consequences that follow such a wipeout. 

Burnout has a long list of causes, and researchers put unmanageable workload and lack of role clarity high on that list. When the workload becomes overwhelming and everything feels urgent and important, it's easy to lose productivity and feel like you have lost control. It’s crucial to know what is expected of you at work and how to prioritize. Without this prioritization,  you are more likely to become exhausted while you try to determine where to start. 

Though you may not be experiencing symptoms of burnout, today, spend some time considering how you could optimize your workload to keep you in the “safe zone”.

Step 1: Plan your work day. If you don't already do this, writing down your goals for today can immediately give you a sense of control and increase your productivity. Tracking your to-do list over time can also help you get a realistic sense of your workload.

Step 2.  Align your workload with your role. Group the tasks you outlined in Step 1 into clusters corresponding to different job responsibilities you have. If there are outliers, consider deprioritizing or delegating them. Focus your workload on things that are directly aligned with your role.

Step 3: Set a time cap. Decide how much time you can spend working on the tasks on your list. By giving yourself guidelines you can assign your time to the highest priorities.

Pro-tip: Get in the habit of always prioritizing. Every minute you allocate to one task is a minute you are taking away from something else. This is sometimes referred to as the “opportunity cost” — you’re essentially giving up an opportunity to complete something else. 

When planning out your work, make sure to identify what’s most important, what can wait, and what should simply be removed from your list altogether. Trying to do everything at once is a perfect scenario for burnout.

More Reads:
Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle (The Ezra Klein Show)
How to avoid burnout and thrive at work (Financial Times)
Burnout and the Brain (Association for Psychological Science)

Loving the Daily Challenge? Subscribe here.