How To Pace Yourself At Work To Avoid Burnout

I’ve often found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed at every thing I have to do. They’re absolutely regular things. They’re things all of you do — heck, you probably do more. I’m sure one among them is managing responsibilities at work. But it obviously doesn’t happen in isolation because along with with it, you’re managing your home, your relationship, your children if any, your friendships and your mental, physical and emotional well-being. That can be exhausting in today’s world and impacts how you pace yourself at the workplace.

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While it’s easy to go back to the example of our parents, I personally don’t think it always helps. Our lives today are in stark contrast to theirs — in our dreams, our access to the world, our exposure to technology, the new pressures of being constantly connected, and current global circumstances. To say “I wish I could deal with my problems the way my mother or father did” becomes moot for me…so I don’t. Instead, I look at how I can do it my way — an approach that is sustainable to my life’s context and truthful to who I am as a person.

Here are some of the things I do to pace myself at work:

I manage my own expectations

Before you manage anyone else’s expectations of you, you need to manage your expectations of yourself. Here are some basic questions to think about. What do YOU want? Do you have enough clarity about your area of passion, and if not, do you even want to figure it out or do you want to try different avenues before you get there? How fast or slow do YOU want to go at work? People have all kinds of timelines in their lives. I’m not a believer of it, but many people are. And that certainly influences the speed of your growth at work. Some people have goals for certain milestone ages, others have personal dreams they want to focus on and prefer to put work on the back burner. Is the path you’ve set out for yourself aligned to your end goal (whatever it might be) — being an expert in your field, simply making good money (an underestimated, valid goal in my opinion), the C-suite title you dream of, run a business, be famous, be an artist, do something where you’re not conforming to capitalistic standards…whatever you fancy.

There is no right answer here. For me, I know that I’ve always wanted to work within luxury brand management and strategy, so I’ve ensured to take steps in that direction. While I’m excited to discover new avenues within my job, my area of interest is super focused and has remained the same since I was 12. This focus automatically helped me weed out roles, jobs and companies that weren’t in this space or aligned to my dreams. I know it’s a niche, and I like it that way. That’s the expectation I have for myself, and it works. But this is specific to me. If you want to experiment and be jack of all trades, you probably want to try your hand at multiple things, and there’s a way to plan a career around that type of radical growth too.

I don’t just acknowledge my highs and lows, I prep for them

In the last two years, I’ve come to realise that I can’t be perfect at everything. It took me some time to realise that it’s okay. We’re all too conditioned to work super hard and to perfection, but that doesn’t always translate to working smart. When did “perfection” alone become the metric for success? What about outcomes, delegating successfully, widening responsibility, consistency, keeping your team motivated, growing significantly year on year? All those things count too!

When I initially joined my company, I found myself highly controlling of every task and would be afraid to delegate — I’ve talked about this here. I realised that in my effort to be “excellent”, I stopped being consistent. And let’s face it, no one can be excellent all the time. So I’d find myself going through extreme highs and lows where my output would be fantastic one quarter and just about sufficient in the next. This didn’t just affect my work, it affected me mentally and I did not recover in time for my good quarter again. This year, I decided I wouldn’t make that mistake. Some months are better than the others for every single person and I’m no different. So I prep myself for times I can shine, and other times when I can let my team shine so we’re not out of fuel entirely. I call them my rest and recovery/backstage/behind the scenes time… you get the drift. This perspective shift has helped me enjoy my high phases and bounce back faster after my low phases and move on without much regret.

I have a solid support system

I don’t know about everyone else, but I can speak for myself when I say that I can’t survive my days without my support system. I just cannot do what I do in isolation. I need my people and I strongly believe that they’re the reason I continue to grow in my career. This support system can be anyone — your spouse, family, friends, mentors and most importantly, your work-wives (essentially your core group at work that gets you through basically anything). I don’t always talk to everyone about everything but it’s a safe ecosystem of sorts for me — to learn, to debate, to bounce off ideas, to vent, to be challenged, encouraged and eventually, fly high.

I religiously practice a self-care routine

The problem with self care is that it’s often looked at as selfish, and I couldn’t disagree more. Can you ever pour from an empty cup? The answer is no. You can’t take care of others if you’re not taken care of — to me, it’s almost a way to be kinder to yourself and people around you. I look at self-care in three ways. One is of course, the ornamental (but necessary version) — a great skincare and beauty routine, buying something I really want once in a while even if it’s expensive, a vacation, a massage, general personal upkeep and maintenance, etc. The next is physical which is to eat well, feel nourished and workout in a way that’s sustainable.

The last one, is psychological. I do this by creating boundaries to the extent I can. I don’t engage in conversations that are degrading, nasty or uncomfortable for me anymore. I make my discomfort visible. If other people are uncomfortable with these choices, I don’t fill in awkward silences to make them feel better. I let them feel uncomfortable if they need to and fight their own demons. I also communicate in a clear, comprehensive manner without having to yell or fight for myself. This progress is plenty for me. Self care might not be directly related to work, but it informs the way you think, communicate, speak and listen to others, even at work. Your success could lie in using self care tools to pick your battles, be civil with problematic colleagues, navigate your career path or voice your opinions in a way that you’re heard — so don’t underestimate it.

What are some of the things you do to pace yourself at work?

Tell me in the comments!

Image: Free illustration by Oblik Studio