We all work too much sometimes. I'm guilty of long days and busy weeks. But do you work too much all the time?
You know when you spend too many hours doing work and thinking about work and then it starts to affect your health? You don't eat well, make time for exercise, or get enough sleep. Your stress is unmanaged and maybe you get sick. These are signs that
you're experiencing burnout.
In different phases of my career, I've had jobs with steady hours and jobs where I set my own hours. Sometimes, I'd take my work home with me and think about what I still had to do or numb myself out with alcohol, snacks, and TV. Or I'd let my work hours bleed into time that I had set aside for other things, like family, social events, or reading for fun. On the one hand, I was doing everything I could to support myself and my family financially, but my work was not supporting my health.
Burnout and the ill effects of work on health show up in so many professions, from teachers to nurses, from doctors to entrepreneurs, and from long-haul truckers to freelancers. How do you make work work for you?
A few questions:
What kind of work do you do? Do you love it? In a Seth Godin workshop that I recently attended, I came across a great video with Elizabeth Gilbert in which she talks about hobbies, jobs, careers, and vocations. We all need a job, but that can just be something we show up and do and then go home to spend time enjoying our lives. If you can afford to do something else that fulfills you more than what you're doing now, then set that intention, plan it, and do it.
How do you start your day? Do you wake up refreshed? Do you have a routine that energizes or inspires you? Do you set an intention or daily goals that focus you? I set aside 90 minutes every morning to meditate, walk, and write, and I make sure that I get enough sleep so that these 90 minutes don't reduce my needed sleep hours. You don't have to do 90 minutes. Five minutes of quiet and stillness, 10 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of reading for fun or listening to music, or 30 minutes of exercise are all great ways to start the day. You can also do a quick three-part daily goal setting: What do I want to accomplish at work? What do I want to do for someone else? What do I want to do for fun?
How do you end your day? Do you have regrets? Are you wound up, emotional, or numb? Do you reflect on what you're grateful for or look back on the day's events without judgment. The Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, said that being able to see the day's failures isn't something that should get us down. Instead being able to see where things didn't go as we wanted is powerful wisdom. It means that we see the day clearly, that we have information, and that we can make different choices tomorrow.
More to come on this topic of making work work for you and how to break away from burnout.