It's easy to get caught up in the work cycle and log in extra hours. Part of the reason is that American corporate culture seems to glorify putting in additional time and going the extra mile. In fact, the average American works 44 hours a week. Unlike most other developed nations, America doesn't guarantee its workers receive paid sick days, annual leave, maternity leave, or vacation days.

Burnout is real, folks.

Many people take pride in putting in long hours, thinking it helps them get ahead. But the truth is that it can be counterproductive as it leads to burnout. In fact, it might produce negative returns as a tired worker will overlook mistakes that they later must go back and correct. No gusta.

About a million people skip work due to stress each day. This figure costs American companies between $150 billion and $300 billion each year (no, that's not a joke). One-fifth of highly engaged workers are at risk of burning out. How can you prevent this from happening to you? Here's a few worthy strategies, backed by the help of science (for the win):

1. Piece it up.

Imagine being tasked with reading a thousand-page book. It might seem overwhelming but try imagining it a different way. What if, instead, you just had to read 50 pages a day? It's something that's easy to do and you can finish it in 20 days.

It helps to break things down into smaller tasks. In fact, the dopamine you receive when completing goals helps motivate you into further action. Remember that doing something, no matter how little, is better than doing nothing

2. Take a break.

In " The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People", there's a story about a woodcutter spending hours sawing down a tree. Someone else asks him why he doesn't take a break to sharpen his saw. The woodcutter responds that he doesn't have enough time to sharpen his saw because he's too busy cutting the tree. Think about it...

Similar to the story, working non-stop won't give your mind the rest it needs to keep up. Per science, breaks are especially productive if you spend them doing something like walking, eating healthy, or meditating. Plus, they can serve as motivation-reward yourself for working hard.

3. Talk to someone.

You don't necessarily need a therapist to recover from burnout (though it certainly never hurts). Just having friends or a social network can help. Chat with your coworkers by the water cooler. Go out for a cup of coffee. Have a drink after work. 

Cristina Maslach, who devised the Maslach Burnout Inventory, said that being with friends can greatly alleviate work-related stress. Don't take your colleagues for granted. According to Dr. Maslach, they are a "precious, precious resource", which certainly adds a bit of perspective & appreciation the next time you partake in a happy hour outing. 

So, there you have it. Actionable ways to proactively get ahead of burnout. Be self-aware of when you might be reaching your limits and act on it--you owe it to yourself.

Published on: May 10, 2018