Tag Archives | career

How to Beat Burnout Before it Beats You

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army
There are several professions that tend to have high rates of burnout, and in my lifetime I’ve been deeply ensconced in two of them. For seven years I taught elementary school, and I can tell you that teachers everywhere are dropping like flies. That job is tough.  People in professions that involve helping others are highly likely to burn out because of the amount of emotional attachment that develops, causing an incredible amount of mental strain.

I’m now considered an entrepreneur, in that I’ve started up my own business and I’m my own boss. Studies show that entrepreneurs are also more likely than most “typical” professionals to experience burnout. This is due to the fact that there is no limit to how much success we can attain, and because of that, we have a hard time turning down opportunities.  Before we know it, we’re exhausting ourselves by taking on more projects than we can reasonably handle.

If you’re making your living in a job that has the potential to evoke excessive amounts of stress, involves a high level of responsibility, or demands long hours, be proactive about avoiding burnout. If you’ve started to feel the first twinges of distress surrounding work, use the following list as a guide to avoid causing a major professional setback.

  • Pin point the source of any discontent and fix it. It’s not the job itself that will bring you down, but its interference with the things you love to do most – like spending time with family, working out, or getting a good night’s sleep every night. What do you wish you had time for?

  • Set boundaries for those above events to ensure that they will always come before work in order to refresh your energy and motivation.

  • Make sure you’re keeping it interesting! Even as an entrepreneur, if your projects all start to look the same, you’ll get bored fast. Pick and choose a variety of assignments, or simply make a change to your daily routine.

  • Pace yourself for the long haul and don’t expect miracles.
  • Take vacations! If you have a corporate job, USE your paid days off – don’t just bank them. If you’re self-employed, start setting things up so that your business can remain successful even when you take a few days off.

It’s extremely important to be able to recognize the early symptoms of burnout so that you can attain the level of success that you’re reaching for while remaining in good physical and mental health. Once burnout occurs, it can spell disaster and is quite difficult to reverse. Always keep that fire extinguisher nearby and at the ready, because if you don’t beat burnout first, it can most certainly beat you.

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Talk Might be Cheap, But it’s Still in Demand

Photo courtesy of LifeSupercharger
“The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation…”
~Deborah Tannen

I’ve been married twice now, and although it is true that it’s markedly easier the second time around, any relationship requires attention and tune-ups in order to thrive.  You know when they show those clips at the end of romantic movies where they ask old couples, “What is the most important part of a happy marriage?”  Nine couples out of ten enthusiastically say, “Good communication!” Sometimes one of the old men will give a sly grin and say something about a good sex life, but we know (and he knows) that without communication, everything else just falls apart.

My husband and I have been married for just under a year now and are refining our relationship brilliantly. We work extremely well as a team, and we continue to grow stronger and happier the more we each listen to each other. What we have realized is that, since we met and married in our 30s, our communication skills have already matured quite a bit, as have we. Since we have both been previously married and engaged in professional careers, we have become quite adept at communicating with a variety of different people in our lives: spouses, children, parents, bosses, coworkers, friends in need, neighbors, in-laws and even people we don’t really like.  We’ve learned how to adjust our interactions with others based on each individual person’s personality.

What my husband and I recently discovered, however, is that some key aspects of communicating are actually quite universal and will be effective whether used with a spouse, a child, a stoic neighbor, or a boss.  In fact, my husband actually inspired me to write this blog post when he found himself in a difficult situation professionally.  He relayed to me that he ended up referring back to something he had learned by communicating with me, applied it to his work situation, and voila! Instant success!

We spend most of our time communicating with our spouses and children because we view them as the most important relationships in our lives. Why not apply bits and pieces of what we learn through making our most meaningful relationships successful to other relationships as well? Newsflash: If your wife likes hearing that you’re sorry, chances are good that your boss does too.

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How Do You Tell a Renaissance Man from a Bum These Days?

Feeling locked into a career choice?
Photo courtesy of Jhayne Holmes

I’m not a great fan of chit-chat at the best of times, but one of the questions I really hate answering is “so, what do you do?” Most people think it’s a simple question, but for me the answer is pretty complicated. I do a range of things, and the range varies from year to year, or sometimes even month to month. A lot of people find this difficult to understand, and often assume that “I dabble in various pursuits” is a euphemism either for mafia involvement or chronic unemployment.

When I came up through the education system, a jack-of-all-trades was definitely seen as a master of none.  The only accepted “right” way to go about choosing a career was to pick something and stick with it, to go as far as you could in one field while ignoring everything else.  If you had several interests you wanted to pursue and weren’t willing to give up any of them, you weren’t seen as ambitious – you were seen as flaky, wishy-washy, and unable to commit. The question of “what do you do?” was supposed to have a one-word answer, end of story.

Fast-forward to the present day: this attitude is slowly changing. It’s becoming more common for people to cast nets in several directions, and then use the knowledge they gain through experience to move on and explore other avenues of interest. Even ten years ago, confusion was pretty much the universal response when I said, “I’m working on several things right now.” These days, I’m encountering more and more people nodding and saying, “yeah, me too.”

What’s more, companies are starting to perceive the Renaissance employee as being flexible and diverse rather than wishy-washy, and there’s much less stigma surrounding a desire to do many things. That desire, after all, does not necessarily indicate a tendency toward laziness; many energetic and accomplished people find it difficult to settle on one particular area of work.

Does that mean that by doing lots of things, you’ll never be a real expert in anything? Not necessarily. If we use Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s “10,000-hour rule” as a general guideline, given a 40-hour week, it takes approximately five years of study and applied effort to become an expert in any particular field. Obviously this measurement can vary depending on your natural proclivities, but even if we use a conservative estimate of being able to master three professions in a twenty-year period, that’s still two more than most people take on in a lifetime.

If you’re less concerned with being at the absolute top of your field in everything you do, and more concerned with simply enjoying a wide range of experiences, you can do even more. You don’t have to be the number one world leader at something to make decent money or be respected for your ability level.

If you only have one passion in life, great, go for it.  If you have several, that’s also great – there’s no reason you can’t go for all of them, and it may even help you out in the job market when a potential employer sees that you are bringing more than one set of skills to the table.

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