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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.

Job Burnout: How to Cope With It

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 15, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo, what do you do if you think you are living the nightmare that is the Maslach Burnout Inventory? To avoid frying yourself to a crisp, you have to take charge of the situation. The sad truth is that people will work you as hard as you are willing to be worked (unless there’s a union that says exactly when people must stop working, but that’s a subject for another time and another blog). You are the only one who can take back your time, care for yourself and replenish your energy. Here’s how:

Re-evaluate your work day. If you’ve read this blog, you know that most of my recommendations for an improved work life involve some form of time management–preferably GTD. Using either a standard sheet of paper or an Excel spreadsheet, track how you spend each hour of your work day. Imagine that you are tracking your day in order to figure out how to bill a client. Try this exercise for a week, and look for the places where all your time goes. For example, if you discover that much of your time goes to meetings, which means you can’t get your work done, you need to figure out how to get out of a few meetings. If much of the day goes to finding lost items, you need to start a basic filing system.

More after the jump! Image by Tristan Nitot from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Job Burnout: Do You Have it?

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 13, 2010
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PhotobucketThere’s a big difference between job dissatisfaction and burnout. Burnout is an all-encompassing sensation that wrecks your personal life, too. Almost all jobs get annoying at some point, but burnout has an emotional and physical impact that’s tough to overcome, and academics are especially vulnerable to it.

This week, I’m tackling the subject of burnout–from how to figure out if you have it, how to deal with it and how to prevent it. While reading up on burnout, I realized that, if burnout could take a human form, it would be as a workplace bully. In the end, you have to know how to detect it and how to stand up to it so you can get your work done and stay sane at the same time.

So, first, how to tell if you are burnt out or just stressed. All jobs have stress, and people react to stress differently. Some people freak out if they catch a serial comma on an AP style page, while others won’t complain even if they’re asked to work until midnight. It all depends on the person, but the basic symptoms of burnout are hard to ignore.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory in French by Micthev from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.