17 Apr FOUR WAYS TO TAME WORKLOAD AND BEAT BURNOUT
This week I’m pleased to share a guest post written by Brandy Payne, Workplace Mental Health Consultant who shares her expertise helping teams develop workplace mental health strategies. For more info on how she can help you or your team beat burnout, visit www.brandypayne.ca
Four Ways to Tame Workload and Beat Burnout
Written by Brandy Payne
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your feelings of burnout?
You know, that sense that you’ve got too much to do, not enough time to do it, you’re exhausted and frustrated, and at your wit’s end.
While that’s not the technical definition of burnout, I’m sure we’ve all felt something like that, especially over the last year.
If you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone.
And there are things you can do (and your boss can do!) to help prevent burnout.
What Causes Burnout?
While there are a number of contributing factors, burnout is a response to chronic, unmanaged stress.
Unmanaged stress has physical and mental health impacts, and impacts our ability to do our jobs. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s a crummy way to live.
We want to do what we can to manage stress.
There are two parts to managing stress:
- addressing the stressors (the things that are causing us stress)
- dealing with our stress response (the body, brain and emotional reactions)
Today, I’m going to focus on stressors, and one in particular.
There are many stressors in modern life. Interestingly, what’s a stressor for me might not be a stressor for you.
The key is to identify your own stressors:
- notice what’s happening when you feel stressed
- the event that triggers the stress might not be the problem, it’s just the thing that pushed you past your limit
- spend some time thinking about what else is going on, and identify ALL the potential stressors
For a lot of us, workload – feeling like we can manage our workload and that we have some degree of control of it, is a huge contributing factor to burnout.
For many of us, we have more work than we can hope to get done in any given day, and there’s increasing pressure to do more with less.
For workload management:
- Set a limited number of priorities for each week and each day. Pick three things that are most important for the week, and then break that into smaller tasks. Divide the tasks amongst the time you have available. I like to pick one priority for the morning and one for the afternoon, assuming my day isn’t jammed full of meetings.
- Be realistic with your task list and how much time you have available. We tend to be wildly optimistic about how quickly we can do things, and expect that we’ll actually get something done in a 15 minute break between meetings. For most of us, that’s just not enough time.
- Use Time Management Techniques. As much as possible, plan time for distraction-free, focused work. Block off time to do the work, and give yourself more time than you think it’ll take. If you’re quicker than expected, you can take a break (or move on to one of the other zillion things on your list). And if it takes longer than expected, you have buffer time so you’re not automatically behind on the next thing.
- Take Your Breaks (and take care of yourself). Productivity research shows our brains can’t focus for more than an hour. Take breaks to recharge and include self-care (movement, time outside, call a friend, etc) when possible.
A Note for Managers and Leaders
Managers and team members both have a role to play when it comes to burnout prevention, but Managers often set the tone.
Apply the tips above not just for yourself, but also for your team.
Remember: when it comes to workload management, if you don’t manage yours & your team’s workload, balls will get dropped.
Here are a few tips just for managers:
- Limit Priorities. Set clear priorities for your team, and make sure they’re do-able in the time available. Then, give your team autonomy to complete the work.
- Communicate Expectations. Regular communication about what’s expected and by when is critical to make sure deadlines are met and workload is manageable.
- Plan for Shortages. Consider how to shift gears when you’re short-staffed. What can wait? What’s critical? Build buffer where possible.
I work with individual contributors and teams to dodge burnout and improve mental health in their workplace so they can stay at the top of their game, no matter what happens.
For information about training and workshops, and developing your Workplace Mental Health Strategy, visit www.brandypayne.ca.
And follow me on LinkedIn, where I share tips and strategies to support Mental Health at Work: www.linkedin.com/in/brandypayne