Today’s guest post is from Johan D’Haeseleer. He’s a writer, speaker and the founder of Extra Time. Johan’s passion is helping others make the most of their time and also helping others reduce their stress levels.
Let’s face it, you’re really busy. Your calendar is packed, yet you are constantly adding more tasks to your to do list, right? If you’re completely honest, you feel like you’re losing control. And that feels lousy. Your inbox is overflowing. You’re not fulfilled in your work. You find yourself moving from problem to problem all day long.
Houston, we have a problem.
The good news is that things will get better—if you do something now. You don’t want to wait until complete burnout or you may have to intervene drastically. To help you out, here are nine signs you can keep an eye out for.
1. Your concentration levels are lower than normal.
A simple task takes you longer than usual. You struggle with distraction and you’re unable to focus on the task at hand. You find your attention is being hijacked by all kinds of signals. In these situations, your mental energy is often too low. You need to regain focus. Don’t wait until you are exhausted to do something about it. Go for a walk. Get up from your desk. Talk to some of your coworkers (notice I said talk, not complain. If you find yourself complaining, this is another sign that you are on verge of burnout.)
2. You’re working more hours.
It is not unusual to occasionally work a few extra hours, but it is a problem when you’ve been working more hours for an extended period of time. You may even find yourself calling your family several times saying that you’re going to come home later or that you just need more time.
3. You lack enthusiasm.
When the morning alarm clock chimes, you find yourself frustrated and not looking forward to the day ahead. You press the snooze button several times in the hope that a few more extra minutes make things better.
4. You check your email inbox more than usual.
You find yourself spending more time in email than usual. Instead of accomplishing your tasks, you find yourself checking to see if you have any new email.
5. You’re more fatigued than normal.
Your mental and physical energy levels are noticeably lower than usual. Instead of using the evening to enjoy family life or friends, you find yourself snoozing on the sofa.
6. You’re not feeling confident.
Urgent tasks and important tasks are finding their way into the background. You find your confidence levels wavering and you find yourself unsure about decisions you have made (or need to make).
7. You lack consistency.
You can’t seem to find momentum or establish a healthy rhythm. You have good intentions, but find yourself not doing the things you plan on doing. You start to ignore reminders and items on your to-do list. Instead of going to work out in the morning, you watch television. Instead of reading a book on the train, you browse the web on your phone.
8. You’re very irritable.
You have a shorter fuse than usual and little things bother you. Your responses are petulant in nature and others may even find themselves uncomfortable around you.
9. You find yourself complaining.
When your coworkers complain about an issue, you quickly find yourself joining in. The problem here is that negativity breeds more negativity. When you complain, that negative mindset can carry over to other parts of your life. And when you find yourself complaining a lot, something is definitely wrong.
What You Can Do About Burnout
So what can you do if you notice these warning signs? Most importantly, you should take a break. Recharge your energy levels and sort things out. The great news is that this doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort. You may need to take a walk or just take the afternoon off. Another important step is to have accountability.
As you think about your problem, you’ll likely conclude that the majority of your feelings of being overwhelmed are related to your work. If you were to become more efficient—or even have less work—that would definitely help, wouldn’t it? Here are some strategies you can use at work to lighten the load.
Quit (Some Of) Your Work
You cannot spend your time on things that are not giving you results. When you stop working on these tasks, you will give yourself extra time. Understandably, this can be a difficult decision to make. We are all creatures of habit. You may even struggle to decide which task(s) you need to stop doing. Trust me, this is time well spent as you’ll save time in the long run. You’ll also free up some valuable mental energy you can use somewhere else.
Saying no is not easy, especially when you have different interests. You may not be sure what you want to focus your attention toward. Take small steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Make a simple plan. When you have a plan in place, this will help you set boundaries and limits. Best of all, these boundaries can help guide you as to what tasks you should stop doing.
So how can you do this, right?
Take a look at your day and find the areas that are not in alignment with your plan. Take inventory. Think about it. Then eliminate all tasks that are not needed.
Do Less Work
This is not as drastic as the first step. Think about some of the things you do several times a day, week or month? Can you reduce the frequency of these items? Consider holding your weekly meeting every other week. Suddenly, you have thirty minutes more of extra time per week.
Consider using the Pareto principle. The rule states for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you apply this rule to what you read, you know 20% of what you read makes up 80% of what you know. You can consume less information online. The eighty/twenty rule applies to just about everything. Don’t hesitate to use it.
Reuse some of Your Work
Do you have work you can reuse? Why not use some of that content on another platform? Let’s say you use images on your website. Why not share them on Instagram as well? Do you have some video on your website? You can upload it to Youtube. When you reuse some of your work, you save yourself time and you can even get better results from your initial efforts.
Batch Your Work
One of the easiest ways to get more done is to batch similar tasks together. This is not working on things simultaneously—that would be multitasking—but rather doing one task after another. As you continue to batch your work, your speed will increase.
Here are a few examples to consider:
- You don’t go into your boss’s office five times a day to ask a question, right? Instead, a better way to handle this is to write your questions down and go in once to ask all of your questions.
- When you are writing something, don’t write and edit the same time. This will take more time. Instead, write first and then edit later.
- Instead of checking into your email inbox ten times a day, you can check it two or three times during the day.
Simplify Your Work
Everything you do is one of three things: an input, an output, or a process. The process is the middle step which includes the work you do turning an input into an output. You can intervene at any of these three points, which creates additional time. Let’s look closer at each area.
Simplify your outputs. In some cases, you may want to set the bar lower. When is a product good enough to be shipped? Some bells and whistles are not necessary and can actually halt progress. When you set limits, this will help you be more effective and efficient.
Simplify your inputs. Can you get the same result with less information? If so, use that approach. When you create something, it is common to overprepare or to spend too much time in research. As a rule of thumb, use the things you know you need for the process of starting (or creating an input), nothing more.
Simplify your process. Look at all of the steps you’re doing and ask yourself whether or not they add value. If they do not add value, remove them from your approach.
Systemize Your Work
You can save time by establishing a systematic approach to the tasks you have to do frequently. For example, checklists are often a helpful way to help you monitor the processes. What is your system to process your inputs? Do you use even though this chart before?
You leave your car keys in the same place to save time, right? This is a simplified form of systemizing. Apply this kind of approach to your work.
Automate Your Work
Taking a systematic process and automating it can save you a lot of time. Before you automate it, simplify the process as much as possible. Make sure that each part of the process is truly required and is controlled. Automating an uncontrolled process will not help you save time.
Here are a couple examples of where automation works well:
- Automatic invoicing saves a lot of time and effort.
- When you find yourself using the same portions of text, text expanders are very helpful. A simple shortcut can paste a large portion of text into a document.
- If This Then That is a useful tool to help save you time. Once you set up a “recipe” you can get an automatic email when it is going to rain, backup photos you post to Facebook automatically, automatically save your contacts to a Google Spreadsheet and much more.
Delegate Your Work
When you delegate tasks or projects to staff or team members, this can give you extra time. The challenge is often that you are the one to decide what to delegate. Not sure how to make a decision? Look at your checklist. Find the items that you keep putting off or you know are not the best fit for your skill set. You should delegate when someone else is better skilled or it is cheaper to have someone else to handle a task.
When a new employee joins your team, you delegate, right? That gives them work to do and also gives you extra time. The problem lies when people only delegate when they don’t have enough time.
Outsource Your Work
In many cases, it is very beneficial to hire some outside assistance. The number of freelancers available worldwide is on the rise. For any area that requires special skills, you can either acquire or outsource. For example, when you design skills are not spectacular, it is better to outsource your layout and web design. This will save you time and you will also have a better overall result.
Do Your Work Faster
There is nothing wrong with working faster in certain areas. I personally learned to read faster by taking this workshop that raised my reading speed from 250 words per minute to 750 words per minute. When I read a longer book, one that is say 55,000 words in length, I now save myself about two and a half hours of my time by reading faster. Another area that is helpful to develop speed is in typing. The faster you type, the more you can communicate. You can save time in this area as well. Both of these skills are well worth the investment.
Wherever you are, whether you are doing well right now or if you are facing burnout, the great news is that you can turn everything around today. Many times, the key is to be intentionally self-aware. When you know there is a problem, then you can start to work on a solution.
How do you handle burnout? Please share your thoughts in the comments.