I’ve always been an inbox zero type of person.
In the past when you used to work in an office, I would cringe at the sight of a colleague with 2000+ unread emails – how do those people even function!
With my new job, I get days where emails come in faster than I can process a response, and a day can be spent trying to cull this content down – which gets demoralising.
Last week, despite many an hour spent clear cutting messages, I reached a point of exhaustion – how could I spend so much time on this task and still have 80 unread emails?
The clock on my laptop had struck just after 4.30, and although I’d not done my hours for the day, I said “screw it” closed the lid, and played with my kids instead.
I love what I do, but it’s easy to get burnt out.
I write this post, not as tried and tested advice, but more as a strategy for myself, to help manage time and stop that flagging feeling.
Here are eleven ways to avoid burnout:
Discuss your struggles with your manager
If you’re in an endless battle with your workload, a good first step is to speak to your manager.
The outcome of your discussion may depend on the quality of your manager (I’ve been stuck with a few uncaring tossers in my time), but it’s a good opportunity to find out what are the priorities you need to complete with the time you have and see if you can get any additional support.
Be disciplined in your working hours
Avoid getting in the habit of moonlighting – if people see you online then some will think you are available and take liberties
It’s important to keep a set working schedule. If you’re employed to work 9 to 5, do your time and finish.
Incorporate a daily review
One of my favourite habits from the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the chapter “Sharpen the saw” – taking time out to allow yourself to rebuild.
To do this, have a daily review where you’ll look at what you’ve done, and what you want to achieve that day.
You can then look at where you have your commitments, and set your free time for focused work (and personal development) around this.
Stick to what you say you’re going to do
If you planned to write a report by the end of the day, then you better do it, rather than being reactive and responding to a flurry of emails.
Sticking to your commitments help with a planned approach, allowing you to be more effective in what you’re doing.
Reject last minute meeting requests
It can be frustrating when you’ve planned things out and you get someone asking for an ‘emergency’ meet up on the same day.
It gets time consuming trying to fit these requests around a busy diary, and from experience 99% of these requests could wait until next week.
It’s good to not be too accessible – set expectations about your demanding workload, and that you’re not there to drop everything at the whim of others.
Set your meeting to always end early
Back to back meetings are a one way ticket to burnout – once I had meetings from 9.30am to 3pm, and no surprises I needed to pee.
Showing up 5 minutes late I was chastised for my tardiness and in my head I wondered if anyone had reported my employer to Amnesty International for these liberties to human rights!
A simple solution is to make all your meetings finish with a 5 or 10 minute break. Don’t be afraid to send your apologies on calls that drag, so you can prepare for the next call!
Switch your out of office on
Even if you’re in, set the out of office to say you’re busy and won’t be able to respond right now.
Set up mailbox rules
Set up a CC: folder for the content your included in for information (and find out those who don’t know how to use the CC: box correctly)
Set a folder for newsletters, set a folder for that “Annoying person” who sends several emails that could have been said in one (or a quick call!).
Using mailbox rules isn’t the solution, but it certainly helps you feel less distracted with notifications!
Take a break
Make sure you’re using your annual leave – take a vacation, take odd days off where you do much of nothing.
When you’re busy it feels hard taking leave, because you feel you’re missing out, or dread all the work you’ll come back to.
Realise there is never a good moment to take leave, prep before you go, do a handover and let someone else worry for a bit instead.
Do everything one small step at a time
Something my wife always tell me
“You can only do so much”
And, like a lot of things, she is right!
Everything is overwhelming when you look at it from a distance, but if you chip away one email, one household job, one long promised catchup at a time, you make progress
Say no to demands on your time
The simplest hack to good time management is saying “no thanks” in the first place.
In this post I shared 11 ways to look after yourself, and to protect your time, out of all these my favourite is just saying “no”.
Someone will always want something from you, and it’s okay to help, but if you have too much on, or you just don’t want to do it, it’s okay to assert yourself.
A lot of my examples were focused around working an office job, but many of them have practical applications to your life outside of work – try some of them.
You’re no good to no one if you’re burnt out and stressed, so take the time to look after you.
Wishing you the best in your success
James @Perfect Manifesto