Making time for yourself in a burnout-prone culture

Though we’ve all heard about work-life balance, the statistics on burnout show that we don’t put it into practice. Burnout rates reached a two-year high in August of 2020 (Glint Report, Oct 2020), and haven’t fallen significantly since.

With so many people dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress-related health issues…

What have we missed about work-life balance?

To have a substantial balance or well-being in our life, we almost have to be counter-cultural. Work-life balance isn’t remembering to eat or going for the whole weekend without working. It’s not seeing a therapist (though that can help) or relying on coping mechanisms to deal with all the stress. 

If our bodies are constantly in fight or flight mode…
And our thoughts won’t stop looping around our work tasks…
If it’s hard to be present with people…
Or we rarely do hobbies and adventures we love…
Then we’re already on the way to burning out.

It sounds a little dramatic, but with more than 77% of employees claiming they are experiencing burnout (Deloitte), it seems like a re-evaluation of work-life balance is in order.

These 4 questions will help you evaluate your work-life balance and make adjustments to avoid burnout.

1. Do I have clear boundaries with my time?

Did you know that the standard ‘working hours’ of 9 am to 5 pm only started in the 1920s?

During the industrial revolution, factories started to push their employees to work around the clock. 9 am to 5 pm became the maximum factory workers were allowed to work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Eight hours of work was deemed the maximum for physical labor by law to prevent worker exploitation. Eight hours may be too much for non-physical labor work, however. If your job is mentally demanding or creative work, eight hours may be far too much to expect from your brain to sustain quality work (without dependence/addiction to stimulants).

Working 8 hours a day is considered normal...but it doesn’t have to be your normal to be successful.

The first step to creating work-life balance is to assess how much quality work you can put in each day without feeling exhausted or stressed when you finish. With that awareness, you can give yourself work boundaries:

  1. Do you take a 30-minute to 1-hour lunch break?
  2. What are your work cutoff times? As in, no calls, no messages or emails, and no more thinking about work before X am or after X pm.
  3. Have you made these boundaries known to your clients, team members, or staff?

Setting these limits will help you start to create a work-life balance and prevent burnout.

2. Do I plan or make time for rest, time off, and activities or people I enjoy?

If you’ve gotten out of the habit of recharging yourself, it may take some time to rebuild your social life, hobbies, and relationships. The things that bring you joy will pay dividends in your energy, happiness, and motivation in work… not to mention boosting your mental health.

Like Elon Musk said… “There’s more to life than solving problems.”

3. What are my non-negotiables?

Think about your goals in your personal life. They could include specific activities, like trips or creative outlets, or something that grows over time, like friendships and romantic relationships.

Many of the items we have on our bucket list and the things we say are important to us wikk remain aspirational until we make them non-negotiable. This means… if this person calls me during a meeting, I’ll take it. If I want to go to Tokyo, I’ll schedule a trip this year. If I need to start getting massages every week, no one can schedule during that time.

When you schedule your non-negotiables before anything else, you’re telling yourself that you own your work, your time, and your life. 

4. What is my "warning sign"?

Everybody responds to stress differently, and it’s essential to know your warning signs. When you start losing sleep, eating too much or too little, or missing your non-negotiable activities, you know your stress level is getting too high.

The key here is not only to know what your warning signs are but to have a plan of action in place for when they start to show up. Do you take a day off? Cancel plans for the weekend and rest? Communicate with your team, boss, or clients to delegate and get things off your plate?

Preventing Burnout

Burnout doesn't just creep up out of nowhere. It happens when we tolerate high stress for too long. With boundaries in place–that may feel entitled, abnormal, or counter-cultural–you can get the work done that you need to do while enjoying your life around the clock.

What strategies do you use to make time for yourself and avoid burnout? We'd love to hear from you :) Shoot us a note @