It's Friday evening. Are you invigorated? Exhausted from a trying week? Or maybe still working, either at your desk or using a mobile device?
You know all about the dangers of burnout. You even know that working too many hours, like multi-tasking, clobbers your productivity. And yet. There's always that one more task that needs finishing, one more email to write, or one more impatient customer or boss who doesn't want to wait till Monday.
So you work a little bit harder, and then a little harder than that, to get it all done. And you do this week after week. Pretty soon you're soured on your job, jittery, sleep-deprived, and irritable both at work and at home. You're suffering from a bad case of burnout. But try as you might, you can't make your job any easier.
If you can't change the job, then you have to change yourself, and there are some simple steps you can take that combat burnout even in a super-stressful job. That advice comes from Holly Mason, president of branding firm MasonBaronet. The advertising industry is known for its long hours, super-competitive atmosphere, and need to be creative under pressure, she says. "I think those who excel in it, love it and have a passion for it. But despite that, we're not immune to burnout."
Here are the tactics Mason uses to push through high-stress times. Try them out, and see if they don't help you during your own burnout times:
1. Don't stint on sleep.
Arianna Huffington has famously become a sleep evangelist after she dozed off in her office and broke her cheekbone as a result. Not only does a good night's sleep improve your mood and cognitive ability, it actually helps you grow brain cells. Whereas sleep deprivation is associated with a whole host of mental and physical ailments, and will actually make you age more quickly.
Whatever else you have to forego to accommodate the demands of your crazy job, make sure getting a good night's sleep every night is one of your priorities.
2. Get plenty of exercise.
Exercise is a known mood elevator and stress buster, as well as something that your body needs to remain healthy. There's evidence that a daily two-mile walk can help your cognitive function. So fit some exercise in your schedule every day, or follow Steve Jobs' example and conduct meetings while walking.
3. Take brief breaks during the day.
Even a few minutes between meetings and phone calls will make a big difference. And, Mason advises, go outside during these breaks. "A dose of Vitamin D and fresh air can do a lot of good."
4. Put a vacation on your calendar.
"Having a vacation on your calendar will give you something to look forward to," Mason says. And as the date approaches, resist any temptation to reschedule. Taking a vacation will give your mind a rest, Mason says. "You might be surprised at how reinvigorated and inspired you'll be getting back to work."
5. Schedule evening and weekend activities.
This will give your week some variety--it won't all be about your job, Mason explains. Extra points if your off-hours activities involve other people you care about, such as your spouse, partner, kids, or friends.
6. Have times when your mobile devices are off or out of sight.
There are many great reasons to turn off your mobile phone and put away your tablet during at least some of your off hours, Mason says. "Our technology-driven world creates a feeling that we need to be highly responsive and it's very easy for people to reach out beyond office hours. When sending an email or solving a problem is always within a hand's reach, it creates a sense of constant stress and reaction."
7. Attend a seminar or conference.
When you're feeling played out at work is a great time to head to an industry conference, or entrepreneur's event. "Being around other like-minded entrepreneurs can inspire you," Mason says.
8. Join a group.
"Join an organization of those in a similar situation as you," Mason advises. She herself is on the board of Entrepreneurs' Organization. "You'll have the encouragement and support of your peers in good times and bad," she says.
9. Review your accomplishments regularly.
"I keep a drawer full of cards and a folder on my computer with emails I've received from clients over the years," Mason says. "Reading their praises and testimonials about our work reminds me of our purpose. Oftentimes, it re-engages me."