It’s inevitable — at some point in your career you’re going to burn out — even if you love your job. Burnout is the soul-withering exhaustion that builds over a prolonged period of stress at work. When entering burnout territory, there will be some pretty clear signs to look for. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you talking s**t about your boss, coworkers or company to your friends?
Are you boozing pretty hard after work?
Are you constantly changing your iPhone alarm tone because you’re sick of associating your favorite song with work?
Are you pushing tasks to later in the day or the next day?
The questions might seem sort of goofy, but if you answered yes to them, read these four tips to help avoid a breaking point.
1. Eat up. Lunch isn’t a luxury, it’s your damn right. Treat it like so. Here are a few things lunch does not mean: eating a Subway sandwich at your desk in five minutes while responding to an email; taking a few slices of the pizza HR left in the kitchen after their meeting; buying a 99¢ bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and an Arizona Iced Tea from the liquor store. I get that it’s tempting to power through, especially when you’re in a good rhythm or making good money, but your lunch break is there for a reason. It’s a chance to take a breath or a walk. Whether you eat or not, try stepping out of the office everyday next week for a fifteen minute walk. You’ll notice a difference.
2. Kayak.com. Take on extra work, stay late into the night, love your job! Or do all those things because you’re new and feel guilty saying no. Either way, use your vacation time. Here’s why – it disappears eventually. At some point you’re going to get an email from HR saying that you have to take a vacation because it’s illegal if you don’t. And when that happens, you’ve gone too far. You work hard. You deserve a beach somewhere. Plus people miss you when you’re gone and dig your tan when you get back.
3. Have your pie and eat it too. When your job is your identity, your self-worth ebbs and flows with your company. Investing in other areas of your life essentially diversifies your identity and builds a stronger self. I know that sounds like a self-help book, but those things sell like crazy so they must know a thing or two. Now follow along with this dessert metaphor: first, draw a circle – this is your life pie; now you’re going to cut slices into your pie – these slices will represent the things that take up the most time in your life; draw these slices in proportion to the amount of time they take up. If “work” is your fat, greedy uncle’s honker-of-a-slice and “family” is grandma’s sliver, you know what you need to do. Balance your identity while enjoying your dessert.
4. Make a friend. You won’t like everyone you work with, obviously. Nonetheless, having some strong relationships at work will sustain you through tough times. If work isn’t going particularly well, at least you have a couple people to joke around with on your breaks. Make an effort to get to know your coworkers. If you’re invited for a happy hour next Thursday, go even if you don’t want to. No one can survive as an island in the office. It’s more than “teambuilding” — that corny HR jargon to get you to be super productive. It’s about lasting friendships that carry on no matter where you’re working.
Burnout is not sustainable and, if ignored, you’ll soon find that not just your work will suffer. Don’t let yourself reach a breaking point.