Over the past few years, I have read dozens of articles, posts, etc. on how workers are burnt out. Articles that read "4 Steps to Beating Burnout" or articles that offer solutions like "people are working too many hours."
I'm not going to ignore the fact that the U.S is behind many developed countries in average working hours per week. The average full-time worker in Germany works 1,317 hours per year vs 1,790 hours in the U.S. That's a 27% difference in hours which is substantial. However, the average U.S. worker does work 2 fewer hours per week than 40 years ago. The average worker in 1850 in the U.S. worked 65 hours per week!
On paper, it doesn't appear we should be overworked but we feel that way. Aside from the income inequality and other social issues that need to be solved. Why are so many people feeling burnout?
I understand that some career paths demand a massive workload. From startup CEOs, medical professionals, and people with a career that demands insane workloads that go beyond the scope of the average work hours per week. If you are someone who works a normal work week and still feels burnout, keep reading.
Let's define burnout. Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization as:
”Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."
If you feel run down by your job, these can be some of the characteristics of burnout.
Signs Of Burnout
You Are Not Performing As Well As You Know You Could Be
Do you ever have that voice in your head telling you, I can do better at my job? You willingly ignore that voice and end up with a hundred projects 10% done because you're trying to do everything at once. This is known as inefficacy.
Inefficacy is when you have feelings of incompetence or lack of achievement. It can be hard when you feel like you're spinning your wheels all day and not doing anything productive. As human beings, we like to be a productive part of a group that is working towards a common goal. When I mean a common goal, I mean a goal that is important to you.
When your values and your employer's values don't align, you start to trade away your identity for a paycheck. Every day you go to that job a piece of you is lost in not pursuing something that is valuable to you.
You Feel Exhausted By The End Of The Day
I have often wondered to myself, how is it that I can literally run for 12 hours straight but also feel exhausted after getting home from a job where I sat down for a majority of the day?
This part of it was all in the work I was doing. I used to work a job where I had hit a dead end for career advancement until someone quit or retired and everything felt uninspiring.
This led me to not have any goals. The only goal was to do the job and the job itself was no longer fulfilling. The new goal became to find a new job. I found that new job that was closer to home and I gained back a few hours a day which has allowed me to have some extra time to work on the things I care about.
Having that extra time to work on the things I care about each day, has given me new life back.
Thinking About Work All The Time
When anxiety about work is running rampant through your mind, problems manifest. Work bleeds into our mental real estate.
This can make it difficult to be present. You will begin to miss out on enjoying the moments of life that you wish to enjoy. You may not understand why you're not having fun when you're out with friends or why you don't want to socialize.
We all let our stress out in different ways. Some people let the energy out by going crazy on the weekends, others recluse into their shell. Observe your own behavior and determine if that's you or a coping mechanism. It can be difficult if you have been in this same thought pattern for years. The longer you have been doing it, the more it becomes a part of your identity.
How To Fix Burnout
Determine If Your Career Gives You Inspiration
Does your career inspire you? Do you enjoy what you do? If you do enjoy what you do and are feeling burnout, work on managing your stress. Practice meditation, journal, and reflect on what you can and cannot do.
When you're uninspired by your career and overworking yourself, you lose a part of your soul. You begin to question who you are because you may have spent the last several years trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole.
If your career does not give you inspiration, you need to find a way out of it.
Create An Exit Plan
It might take you years to completely execute your exit plan. You can start by being disciplined to apply for five jobs a day. You might need to block out 1 hour a day to work on your side hustle. This will take time to see results so you do have to have a belief in yourself that it will work out. All you can do is reassess and grow. Plan out what you want to do for the next year. Break the goal down to what you need to do each day in an actionable step. Even if it's something super simple, at least you are making progress on it.
While you are creating your exit plan. Things may not go the way that you planned. That's okay. We plan to have a roadmap of what direction we want to go in. When there is a roadblock, we may have to go off the original path.
Take Care of Yourself
You must do everything in your power to make sure that you take care of your body and mind. This will give you the energy to break the cycle of burnout.
I notice a massive difference on days where I workout in the morning vs days I do not. My energy levels and focus are on a completely different level and my impulse to reach for junk food goes down.
Taking care of yourself is bigger than gaining energy. How you take care of yourself reflects how you perceive yourself.
It is challenging to fix burnout. Taking your life back and pursuing something that is meaningful is not the easiest of tasks.
It will take long-term planning but that day that you finally escape it will feel like the first day of the rest of your life.
I have found that the best way to escape that feeling of burnout is to see the progress you are making. Count all the small wins.
The small wins will build up into something great.