Do you find that your work day drags on and on and you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to focus and get work done? Maybe you dread going to the office and think you’d rather watch paint dry or even get poked and prodded by your doctor than to have to endure yet another day at your job. These, along with irritability, lack of patience with colleagues or clients, feeling entirely unfulfilled and simply disillusioned by your job, are tell-tale signs that you are burnt out.
Clients of mine who get to this point feel cynical about their work and this often spills into life outside of their job, affecting relationships. They might stay up at night worried about the day ahead, sleep poorly, and either skip meals because they’re upset, or do quite the opposite and reach for one too many pints of Haagen-Daz or other comfort food as a way to deal with their emotions and thus, pack on the pounds.
Here are the signs:
1. Poor work performance. To determine if your performance is suffering step back and look at the bigger picture. Compare your performance now to how it was when you first started. If there’s been a gradual decline over time, this could be work burnout while a more sudden decline might suggest of a rough patch.
2. No control. You feel that you have no say over your schedule, work assignments, or workload. You also feel that you lack adequate resources to get your job done.
3. Unclear expectations. Your job description and title might be confusing or ambiguous. Does the job description say one thing yet you’re taking on entirely different or additional duties? One recent client told me how as a nurse she is doing administrative tasks 60% of the time because of changes in management, and clinical work only 40% of her time. Given that her true passion is in treating patients, this ultimately led to burnout and dissatisfaction.
4. Poor work relationships. Perceiving that you don’t have a buddy or friend at work can make you feel alone, isolated, and even alienated from others.
5. Mismatched values. Do you believe in your work or are you tasked with selling a product or service that you simple don’t believe in? For example, you’re a diehard Apple user yet your job is to sell PCs. This can be a tough one and a person can fake passion and enthusiasm for only so long before it becomes aggravating and stressful.
6. Extremes in your schedule. Are you either super busy working, putting in overtime and barely have a minute to use the bathroom or quite the opposite where days feel like an eternity, are tediously slow, and you’re watching the clock constantly? This doesn’t allow a person to settle into a comfortable and stable work rhythm with moderate stimulation.
7. No work/life balance. Do you lack a life outside of work? No hobbies, interests, or social opportunities? This surely will put undo focus on work and lead to burnout, and of course not allow any outlets and friends to vent to about work.
Here’s how to do to negate work burnout:
- Prioritize yourself over work. Work is important, and vital. I get it. But so are you. And if you don’t have your health —mental and physical —then you certainly won’t have your job. Know what your needs are and prioritize them. Think about who you are if not an executive, or lawyer, teacher, or any other type of employee. The most successful people I know are so much more than the thing that made them a professional success. They’re a friend, a son or daughter, a spouse, a little league coach, a parent.
- Talk to your supervisor. Rather than fearing and avoiding your supervisor, see him or her as an important person in helping to bring about positive change. Most supervisors that I know realize that a happy and content employee is a productive one. Approach your supervisor with that mindset and enlist his or her help in making work more desirable. There’s a good chance he or she may not even know that you’re unhappy, so speak up.
- Mix up the work environment. Sometimes all it takes is a little change in environment or dynamic to make someone feel better. For example, many of my clients have successfully been able to make a case for telecommuting or working from home one day a week. The best antidote (and defense) against monotony is introducing something new and fresh. This might come in the form of a mentor who can teach you new things or continuing education.
- Have a life outside of work. Your workday is approximately one-third of your day. Maximize the time outside of work. Develop hobbies if you don’t have any; make and/or connect with friends; and incorporate relaxing activities into your life.
- Take time off. Rather than accrue vacation time and let it sit, use it. Time away from work can help to provide a new and fresh perspective, allow you to recharge, and of course, expand your horizons beyond the confines of your work environment.
- Change the way you think and take action. Rather than feeling that you’re held hostage by the company you despise or a boring career, know that you actually can make a change. Sometimes simply making a decision to update your resume and pushing it out there can energize a person and make them feel they’re taking action to bring about change. By changing the way you think about work, you change the dynamic and relationship you have with it. If you see it as a means to an end, or as what you need to do while you explore other options, you’ll do much better than thinking it is endless and you’re at its mercy.
For more tips on healthy and fearless living check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.