Burnout

Have you ever felt unmotivated – I mean totally unmotivated? Felt that there was so much to do that you don’t know how you will ever get it all done, and then stopped caring if you did?  Have you ever felt frustrated with what seems to be everything?  To the point where you just don’t want to do it anymore?  Guess what, you are suffering from the signs of burnout.

I know, I know, it is shocking how astute I am, but I am a professional after all.

Burnout is different from stress. They both suck, but while stress often leads to burnout, in my experience burnout discriminates in that it is almost always exclusive to people who are passionate about their jobs and/or careers.  I have counseled a lot of people who have had the telltale signs of burnout, and almost none of them were slackers.  On the flip side, I have had my share of slackers complain to me about how stressful their jobs are.  Of course, that stress they are feeling is usually coming from their manager or supervisor having to keep on them about doing their jobs.  Given that you are reading this blog, I am confident that you are not a candidate for that type of slacker stress, though you could most definitely be at risk for burnout.  

So, if you or someone you know is suffering from burnout, read on!  Even if you aren’t currently suffering from burnout, you might as well keep reading – you have invested this much time.

The HR for (y’)all 4 step cure for burnout:

1. Work smart, dumb-dumb!

Has anyone ever said, “we need to work smarter, not harder!”  Have you ever wanted to punch them in the throat?  Well, don’t, because while it is an annoying catchphrase, there is some truth to it.

First up, working smart can start with simply taking advantage of the various tools out there that can organize your time.  I have played with the idea of task lists for a while, but I only recently got serious about them and that is when my life changed for the better. I have toyed with a lot of different list managers out there, and currently use two: Things for my personal lists, and Wunderlist for everything work-related.  Wunderlist is free, Things isn’t – but it is worth it for me.  Truth be told, if Things had a PC option (or if my employer would make the move to Macs), I would just create a separate Things account. There are a lot of options out there, and I am in no way endorsing either of these plans specifically, I am just saying that they work for me.  You may be wondering why I have two separate apps for my todo lists, and that is simple.  due to the nature of my work, I feel the need to keep them separate.  I don’t want to get subpoenaed and have the plaintiff’s attorney looking at my task list because they might get jealous of my glamorous life and that just isn’t fair to them.  You may not care, and that is fine.  

Regardless of what system you use (Things, Wunderlist, paper notepad, whatever) for me the trick is putting everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in these lists as soon as you think of it.  For more advice on how to get more organized, I suggest David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Seriously, it has changed my life.

Other tools that I have known about for a while, but just started to explore: 

Microsoft Office Apps for iPhone and Android.  My current employer has an Office365 subscription, which allows me to not only save my work to OneDrive, but to work on it on my phone, tablet, or just about anywhere else.

IFTTT.  This is a great tool for location-based reminders, automated (or scheduled) emails, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  Need to remember to check on Thomas as soon as you arrive at the office?  Set a reminder and when you are at the office your phone pings you.  Can’t get any easier than that.

2. Unplug

Anyone who knows me knows I love to camp.  It started as a cheap way to go on vacation, evolved into something that I can do with my son, and has become an all-out obsession.  For me, there are a ton of benefits, but one is that it almost forces me to unplug to some extent.  I have been camping for all of my 20+ years in HR, and have generally been forced to unplug most of this time.  I can honestly admit that I have yet to come back to find a smoldering ruin where my office once stood simply because I didn’t check in every 10 minutes.

3. Relax

We live in a world that screams at us to get more done quicker.  We are made to feel like losers if we aren’t hustling every minute of every day, but this is just burning us out and the result is a fray of a person who is too exhausted and frazzled to get anything meaningful done.  So, take a deep breath and relax, and there is no better way to relax than to block out the outside world and focus on yourself.  

Give yourself at least 5 minutes of a peaceful time not thinking about your job and your duties. Take a walk, calm your brain down and listen to the silence.  I take my dog for a walk every night I am home.  Oh, and I go camping… but you already knew that.  

4. Work less, you bum!

Americans are terrible at taking vacation.  It is estimated that we only take half of our paid vacation every year.  I think this is a sin.  And what about the number of hours you are putting in.  Getting up early and/or staying late?  Working on your regularly scheduled days off?  Sitting on the couch with your laptop on your, well, lap, while your family watches a Tarantino movie marathon?  Look, I get it – I’m the guy with “Find a Job You Love and You Will Never Work a Day In Your Life,”  written on his computer monitor.  If you are passionate about your job and profession, pulling back is especially difficult, but if you’re burned out, you’re mentally and emotionally drained.

So to wrap this up – burn out is real!  It interferes with our ability to concentrate, negatively affects job performance, causes interpersonal problems at home and work, decreases our overall happiness and can create real health problems.  But with a bit of patience, you can beat it.  Make an HR guy happy and try some of these ideas.

Thanks y’all!

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