Post Academic

Job Burnout: How to Avoid It

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 16, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo you don’t think you’re burnt out, and you think there are enough bright spots in your job to stick around. That is terrific, but you might still be susceptible to burnout. Sometimes, burnout has more to do with you than with a nasty boss or workaholic colleagues. You also need to make some adjustments so you don’t become that person who had the nervous breakdown over by the coffee machine. Here’s how to make sure you keep yourself at peak mental strength, for academics or hamsters:

Make appointments with yourself. You won’t get anything done if people are always interrupting you with new fire drills. For that reason, you need long stretches of time to focus. Dana Gionta writes in Psychology Today, “Arranging for uninterrupted time may involve: closing your door in the afternoon; responding to phone calls or e-mails at specific times; and alerting family members and friends of the best hours to reach you.” Being available at all times is a recipe for burnout.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving on time. You might think it looks good if you come in early and stay late, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually doing anything. Management professor Gayle Porter sums it up nicely: “The employee who wants to go home is the one who will be most efficient during the week, because she’s protecting her time off.” If anyone gives you crap for leaving at 5:00 or whenever you wind up the day, mention that you’ve met all your deadlines. The best bosses are the ones who don’t micromanage and who trust you to do your work well within the time limits allotted.

Image by Mr. Satay from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Train your brain to think of anything but work. On the weekends or at night, find out how long you can go without thinking about work. Every time you think about work, take a deep breath and force yourself to think about a recreational activity you enjoy. Whatever, as long as it isn’t work. It’s like meditating. Your mind will wander back to work, but you just need to steer it to something more entertaining. Soon enough, you’ll be able to enjoy a few moments without stressing over work. A caveat–if you have an ah-ha moment, keep on thinking about work, but if you’re just worrying about something work-related, you can put it off.

Talk to a professional. When training your brain isn’t effective, stress over work will continue to haunt you, even if there isn’t a lot going on. Talk to a therapist or psychologist about it. They won’t know any of your colleagues, and they aren’t allowed to spread any gossip about your dissatisfaction. A therapist might seem like a better solution to burnout, but isn’t it better to prevent burnout than to suffer through it?

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