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Sirens of burnout are calling

Sirens of burnout are calling. Burnout continues to be a problem in society. The COVID-19 Pandemic has unfortunately increased burnout among people, due to the stress of the pandemic itself, inconsistent work decisions (are we coming back to the office, staying remote, or both?), and global inflation impacting our personal bottom lines.

Every level of an organisation should take steps to prevent burnout, both in their leaders, and their employees. Burnout reduces productivity, increases absenteeism, creates health and relationship issues, and robs people of their wellbeing. 

Whilst companies should prioritise a healthy work environment to prevent burnout among their employees, it’s ultimately up to the individual to make sure they’re doing everything they can personally to stay mentally and physically healthy, whilst managing their stress levels to prevent burnout from occurring.

Burnout doesn’t happen instantly but builds up over time due to prolonged stress. There are many warning signs, but for those of us that are approaching (or already in) a burned-out state, we often miss those signs.  

Here are the common signs of burnout:

  • Lack of quality sleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased mistakes
  • Lack of boundaries

Sirens of burnout are calling. In today’s article, we’re going to focus on the lack of boundaries.  

Lack of boundaries

Personal boundaries are important to protect yourself from harm. Both harm that others can do to you because of their own issues/agendas/etc, and the harm you do to yourself, especially if you’re a people pleaser.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time” is often associated with times of regret, pain, and suffering. A decision to move to a more expensive area, when your finances are still a mess from the last layoff/move, getting a car loan when a used car that you can pay cash for is the better financial choice, or taking that job simply because it paid more, but was a toxic environment. These are just a few of the examples I hear (and have experienced myself) over time.

At work, not having boundaries about your hours of availability is a direct violation of your personal time and space. Would you go into the office at 11 pm to work? Then why are you answering a work email at 11 pm? An organisation’s definition of “emergency” is way off. There are very few legitimate reasons to be contacted by your employer after hours. Employers need to hire night staff if the work is truly required after hours.

There’s a reason workplace cultures are suffering. People are tired and burned out because there’s a significant lack of boundaries around the work itself, and when it’s expected to be performed.

When you lack personal boundaries, you are giving away control of your life. Do you want your boss, lover, friend, etc to control your life? Or do you want to be the pilot of the company called YOU?

How to establish boundaries

Schedule your self-care or “free” time. Michael Hyatt likes to say “What gets scheduled gets done.” Too often we try to squeeze leisure time in between our work and life obligations, and too often we fail miserably at actually taking time for ourselves.

Even machines that run around the clock need downtime for maintenance. So do you.

Figure out when your energy matches up with your work, and schedule work around that time, with frequent breaks to reduce eye strain and physical fatigue from sitting too long. This way, you’ll keep refreshed and reduce the stress of working without breaks.

Establish availability with your work, friends, and family. You cannot be fully accessible 24/7, so establish your availability and stick with that schedule, once it works for you.  

Limit interruptions. You never know how often you’re interrupted until you start tracking those interruptions. Every text message, app notification, phone call, etc. is an interruption. Interruptions break the flow of your work patterns, and it can take several minutes for you to regain focus on the work you were doing. Establish time blocks around your work and negotiate with those that contact you a “do not disturb” procedure that allows you to get the work done. Sirens of burnout are calling.

Establishing boundaries is a crucial part of preventing burnout.  

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is the founder & Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego and Toronto-based burnout consulting firm. He is a Keynote speaker, host of the Breakfast Leadership show, a Certified NLP and CBT Therapist, a Fortune 500 consultant, and author of the new book BURNOUT PROOF.

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