Burnout may read like one of those buzzwords you'll hear thrown around, but actually, it's a serious problem -- so much so that it has an actual Mayo Clinic definition: "a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work."
Burnout is not only a real issue, but a widespread one. A good 77% of workers have experienced burnout on the job, according to a recent Deloitte survey.
If you've suffered through a bout of burnout, the last thing you want is a repeat this year. And if you take the following steps, you're less likely to fall victim to it.
1. Set boundaries
When you work all the time, it's easy to slowly but surely burn out from a glaring lack of downtime. The solution? Set boundaries that dictate when you will and won't be working, and commit to sticking to them. Often, we're our own worst enemy when it comes to working too hard, so unless your manager is standing over you demanding that you finish key assignments, force yourself to leave the office at a certain time each night, and designate email-free hours for evenings and weekends.
And also, enlist the support of your boss and colleagues in adhering to those rules. Explain when you will and won't be available, and ask the people you work with to respect those boundaries.
2. Find work that's meaningful for you
It's easy to burn out when you loathe what you do, or get little to no enjoyment from it. Rather than continue plugging away at a meaningless job, find a more fulfilling one. That could mean switching fields altogether, or getting creative and carving out a different role at your current company, or within your current industry. If you spend your days doing work that stimulates your mind and makes you feel good about your accomplishments, then you're less likely to struggle, even if you do go through periods when you wind up burning the midnight oil daily.
3. Insist on flexibility
The mere fact of having to report to the office at a certain hour each day and leave when your manager says so could be enough to drive you over the edge -- especially if you're juggling a career along with family-related responsibilities. If you feel like you're struggling to balance all of the many things you need to do work- and home-wise, ask for more flexibility on the job. That could mean changing your schedule to cut back your commute time, or working from home a few days a week to better tackle the numerous tasks on you plate. These days, a growing number of companies are recognizing the importance of flexibility, so it pays to go after it.
4. Get better at time management
You'll be less likely to find yourself perpetually chained to your desk if you learn to make better use of your time at the office. Aim to improve on the time management front, whether doing so involves asking your manager or colleagues for advice, or actually attending a time management seminar or webinar. If you find ways to work more efficiently, you'll have an easier time meeting the demands of your job.
5. Learn to delegate
Burnout can occur when you feel responsible for a million different things you don't have time for. If you're in a position to delegate to others at work, take advantage. Identify competent people at the office and assign time-consuming tasks to them. Freeing up even an hour or two per week could work wonders for your outlook.
Teetering on the verge of burnout is not a healthy way to live, and it can certainly impact your performance and hurt your career. Make every effort to avoid burnout in the coming year -- your health truly depends on it.