So far, we have looked at identifying your
burnout pressure points and have shown
how you can check
yourself for burnout.
This section shows you some of the practical
steps that you can take if you are at risk
of burning out. We have already looked at
many of these in detail in previous sections.
This section acts as a reminder of these
Understanding Where Pressure
Before you can take action to counter burnout,
you need to understand why you are at danger
of it. The tools in our Pin-Pointing
Stress section can help you in this.
If you need more help in identifying the
most important sources of stress in your
life, then use the Schedule
of Recent Experience to get a view of
the long term stress you are experiencing,
and keep a Stress
Diary to see what is causing stress
in your day-to-day life.
Too much to do, too little
Where excessive workload is the problem,
then three major groups of tools may help:
First, look at the tools in our Work
Overload section. Use the Job
Analysis tool to see if you can cut
away low-yield work. Review your management
of time to use this to its full, and
tasks to other people where you can.
Second, consider whether you are being
too accommodating. Should you let people
know that you have too much work to do?
Should you be politely turning down new
work that people pass you? If this is the
case, then improved assertiveness
skills may help you to do this in a
positive way. Remember that you will have
to say “no” at some stage, otherwise
your commitments will get bigger and bigger.
You must learn to say no to commitments
that you should not take on, otherwise you
will be in severe danger of becoming intensely
stressed and exhausted.
An obvious point is to check that you are
using all of the resources available to
you. Included within this, make sure that
you are using your support
network as fully as you can and that
you are getting the help you need when you
Finally, be aware that it is just not possible
to do some jobs. Sometimes organizations
commit themselves to projects that they
do not have the capabilities, resources
or skills to complete. These quickly become
“projects from Hell”. Beware
of these projects - they can be traps from
which it is difficult to escape, even if
you are at severe risk of burning out.
Political and people
Where politics seems to be a problem, you
need to check that you are allocating enough
time to managing
your stakeholders and that you are correctly
managing your support
network. It is very easy when under
stress to stop communicating with people,
and this can lead to political problems
that compound with other issues to create
a toxic cocktail of stress.
Alternatively, a major cause of burnout
can happen when too many people lean too
heavily upon you. While it is important
to provide support to the people around
you, some people will suck up as much support
as you can give and demand still more. This
can be both tiresome and intensely disappointing,
as you never seem to be able to meet their
While distancing yourself from people is
a symptom of burnout, it is also a defense
against it. You need to find the fine balance
between being reasonably open and available
to the people you live and work with, while
at the same time distancing yourself from
people who drain you of emotional energy.
A way of doing this may be to involve other
people in providing support.
Another area where you need to find a balance
is with the different (and often conflicting)
demands of different groups of people and
organizations. An obvious conflict is between
work and family: Both really want as much
of your time and energy as possible. You
need to find a way of reconciling both,
while still leaving time for yourself. However,
this is also true of almost all of the people
or organizations you deal with. All have
their own goals and values, and all have
their own ideas of how you should behave.
In many cases, these goals will conflict
with those of other organizations and in
many cases they will conflict with yours.
As the only person who is an expert in
your own life, you need to find what seems
like a reasonable balance and then defend
In the introduction
to this section, we saw how exhaustion
was such a major factor in burnout. Elsewhere
on this site, we look at the importance
and rest in detail.
Going on a good, long vacation is one of
the best ways of avoiding burnout. Choose
a vacation that does not expose you to the
stresses you experience at home or which
distracts you from them. Leave your laptop
and mobile phone behind. Forget about work
completely until your return. Rest, and
enjoy life. Being a workaholic is not
something to be proud of.
Similarly, make sure you get enough sleep
and rest, and that you frequently use relaxation
techniques to calm down and relax.
Protecting the Meaning
of Your Job
The other major cause of burnout is disillusionment
with your job, particularly when you get
a great deal of the meaning in your life
from the work you do.
The emphasis here is on protecting
the parts of your job that give you
meaning and satisfaction. If you have trouble
in justifying this to yourself, then think
about the people you serve: if you burn
out, then they will not get the benefit
of the energy and enthusiasm you can provide:
You owe it to them to enjoy your job!
It is possible also that the job itself
is badly designed and that contradictions
inherent within it are causing much of the
stress you are experiencing. Use our Job
Analysis tool to check this out. Alternatively,
if frustration with lack of career development
is the problem, use our Career
There is a lot that you can do to avoid
job burnout. Perhaps the most important
thing is to recognize that you are at risk,
and take this seriously.
This article briefly shows you the sort
of things you can do to avoid burnout. These
mainly focus on managing workload, dealing
with people problems, avoiding exhaustion
and protecting the meaning of your work.
If you can do these things, then you should
be able to avoid burnout and continue to
get satisfaction from the work you do.
Next we look at what to do if things
have gone too far, and we look at ways of
- To download
this site in PDF format for use at your
convenience, click here.
- Read the next article in this series,
and find out how to cope
with burnout if it has already occurred.
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