Tara Collins

Last week Jennifer Doron shared why it’s important to slow down when you are at work. Today, Tara Collins shares what you can do to avoid burning out while at work. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Tara Collins of Watershed Agriculture Council 

No one on their Death Bed ever says, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” So why is it that we push ourselves beyond the acceptable workload, put unneeded pressure on ourselves to perform, and spend countless hours at work long beyond the 9-to-5, 5-day work week?

Work burnout is inevitable. If you work in the nonprofit sector, chances are you work with limited staff, fewer resources, and tsunami deadlines. Motivated by passion, you push and push, give and give, until you’re spent. But what good are you to your cause if you’ve lost the drive and motivation for your work?  Step away from the work and assess where you’re at – Do you need a break?

You may have work burnout if:

  • You find yourself putting out fires every day.
  • You think creative expression involves deleting old messages from your Inbox.
  • You bring home work each night (and you never get to it).
  • You bring home work in a bag (no longer a briefcase because it doesn’t fit). In extreme cases, you bring home multiple bags, dedicated by project content.
  • Your project bag(s) trigger the passenger seat weight limit and your car encourages you to fasten the seat belt.
  • Your spouse/partner, who used to call to remind you to leave the office at 4:30, now simply texts you at 5:15, 6:30 and at 8 with “????”
  • Your kids are Skyping just so they can see you before bedtime.
  • You think your desk is wood, but you’re not sure any more.
  • Your last official vacation was… well… you don’t remember.

Wave your White Flag and surrender. Burnout, job stress, whatever you call it, is bad for your health, unproductive and erodes your self-esteem. Restore your relationships with family and friends, resurrect your job passion, and renew your sanity. You can reconnect with what’s important in Life, and Work, with a few changes to your daily routine. 

Ditch the Bag: Unless you absolutely have to read (or need) something for an 8 a.m. meeting, stop bringing home a briefcase laden with projects.  Leave your project bag at work until Friday. Better yet, work on work projects ONLY at work. 

Take a walk: Move one-on-one meetings outdoors for a 20-minute, walk-n-talk. Few co-workers will argue the excuse to get outside and spend constructive time out of the office chair. Upon return, use 10 minutes to finalize next steps. 

Get high: Look at your project list (or pile). Select ONE that you desperately want to tackle, the one that will give you the most satisfaction upon completion. Use two hours to plan out that project. This single step towards project fulfillment will boost your self-esteem and endorphins. Enjoy the rush. 

Rejuice your creativity: Draw a smiley face of your white board, cut a paper snowflake for your bulletin board, sail a paper airplane. Remember what makes for fun and inspiration. Start your day with a simple expression. Stuck for what to do? When all else fails, just close your eyes and say “Thank you.” 

Spruce up your work space: Buy flowers for your office. Declutter your desk. Organize. File. PURGE. You can’t function on top of piles of papers or work on something you can’t find. 

Stop “Shoulding”: If you should be doing it, then do it. Or let it go. Constant recircling back around to undone work is unproductive and takes energy from what requires your attention, focus and creativity. 

Take a Break: The work will all be there (and then some) when you get back from vacation. But you need time away to reconnect with spouses, partners, children, friends, and yourself. It’s these relationships that matter most in Life. You can, and will, return renewed, refreshed and rejuvenated. A clear mind helps you reprioritize what’s important; a rested body is ready to engage the tasks ahead.

In the end, it’s really about the Life you live. When you put Life first, Work placed in perspective becomes more manageable. So wave your White Flag vigorously, and walk out of the trenches with your head held high. Surrender to Life and enjoy the embrace of time away from work! 

How do you wave your White Flag? What do you do to avoid job burnout? 

Tara Collins is Communications Director for the Watershed Agricultural Council and is resurrecting a family business with her father, The Sand Agency. She recently renounced her Bag Lady title, confirms a wood-laminate work desk, and brings flowers from her garden to work every Monday morning.