Gini Dietrich

How to Identify and Avoid Work Burnout

By: Gini Dietrich | March 26, 2019 | 
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burnoutEditor’s note: This week, Gini Dietrich is taking much-deserved break.

And in her place, we’re featuring posts by Whitney Danhauer and Martin Waxman.

We also know how much our readers look forward to Gini’s thoughts and stories, so even though she’s not here in person, she’s here in spirit with a “best of” post on the importance of  avoiding work burnout.

Of course, going on vacation is one way to relax and recharge (hopefully).

But you can’t always get out of Dodge at the drop of a (cowboy) hat. 

Still there are lots of other things you can do to reduce burnout. For starters, check out this post by Laura Petrolino on how to cope with things that “fill your stress bucket”.

And once you’re done reading that, here’s Gini:

I always roll my eyes when someone tells me their job is their passion so they don’t need to take time off.

Baloney!

Riding my bicycle is my passion and there is no way my body can handle rides every, single day.

There are rest days for a reason.

Just like our bodies, our brains are not meant to work overtime.

We all need breaks and time to think and do other things.

Our brains also need rest days.

Is Burnout a Chronic Disease?

According to the New York Times:

In today’s era of workplace burnout, achieving a simpatico work-life relationship seems practically out of reach. Being tired, ambivalent, stressed, cynical and overextended has become a normal part of a working professional life.

And it’s getting worse.

In 1996, the General Social Survey found only 18 percent of respondents were consistently exhausted because of work.

That same survey just last year?

It found 50 percent are consistently exhausted because of work.

That percentage is going in the wrong direction.

As a society, we are facing major burnout, which has become a medical condition.

Some are even calling it a chronic disease.

One that vacations and sleep and family retreats and hobbies won’t fix.

How to Spot Burnout Signs

But how do you spot the signs that you’re approaching burnout, before you actually get there?

The first thing you have to do is identify the things that could create your burnout.

Laura had a really good list in her article, and I’ve added the following:

  • Scary changes in your job, such as—oh, I don’t know—artificial intelligence and machine learning doing some of the tasks you normally do.
  • Deadlines created for no real reason, other than to have them, and there isn’t enough time to get all the work done.
  • Meetings that you are required to attend that conflict with one another.
  • Heck, I’d even argue meetings in general create burnout status.
  • No regular routine that allows you to accomplish things at work and feel like you have momentum.
  • Added responsibility to your role, without added compensation.
  • A bully at work.

When you have this kind of stress that leads to burnout, it can manifest itself:

  • In outbursts at home and in the office;
  • With a loss of appetite;
  • By no longer wanting to do the things you love;
  • When you take more mental health days than all of your previous career years combined; or
  • Having zero motivation to do the things you love to do.

And I’m not talking about the summer doldrums—we all have those.

I’m talking about not being able to get your work done, at all, because you have no motivation…for many days, weeks, or months in a row.

Do You Have Work Burnout?

If any of this sounds familiar, you may have the chronic disease known as burnout.

The problem with burnout is we glorify our busy schedules, our stressed lives, our “having it all,” and work/life balance.

So it’s hard for us to talk about being burned out. It comes across as whiny and wimpy.

But it turns out there is no glory in being busy—it’s a badge we should be mortified to wear.

And yet…

The experts recommend you start with small things, such as focused breathing or meditation.

You also should:

  • Take frequent breaks. If you want to borrow Jack Bauer, I’m happy to loan him to you. That dumb dog has to go outside at least once an hour (though this morning, it was five times in one hour). You’ll get plenty of breaks if you hang out with him for a week. Let me know!
  • Get yourself a standing desk. Or you can do a DIY exercise desk with a treadmill or bike. The idea is to not sit all day long.
  • Find a mentor. Not someone who will listen to you complain and ask you how you feel. You can hire a therapist for that. For work, find someone trustworthy who can help you work through issues and find ways to deal with the approach to burnout.
  • Commit to something outside of work. Maybe it’s an exercise class you have to pay for in advance (SoulCycle, FTW!), a date with friends, a concert, or something else that requires you to leave your desk.

And, as Laura pointed out yesterday, a good diet, sleep, and exercise are instrumental in avoiding burnout.

Stop Wearing the “I’m So Busy” Badge

But what if we did more than that?

What if we all agreed to not wear the “I’m so busy” badge?

What if, instead, we bragged about how much we accomplish in less time?

And then bragged about what we got to do with all our extra time?

Doesn’t that sound like a much better life?

Of course, not all of us are in a position to be able to do that.

If you have a boss, he or she may be more inclined to reward the number of hours you’re in the office versus results.

If you own the joint, you have employees and clients and partners to answer to—24/7.

You might travel a ton and are handcuffed to the airlines and their schedules.

But what if you could create a life where you accomplish what you need to do and then do what you want to do?

What would that look like?

I’d love to hear from you—and how you are going to make small changes to have that life a year from now.

The comments are yours.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She also has run, built, and grown an agency for the past 14 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.