27 September 2023

Avoid burnout by investing in your career wellness

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Shadé Zahrai* says investing in career wellness looks like managing workload, receiving feedback and avoiding procrastination.

Burnout is on the rise. As reported in Harvard Business Review, Google Searches for the phrase “burnout symptoms” hit an all-time high in May 2022.

And it’s no wonder.

As we collectively navigate the third year since the start of the pandemic and head into uncertain economic times, we also have our own microenvironments to also contend with.

This is precisely the reason why it’s the perfect time for you to be learning what you can do to help you weather the storm and come out victorious!

In this post, you’ll learn three easy and actionable tips on how to better manage your work life and career to fast-track your success and happiness – without sacrificing your wellbeing!

TIP 1: How to say ‘No’ when you’re at capacity

Prioritizing your workload can be one of the most challenging aspects of professional life, especially where your manager is the one to continually add to your never-ending list of tasks to complete.

The skill of speaking up and respectfully yet assertively making your manager aware of your workload when you’re overworked can be a total game-changer, helping you feel you have more control and autonomy.

We’ve all been there… at full capacity yet given more to complete, which can easily tip dangerously into overwhelm.

This is why it’s so important to speak up and seek support to help you reprioritize.

Here’s a suggested three-step formula:

Step 1: Positive First Response.

Express gratitude (“Thank you for thinking of me for this project…”), excitement (“This look exciting!”) or curiosity (“That sounds interesting…”) about the tasks.

Step 2: Request Support.

Seek support to help you reprioritize your tasks.

For example, “Could you help me prioritize my project list?”

Then, take them through everything you’re working on and ask, “How can we fit this in with the other tasks? Which would you like me to de-prioritize to fit in the new task?”

This is effective because it alerts your manager to everything on your plate and can do one of two things: either help you determine what is most urgent and what can wait, or your manager may respond with, “Oh, you’re at capacity – don’t worry, I’ll delegate to someone else.”

They may even reduce your workload so it’s more manageable.

Step 3: Express Gratitude.

Whatever the outcome, express gratitude for their time.

For example, “Thanks for clarifying what’s most important,” or “I really appreciate you delegating to someone else.”

Even if the outcome doesn’t change, you’ve taken an important step towards speaking up, being assertive and asserting yourself, which builds confidence.

Alternatively, you could look for a practical solution and offer options.

Perhaps a coworker can take on the task or you can split it up and have someone else support with part of it.

TIP 2: Receive Feedback with Confidence

If you struggle when receiving feedback, it may be because there’s some part of you that is taking it personally and feel it undermines your sense of self-efficacy (which is a belief in your ability & confidence when it comes to completing your tasks).

Instead, see feedback as a gift and something to learn from.

When you can actively embody a growth mindset and receive feedback with an open mind (and heart), it not only demonstrates your maturity and professionalism, it can become a valuable source of guidance to help you improve.

Receiving feedback is a skill that requires practice.

Here are four tips to help you receive feedback with confidence:

  1. Don’t take it personally.

Separate your sense of self worth from the feedback or criticism.

  1. Express gratitude.

For example, “Thank you for letting me know,” or “I appreciate you bringing that to my attention.”

  1. Seek clarification.

“Could you please let me know which part didn’t meet your expectations?” or “What would have made it more aligned with what you expected?”

  1. Show Initiative.

Be proactive about coming up with a suitable solution and be open to learning and growth.

TIP 3: Avoid Procrastination

Many mistakenly assume that if they procrastinate, it’s because they’re lazy.

However, there’s a clear difference between procrastination and laziness.

Procrastination is defined as “…to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay”.

On the other hand, laziness is a sense of apathy, inactivity, and an unwillingness to act due to lack of motivation.

Research suggests that the cause of procrastination isn’t issues of self-regulation and is rarely related to time management (although this can be a consequence).

Instead, it’s linked to a failure to emotionally self-regulate.

Here are four tips to help you address your procrastination habit:

  1. Seek to Understand the Underlying Emotional Foundation.

Be curious and ask yourself a series of questions including: Why am I avoiding doing this?

What do I dislike about it?

What emotion am I running away from?

Where is that emotion coming from?

  1. Start Small.

Break down the task into really small chunks.

When you take action and achieve your first small goal, you’ll benefit from the dopamine-motivation link and feel more motivated to continue.

  1. Focus with a Sense of Urgency.

Use the principle of the Pomodoro Technique and set a timer for 25 minutes for focused and uninterrupted work, then take a 5-minute break.

Repeat as many times as necessary.

  1. Avoid Distractions.

Make it less tempting to default to a distraction by minimizing the ‘risk’ – this is called ‘stimulus control’.

E.g. close extra tabs, put the phone away, and turn off notifications.

When it comes to managing our state at work and avoiding the risk of burnout we need to feel empowered to take greater ownership of the situation and be proactive about what we need.

How happy we are at work influences our performance and seeps into our personal lives, impacting our happiness and life satisfaction.

The cost of ignoring our wellness at work is too high – for our companies, our loved ones, and ourselves.

*Shadé Zahrai, Award-winning Global Peak Performance Consultant to Fortune 500s.

This article first appeared at linkedin.com

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