Everyone has those times at work when you wonder not just how you’ll get through the day but why you chose this profession in the first place. While that kind of burnout may be inevitable after a decade or so on the job, it’s lots easier to avoid early in your career. To stay happy and […]
Everyone has those times at work when you wonder not just how you’ll get through the day but why you chose this profession in the first place. While that kind of burnout may be inevitable after a decade or so on the job, it’s lots easier to avoid early in your career. To stay happy and creative, you’ll need to work around some seemingly appropriate strategies that actually contribute to early onset job dissatisfaction. Here are six tips for avoiding burnout early in your career:
Be aware of the early symptoms
Burnout gives you warnings that it’s about to descend, way, way ahead of the actual event. A top sign that you’re susceptible is the all-too-familiar knot that builds in your stomach when you think about going to work, particularly if it always happens the Sunday night before the work week kicks off. Another warning signal: Your previously bountiful supply of creativity has disappeared. Or maybe you feel detached or just don’t feel like doing your job. Other less obvious signs that may (or may not) be related to impending burnout include exhaustion, irritability, insomnia and an inability to concentrate.
While you’re trying to detect possible indications of burnout, don’t feel bad about being in the early days of a job and already succumbing to stress. For one thing, the faster you recognize the issues, the easier it is to fix them without drastic measures. For another, if burnout continues its course, it could lead to depression, anxiety, and other physical ailments, according to the American Psychological Association. Nobody wants that.
One of the easiest ways to avoid burnout early in your career is simply to rein in impulses to work too much when the job doesn’t require it. Ironically, burnout sometimes begins because you love your first or new job a little too much. Pay attention to signs that you’re having difficulty separating work and personal life. They include never taking a day off, always working late and coming in on weekends and even declining appealing evening plans to get in a few more hours.
Some jobs do require that kind of insane devotion, but if you are the only one of your work peers working round the clock or no one ever mentioned working lots of hours during the job interview, you’re probably setting yourself for fast-track burnout.
Do nothing now and then
Unless you work in a cave on a mountaintop, your job probably involves lots of stressful noise and being around lots of other people. To combat this before it starts wearing away at your motivation to work, make sure to spend some time by yourself now and again. Along with improving your memory and reducing stress, cutting off speech for an hour or so can help you tap into the creativity you need to stay fresh at your job. The silent treatment also battles insomnia and that helps prevent burnout, too.
To make sure you’re going to reap all these benefits, set aside a few minutes to clear your mind away from everyone else and in darkness if possible. Don’t make eye contact or permit any sounds, especially from other people’s mouths. And hey, don’t try to get around this by doing an onscreen meditation. Touchscreens and sounds of any sorts are off limits during this exercise. Make sure to schedule “do nothing” sessions just like meetings and deadlines on your work calendar.
Converse about challenges
One of the best ways to stay creative at any stage of your career: Talk to folks outside your work sphere about what challenges them. Not only will this take you away from self-focused stress for a bit, but it could also give you great ideas for innovation at your own job, which is the opposite of burnout.
Work in some mundane tasks
There’s no better formula for burnout then constantly being on high alert, working on extra-important projects in high-pressure meetings and so forth. To keep a better perspective, especially if this work-life balance is sort of new to you, make sure you’re spending at least some of your time on ordinary tasks. You know, like photocopying receipts for your expense report or being the one to run out and pick up donuts for the meeting. Or even (gasp!) being the one to make the coffee or change the wastebaskets if you don’t have a cleaning crew.
This is not the same as performing those types of office chores without counting them towards your work hours or doing them at home or after everyone else is gone. Seriously. Take part of your day to do ordinary, even repetitive tasks while you’re on the clock. It will free your mind to come up with creative solutions while you’re not even conscious of it. More importantly, it will help you pace your work life as a young professional so you will be happy in your position as long as you choose to keep it.
Especially if you work long hours and have a commute, it’s really easy to fall into the habit of saying no to social plans with people who aren’t co-workers. Instead, keep your work from taking over your whole life by scheduling after-hours, offline fun. Head to brunch on the weekend, or for a walk after work. Start with a structured activity if you’ve already lost the habit of socializing. Just a few manageable options include a once-a-week trivia night at the same bar or joining a community garden group or a cinema club that meet consistently. You may even meet new friends who will help you stay engaged and feel revived, and not just from nine to five.