Burnout comes from two key issues: the feeling that you cannot control what you need to work on (i.e. not being connected to ones’ work) and the feeling that you can never get on top of all the things you should be doing (i.e. the feeling of not achieving).
Take control (or at least feel like you do). Consciously set your priority for the day. Work around things that control you and find the pockets where you can do the things that matter to you.
Set realistic goals and accept that there will always be unfinished work at the end of the day.
Gain control over your work
One of the biggest contributors to burnout (in my mind) is the feeling that you have endless tasks on your plate and not enough control over how you spend your time.
To a large degree you can change that situation and feeling. Some of us have more control over our work lives, some less, but we can all find the pockets we can control and develop a mindset that helps us feel more ‘on top of things’.
If you just go through your day and wait for others to dictate what you will be doing, you will very likely run into either boredom or burnout fairly quickly. Rather, get clarity on what is important to you, and what you need to do to achieve those outcomes or that kind of activities.
Set time aside for those activities as a ‘passion-balance’ for the work that gets pushed into your day by others. Even activities that get dictated by others can get a different spin if you approach them from a different angle. For example you can look at an activity you need to do as just that, or you can see it as an opportunity to hone a specific skill of your’s or teach others by developing best practices.
It’s ok to not get to the bottom of your task list
Chances are that you have more work that you should be doing than what you can actually fit into a realistic work day and work week.
List out the things that you need to do in priority order. Then assign realistic time to them. Knowing what needs to be done and how much time each task requires allows you to set realistic targets for the day and the week.
Work towards those targets and measure success against that specific set of pre-defined activities, not your complete list of things you should do.
As you work through your list, tick off everything that you have achieved, including the things that were dictated by others. Often when we are busy with lots of competing priorities and to-dos we look back at the day and feel like we didn’t accomplish anything. Having a list with lots of check marks helps you realize how much you have actually achieved.
Know what you can control and what you cannot
Acknowledge when you get sidetracked by unplanned asks and fire fights. Take them as priorities for the day and consciously count them as wins when you’re done. They don’t add to your existing priorities, they just replace some of them. Don’t try to now achieve everything plus the added activities.
Some days, all you can achieve is to deal with an escalation, even if you had planned differently. Other days, you can spend most of your time and your energy on the priorities you picked. Don’t punish yourself by feeling bad in either case.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Serenity prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr
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