Free time is costing us more than it seems. Drake knows. And so do we.
In part this is because all of our illusory free time has been sucked into the vacuum that is the all encompassing work life. 24/7 availability is the norm. You aren't taking a vacation because your car-peer (AKA your career peer) hasn't taken a single sick or vacation day. And you're answering emails from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. But no one, not even your boss, is immune to burnout.
So if you're smiling on the outside, crying on the inside, we feel you, and we don't want you to get to that point. We know the usual steps to avoiding burnout (grab coffee with a co-worker, make sure to fit in a workout, and use your lunch breaks), but there has to be something more, right?
Here are four ways to keep your mind healthy in the midst of the career grind.
1. IDENTIFY WHAT YOU NEED FROM YOUR CAREER
We have various needs when it comes to work. There are some employees that excel in high pressure situations. Others need a much more consistent day to day. However, six virtues have been identified as important to keeping our headspace happy at work:
You can be yourself. Enough said.
You’re told what’s really going on — transparency within the workplace makes you feel like you belong and matter to the company. You want to feel like you're an important
Your strengths are magnified — If you're constantly being told what you're doing wrong, without doing tasks or being given the option to show your strengths, you're going to feel like failure all the time. And you star is going to burnout when it enters the work atmosphere.
The company stands for something meaningful — to you. Think about what is meaningful to you. It matters when you hit the hay if you feel like this next point…
Your daily work is rewarding. Feeling discouraged day in and day out is one of the biggest contributors to burnout.
Stupid rules don’t exist.
2. FOCUS ON THE RULE OF THREE
To-do lists are as never-ending as the stream of information. If you feel the heat of burnout on your back, narrow your focus. At the beginning of the day, aside from your to-do list, write down three things that you want to accomplish before the moon takes its spot overhead. When you set small challenges that are within reason, you will feel purpose heading into the following day instead of discouragement.
Aristotle wrote about the rule of three in his book Rhetoric. To simply the concept, the philosopher said that people tend to more easily remember things grouped by threes, and that threes are funnier, more satisfying, and more effective. It's a writing rule that you can apply to work.
3. SWITCH UP THE ORDER OF YOUR DAY-TO-DAY
We get into the habit of answering emails in the morning, brainstorming in the afternoon, and taking meetings in between. The monotony of doing the same thing can wear on the mind. If you think of your brain like your body, you know that you have to switch up exercise routines to see a difference and avoid adaptation. Your brain is the same, and if you want to get out of a creative rut, or move away from the burnout cliff, make simple switches that workout different parts of your brain at different parts of the day.
Brainstorm creative ideas in the morning. Creative thinking is facilitated by the interaction between the left and right interior frontal gyri.
Answer emails around 11 and give your temporal lobe a workout. The temporal lobe is the part of the brain that controls reading and visual recognition.
4. TAKE A BREAK FROM TECH
I think about Don Draper a lot. And not because I have a thing for Jon Hamm or want to drink at work. Rather, I think about the days he spent sitting in his office, brainstorming ideas, his imagination unrestricted and unfettered by tech.
When I find myself stumped, I'll scroll Instagram. Mistake. This usually makes the problem I'm stumbling over worse, I get more frustrated, and less able to concentrate. If you feel like you've landing in the same brain melting position, it's time to do what I call "the Draper."
It's kind of like work meditation. Turn off tech. Hone in on that beautiful brain of yours and don't get distracted by the pinging and the dinging.
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