5 Signs you’re Approaching Work Burnout (and How to Manage it)

Our culture and industry values hard work and ambition for good reason; these are the qualities that make great leaders. But it can be much too easy to overlook our personal needs in an attempt to fulfill our work needs - and soon, we lose the simple art of taking care of our mental and physical health. This, my friends, is when work burnout occurs, and there’s nothing worse than trying to force ambition when it simply isn’t there anymore. 

You might be approaching work burnout if…

1. You describe motivation as something you “used to feel”

When approaching burnout, it becomes a big task to even drag ourselves to work in the morning. Once we finally do show up, the motivation just doesn’t. In these moments, it’s common to reach 5 o’clock with nothing to show but a fuzzy head and an even longer to do list than the day before.

2. You’ve become notorious as the office grouch

Has your work nickname become “Sir Snaps Your Head Off” or “Miss Capable of Sticking a Pencil in Your Eye?” If so, you’ve likely got a case of irritability on your hands that isn’t exactly conducive to healthy work relationships.

3. You depend on food, alcohol, or other vices to “get you through”

Seeking out that mid-day Twinkie or the end-of-day cocktails might seem harmless enough. But if you’re routinely depending on consuming not-so-healthy items in an attempt to get you through, then there’s likely a deeper problem you’re hoping to avoid.

4. “Inexplicable” aches, pains and exhaustion have become the norm

Listen to your body! Minor aches and exhaustion are often not quite as minor as we like to think. When we’re physically and emotionally stressed, our bodies have a way of telling us that something is wrong. So listen up and start managing that stress.

Do these things sound familiar to you? Are you reading this and nodding your head yes as you sip on your third cup of coffee today? Here’s what you can do:

Reevaluate your expectations (and your to-do list)

Manage your to-do list by establishing the top 3 tasks that must get done each day before you leave the office, with 3 more that would be nice to get done. The next day, when you arrive, you’ll already have a plan and you can keep referring to it each time a distraction arises. For those menial tasks? Think about whether they can be delegated or eliminated completely. Use to-do list apps like Any.do to keep these tasks organized and reoccurring in your smart phone.

Repeat after me: “No”

Yet another lunchbreak networking event? Good if you are spending time on career development. Bad if you are approaching a deadline, coordinating a national campaign and have 200 unread emails in your inbox. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re being most useful when maxing out our work schedule, but that’s not necessarily true. Take moments to put your phone on airplane mode and give yourself that much-needed screen-free time at home several nights a week. Don’t answer emails after 6 p.m., on weekends, or before 7 a.m. Your sanity (and your team) will thank you for it.

Examine your career benchmarks

In avoiding burn out it’s important to keep ourselves challenged, interested, and moving forward. Focusing on finding ways to move to the C-Suite level can do just that. So, challenge yourself. Learn how different departments work to benefit the whole and how your company’s goals match up with your own. Find a mentor to help get you moving upward, or hone in on your leadership skills by becoming a mentor yourself.  

Of course, there are no clear set of rules that will determine if you're ready for a whole new role or just ready for a break, but these simple points will help get you thinking about if change should be on the horizon for you.