3 tips to catch up without burn-out

monthly calendar with lots of items & post-it note to indicate stress

When you feel as if you haven’t been able to catch up on work, what do you do?

It’s tempting to power through and put in longer hours.

However, that can lead to burn-out, defined by the WHO (in ICD-11) as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

If you think that you are experiencing burn-out, please seek support. If you want to try to avoid burning out in the first place, I’ve found these tips help me.

Three tips to catch up

Set a schedule.
planner, pen, and coffee on wooden work surface

Alternate title: Start a timer. Instead of sitting down at your desk on Monday morning determined to “catch up on everything”, set specific times throughout the day (or week) to work on those priority items that are stressing you out. For example, block time for working on administrative paperwork, tackling the inbox, and making progress on that project that is threatening to fall behind schedule.

I’ve found it’s beneficial to set these as appointments in my calendar. I’m less likely to break them and they make the tasks feel less overwhelming. My belief is also that by setting a discrete time-frame to do work, I have a mini deadline and a challenge. How much can I get done in that set amount of time?

Keep a notebook around.
Open Notebooks with pen showing handwritten list

When I am stressed my brain is a jumble of all the things I need and want to work on.

With a notebook near at hand to allow me to scribble, it’s easy to brain dump and that frees my mind to focus on work.

Reward & Relax.
photos of trees and sun

After I work for a set amount of time, I relax for a set of time. When I’m feeling on the edge of burn-out I expand the relaxation periods to be equal to the scheduled work.

This is the most difficult for me. I often think that I don’t deserve a break if I haven’t finished my work.

However, time and again I’ve proven to myself that a short break is more productive than work. I like keep a simple knitting project (often a pair of socks) and a book nearby.

I hope that the recent definition change by the WHO will assist in reducing the stigma and increase resources to help mitigate this phenomena.

What is your favourite tip for preventing burn-out?