Burnout, lack of motivation, disengagement. Whatever you call this phenomenon, the results are usually the same. At the start of the new year, many of us return from break with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. But realistically, how long do these feelings last?
As we enter February, that creeping sense of burnout may gradually return—and with a vengeance. We may view the new year as a fresh start, but many of us are still working within the same uncertain markets from the year before.
In this post, I want to share some ways in which I avoid the feeling of being ground down by the weight of increasing responsibilities and the need to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. For me, it all comes down to one word: intention. Working with intention allows us to slow down, block out all the unnecessary noise and distractions, and focus on what really matters.
Below are just a few ways I believe that working with intention can help us cope with those feelings we all get at times of being completely overwhelmed with our duties and responsibilities.
Don’t Work Against the Clock, Work with It
Some of us measure productivity by how much meaningful work we can cram into a specified period of time. Hard deadlines can be tough but rushing through projects and assignments just for the sake of getting them done as soon as possible can build unhealthy work habits.
Consider treating the building of a balanced weekly schedule as a key work responsibility. Understanding how long each individual task or project will take to accomplish and building a schedule accordingly can help offset the urge to power through things as fast as possible to hit a deadline or avoid working overtime. An important facet of working with intention is understanding your personal limits while also dedicating the appropriate level of care and attention to your projects.
Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
Of course, building a mindful and balanced work schedule and actually seeing it through are two different things. This brings me to a larger point: don’t beat yourself up if you fail to meet the standards you set for yourself. Just as feelings of burnout can result from overloading ourselves with work, so too can they result from a sense of personal disappointment. But recognize that often, we are our own worst critics.
But working with intention requires an abandonment of ego-centric ways of thinking when it comes to our responsibilities. Rather than focusing on individual failures or shortcomings, instead, think of the clients and colleagues who are counting on you to deliver. Even if the final product doesn’t meet your personal standards of quality, accomplishing something is always preferable to delivering nothing. While we should hold ourselves to the highest standards possible, the quest for perfection can also be highly crippling.
Re-Think Your Definition of Personal Success
While feelings of burnout and exhaustion may arise from internal pressures, also consider the circumstances of your current position. Too often do we see people overjoyed at the prospect of finally landing their dream job, only to gradually realize, months down the line, that the job has become a source of stress and misery.
No one can work with intention so long as their current position denies them the opportunity. True intentionality is derived from an unapologetic passion for your work. It’s not something that can be faked if you’re working under less-than-ideal circumstances.
There’s never a wrong time to seek out new opportunities in your field if your current position isn’t a good fit. Abandoning a job title you’ve worked years to secure can feel like a huge setback, and I’m not advising anyone to accept a new position that pays less than they deserve, but we always have to be realistic about our current situation if things aren’t working out and we see no signs of improvement.
Commit to Daily Accomplishments
Whether it’s an email you’ve been neglecting to respond to or an appointment you’ve been dreading to schedule, I believe that an effective method of combating burnout is to engage with the tiny annoyances of life daily.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Do something each day that scares you.” What I’m saying is, “Do something each day that you don’t want to do, but that you know you have to do.” Not only is this a way to prevent the little things from adding up into something big, but it also serves as a reminder that our responsibilities to our work, and our life, will always continue regardless of whether we feel burnt out or not. So, best to do all that we can to fight those feelings as often as possible.
All that said, I’d love to hear your perspectives on working with intention while avoiding feelings of burnout and exhaustion.