If you are at risk of burnout and you intend to do something to improve the situation, you need to identify which areas of work are at the root of the problem, and then take practical remedial steps.

Identify the Pressure Points

Identify the most important sources of long-term and day-to-day stress in your life. These are likely to fall into four categories – excessive workload, people problems, personal exhaustion, and disillusionment.

Reduce the Load

If excessive workload is the problem, see if you can cut out any low-yield jobs. Are you managing your time as well as possible? Could you delegate more tasks to other people? Then consider whether you are being too accommodating. Perhaps you should be more assertive in letting people know that you have too much work and can’t take on more. Are you using all of the resources available to you, including your support network? Finally, check that you’re not being asked to handle a project that no one else wants because the organization simply does not have the capabilities, resources, or skills to bring it to completion.

Limit the Damage

High Impact

  • Taking serious action to avoid burnout

  • Managing the stressful situation assertively

  • Cutting back on any unnecessary activities

  • Refocusing on activities that you find satisfying

  • Getting enough rest

Negative Impact

  • Allowing emergencies to delay action

  • Hoping that people will notice that you’re unhappy

  • Hoping that things will get better without action

  • Distancing yourself from the people you need

  • Never taking any holidays

Think Smart

Exhaustion is a major factor in burnout and is usually a result of a failure to look after yourself properly when you’re trying to cope.

Take a good, long holiday, make sure you get enough sleep and rest, and try to develop a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and some exercise. This will help you to deal with the demands of a stressful job.

Strike a Balance


You can only burn out if you were alight in the first place

If “politics” seems to be a problem, check that you are allocating enough time to managing your stakeholders and that you are correctly managing your support network. Don’t stop communicating. However, you do need to find a balance between being available to the people with whom you live and work, and distancing yourself from people who drain you emotionally. You also need to balance the demands of different groups of people. An obvious conflict is between work and family. You need to find a way of reconciling these, while still leaving time for yourself.

Protect the Meaning of Your Job

Another major cause of burnout can be disillusionment with your job. Focus on protecting those parts of your job that give you the most meaning and satisfaction. If the job itself is badly designed, or inherent contradictions are causing you stress, analyze it to check it out, and do what you can to improve your situation. If frustration with a lack of career development is the problem, look again at career planning and establish whether you need to move on.

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