Sometimes our workdays are so stressful and busy that we do not have time to grab a coffee or a small snack. We feel frustrated that there is not enough time to finish all the tasks, and our growling stomach and pounding headache are just plain annoying. We stay at work until late or go to work early, so we do not miss the dreadful deadline. All this stress is sometimes clouding our judgment, time management, and perceptions of the work process. Sure, we can work under pressure, and also, we love the excitement it brings, but in most cases, it is counter-productive and may result in burnout. Knowing the causes, signs, and techniques of how to avoid burnout will help you manage your work-life better.
The most common causes and signs of job burnout
Our work-life can take so much space from our daily life that we often do not realize we are experiencing burnout. There are few common signs of job burnout and causes that can provoke it.
Causes of job burnout
Most commonly the project management burnout (or any other work-related burnout) is caused by the feeling of not having enough time to complete all the tasks and projects. There are times when everything is a priority, and nothing feels right. When such a situation continues for a long time, and it does not seem to end, we feel exhausted, irritated, and isolated. In other words, we experience burnout.
Other common causes include:
- The lack of control and autonomy over the work.
- Working in an unstable work environment, in a dysfunctional organization, or a team.
- Lacking recognition or support from the boss or the organization.
- Continuously having an excessive workload.
- Not having a clear goal or expectations.
- Working in a toxic environment.
- Working in a team that is lacking key competencies.
Signs of job burnout
Based on the work you do and the organization you work at, there might be some other causes of work burnout. You can recognize it by identifying the common signs of burnout:
- You are feeling exhausted all the time: Getting tired at work is okay, but if you are constantly drained and feel unable to relax during or after working hours, you might have burnout. Exhaustion often comes with breaking sleeping patterns, changes in appetite, having headaches or stomachache.
- You are isolating yourself from others. Sometimes the causes of burnout can be overwhelming and cause you to isolate yourself from your coworkers and social circle.
- You feel irritated: When you have burnout, you find it hard to cope with the common stressors you might have during the day: preparing for a client meeting, planning a project, or even driving to work. Small things might make you lose control and feel irritated.
Some other signs of work-related burnout might be frequent zoning out during work, feeling empty, feeling depressed, inability to find time and energy for completing non-work-related activities, and more.
Identifying the common causes and signs is the first step on how to prevent burnout at work.
How to avoid burnout at work
Everyone has their way to deal with burnout. But the best way to deal with it is to identify stressors ahead and learn how to prevent burnout.
1. Plan your projects ahead
Planning is a key step in project management. As a PM, you might be working on several projects with different complexity, priority, and urgency. As you plan each project, you need to plan your work as well. You should decide how you will distribute the time between the projects and tasks. Not having a clear plan and trying to do everything at once might cause you to feel overwhelmed. Working like this in a long term can lead to burnout.
2. Have priorities
Do not try to do all the work at once. You might feel urged to complete all the tasks as they arise – answer all emails immediately, prepare presentations, make phone calls, etc. Have a clear priority system and follow it. There are few methods of prioritization in project management that will allow you to differentiate the most important and urgent tasks from the others. Following priorities will allow you to have a clear vision and not feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities.
3. Have a purpose
One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to have a purpose and vision. Feeling that you are not merely completing tasks but the work you do has a deeper meaning and purpose for your career will help you prevent burnout.
If you feel you have lost the purpose at your job, work on rediscovering it. As when you have a purpose your work gets a different meaning. Think about how your job is affecting your career goals and the meaning of your everyday working life.
4. Learn how to manage stress
Stress is part of everyday life, and one cannot avoid it. Tight deadlines, workload, and constant meetings can turn your day into a stressful one. If not managed well, such short-terms stress can lead to job burnout.
Learning how to manage stress effectively will help you avoid burnout. Multiple stress management techniques can help you relieve stress and relax at work. Practicing them daily will help you prevent the long-term negative effects of stress.
5. Find work-life balance
When you have a long list of tasks to complete, you might feel it is better to stay at the office after working hours or take the work at home. While sometimes extra work is unavoidable (especially when you have tight deadlines), turning it into a common practice can cause burnout. When the line between work and life is blurred, you might feel responsible to do all the work while sacrificing your time with the family.
Set clear boundaries and make sure to follow them. Having a fulfilled life out of the office will help you recover from a stressful day at work.
6. Take ownership and control
One of the main causes of job burnout is the lack of ownership and control over tasks and projects. If your role requires you to be in control, but your team, boss, or overall organization culture does not let you be in charge, it can lead to dissatisfaction and later to burnout. Take ownership over your projects, communicate your concerns to your boss and ensure that you can control the flow of the processes. It will give a different meaning to the work you do and reduce the chances of burnout.
7. Build a strong team
Being a good project manager means being a good team player as well. You cannot work alone and expect things to run smoothly. Having a strong team that you can rely on can be a great source of feeling stable, motivated, and ready to take on challenges. When you have such a team, it is easier to deal with unexpected issues, which reduces the stress and feeling of uncertainty. Having a strong team is one of the best ways how to prevent burnout at work.
It is easier to prevent job burnout than to deal with it once you have all the symptoms. Identifying causes and knowing the signs of burnout can help you manage your work better, so you can avoid it altogether. To avoid burnout at work, always have a purpose and vision. Prioritize your projects and tasks and plan ahead. Keep the line between your work and personal life, take control over your projects and build the team you can rely on. It will reduce stress in your daily work life and help you prevent burnout.