10 Ways to Avoid Burnout

Someone told me recently, "You better watch it. You're going to burnout?"

I'd heard the term burnout before, but hadn't applied it to myself. Burnout is for folks with giant work loads, that don't get any sleep, and get stressed out  . . .  Hey, maybe there was something to this?

I began looking into it and noticed there are lots of people on the brink of burnout, which I now know (thanks to Google) is a term coined in 1974 by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger.

Types of Burnout

The Association for Psychological Science says there are several types of burnout. You have probably seen all of these at your workplace at one time or another.

1. Overload: The frenetic employee who works toward success until thoroughly exhausted. These folks tend to cope by complaining about the company, the management, and how it limits their goals. This type of coping normally leads to stress overload and giving up.

2. Lack of Development: Under-challenged workers tend to manage their stress by distancing themselves from their work, which often leads to cynicism. Again, the result is usually just throwing in the towel.

3. Neglect: These folks tend to give up in the face of stress. They have a goal, but lose the motivation to get to it.

Other signs that one might notice include:

• Excessive worrying

• High level of self-criticism

• Never enough time and hurrying through the day

• Never taking breaks—can’t remember the last vacation

If things go unchecked, burnout candidates are at risk of physical or mental collapse.


10 Simple Steps to Avoiding Burnout

After reading how many people are on the brink of burnout, it’s good to know there are many ways to avoid it. There is a great article called, 11 Ways to Avoid Burnout by Sasha VanHoven that provides volumes of material and is worth the read. But for those of you who would like some quick, simple steps to get started, here you go:

1. Don't over commit. It's OK to say "no".  Set priorities and boundaries.

2. Make it a daily ritual to relax and unwind.

3. Exercise regularly and eat right.

4. Change locations and give yourself breaks throughout the day.

5.  Break projects into bite-sized pieces.

6. Readjust your expectations. Avoid perfectionism.

7. Take vacations. (But avoid overloading them.)

8. Develop interests outside of work and/or volunteer

9. Ask for help if needed, and at the very least, learn to delegate

10. Get friendly feedback. It's difficult to be objective about our lives -- what’s working and what’s not -- which adds frustration and stress. Finding someone you can trust to give you the good and the bad can be invaluable.

This isn't by any means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of books, articles, websites and blogs on the topic. The important thing is to keep your eyes open. If you or any of your staff are starting to feel on that ragged edge, do something.

Burnout is preventable!


Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.