You want to know the problem with the majority of stress remedies you hear? They take a while to set in motion and start working. Same goes with job burnout.
And when you’re feeling that overwhelmed and that overburdened, the last think you want to do is set a 30-day plan in motion. No, you want to feel better now.
1. Just Say No
I know that saying “no” is easier said than done, but not everything can be a priority. It’s critical to let the people you work with know you have limited bandwidth, resources, and time. Practice relentless re-prioritization so that any new, more important projects will push older, inconsequential projects to the side unless otherwise specified.
A great tool to use to help prioritize activities is the acronym WIN, which stands for the question, “What’s important now?” It was coined by motivational speaker and legendary college football coach Lou Holtz in his book, Winning Every Day: The Game Plan for Success. Holtz would have his college players ask themselves the WIN question 35 times a day to help them stay focused on what mattered most in every aspect of their college experience.
When this simple, yet powerful, assessment question is coupled with a strong willingness to say “no,” the result is dramatic. This one-two combination will help improve your sense of control, level expectations, maintain a sustainable workload, and realign priorities—all of which dampen job burnout.
2. Goof Off
You have permission to mess around right now. Science says so. Educational and behavioral experts have long known the benefits of “play” (or mental distraction) when it comes to finding solutions to tricky issues.
F.P. Hughes explains the seemingly simple concept is actually composed of three complex, yet beneficial, elements that are applicable to the workplace and help combat burnout. The first element’s a personality characteristic, which represents a person’s idea of himself and his attitude toward others. While playing, this element tends to manifest as spontaneity, curiosity, and persistence.
Next, there’s an intellectual process that shapes the way we think and problem solve. While psychologists have a tough time putting their finger on the exact point of overlap between play, creativity, and intelligence, they believe it relates to asking original questions, making unusual connections, as well as having relaxed thoughts that focus on analogies and metaphors.
Lastly, Hughes points out that the action of playing helps contribute to creative results, which typically take the form of novel solutions, new insights, or process improvements.
The bottom line is that when all three of those elements come together, it’s difficult to separate work from play. It’s truly a magic elixir against stress. So, break out the hacky sack—OK, fine, 2048—now!
A February article from Harvard Medical School found that meditation reduces stress, irritability, and anxiety. Plus, it improves sleep. And while an increasing number of Americans are reaping these benefits, still less than 10% of the U.S. population engages in any form of meditation or directed relaxation.
If you don’t know the difference between a chakra and a piece of okra, turn to YouTube. Seriously! I use this quick 13-minute video by Qi Gong instructor, Lee Holden. While he recorded the video to be used as a nightly relaxation ritual before bed to promote a restful night sleep, I do it first thing in the morning and during lunch to help me relax during the day. It’s amazing, it works, it’s free, and you can press play right now.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of job burnout is that it’s less about the actual job stress itself and more about the manner in which the person in that job responds to it. Hopefully your preventative response to job stress going forward will be: No. Play. Ohm!