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The modern world is amazing. Smartphones bring us a cybernetic “world mind,” with all its information, straight to our screens. We can have our groceries and everything else delivered to straight to our homes. We can travel more cheaply than ever before. We can conduct a free video chat with anyone, anywhere in the world. I marvel at our world, and I marvel even more at what’s coming around the bend.
And, yet, there are some downsides to this modern world, and one of the most pervasive of the downsides is the risk of overwork and burnout. We work, and we work, and then we work, and work, and work. We even turn our free time into work, racing to and fro madly. Our health starts to suffer. Which means the hyper speed of our lives becomes even more of a burden. And there you are: burnout.
Most working professionals function in a state of semi-permanent burnout. But here’s the good news: much of this is hugely unnecessary, and you can structure your mind and actions (your life in fact) so that you don’t fry out. Believe me, I learned all these skills the hard way.
Seven Steps to Vanquish Burnout and Enter Career Nirvana
- Rest in your mind. The main reason people push themselves to the point of exhaustion is fear. They are afraid that if they don’t work like a dog that they will somehow end up unsuccessful, maybe even homeless. If they aren’t a “mover and shaker” or “corporate superhero” they will end up with a dead-end job at the bottom of the salary spectrum. These assumptions are false. You can rise to the top and have an amazing life. But, perhaps ironically, the most important step is to let go of the fear that haunts your mind, causes you to perpetually rush (like you are trying to outrun failure!), and just relax into confidence. BTW, relaxed confidence is tremendously attractive to others. They will gravitate towards your stable mind once you consistently adopt this mindset. This is the number one most important move you can make, and also the most subtle shift to master.
- Stop mirroring what you see. If you structure your life to parallel your peers, you will likely burn out. This is because a) modern society has become strangely rushed, so you will be syncing into that, and b) you won’t be focused on what works for you, which will also make life a lot more fatiguing.
- Go home when your work is done. I know this seems obvious, but it isn’t to most people. Just because your colleagues work until 8 pm all the time, you don’t have to. If you can get your work done by 5:30 pm, leave. It’s that simple.But here’s my suggested tweak to this suggestion. For the first month or two in any new position, go ahead and sync up with your colleagues’ timetable. Stay later. Send some emails to your bosses as you are getting ready to go home late that evening. Then, once everyone has concluded that you work hard and get the job done, you can start leaving a little earlier and earlier–till you get to the point where you leave at a normal hour. Every once and a while, stay late again. (Your job will require this in any case sometimes.) The point is, once you have “framed” the perception that you are a performer and a hard worker, you can then tweak how you work and when with quite a bit of freedom. In my experience, as long as you are a top performer, no one really cares if you leave at 5:45 pm or 7:15 pm–but you do!
- Skip the gossip and use your working hours wisely. Related to the point about leaving work on time, most people I have observed that stay late at work waste hours every day just sort of jawboning with their colleagues. You can go that route if you want, but you don’t have to.
- Don’t read stuff that has no relevance to your job (or that you aren’t interested in). Just stop reading all the emails and periodicals that have nothing to do with you. Skim them if you must, but delete them if possible. This single move–becoming massively more aggressive about what I did not read–probably saved me 45 minutes per day and turned my relationship with work around. You should not feel guilty about this. In the modern world, most workers are dying under a crush of email. If you can get a handle on this, you will simply perform better. This is good for you, your colleagues, and your employer.
- Outsource relentlessly. Many of you, especially if you are American, are uncomfortable outsourcing basic chores like getting your house cleaned. It goes against the grain of how we were raised, smacks of elitism, and just feels strange. However, if you are making north of $100,000 per year, you should seriously consider what actions you can outsource. Grocery deliveries? Shopping for clothes? Cleaning? If you make a good salary and your job is highly demanding, your priority should be keeping your energy in balance. Be strategic about outsourcing. When I worked overseas, many of my single friends had a cleaning lady come weekly (or even more often). Instead, you could have someone come once every two weeks–or even just monthly for a deep clean.
- Finally, prioritize mercilessly. You can’t do everything in this modern world. Figure out what matters to you and to your bosses. Cut out everything else. Your life will take on a whole different tone. Trust me. You can do this.
Relax – You Can Do This
The false assumptions that you have to work so insanely hard are just that–false assumptions. You can turn this ship around and leverage a life in the modern world that is fantastic. So get to it. Cut, cut, cut what doesn’t matter, relax your mind, stop reading mindless emails, skip the gossip, leave work on time, stop mirroring everyone else, and flourish!