It could be tempting to take on every project and task in sight during a productive week a la Leslie Knope, but when you run out of steam it's a straight-up nightmare. The crash and burn becomes very real. In order to avoid that, you need to commit to stop overworking yourself. You know how the usual routine goes: You're lazy for weeks on-end and avoid your planner as much as humanly possible... and then "the drive" hits. You go from zero to 100 real quick, burning the midnight oil, taking on more than you can chew, and jam-packing your to-do list with a scary amount of tasks. After that goes on for a couple of days to a week, you end up crashing and desperately needing a break.
But the thing is, no breaks are coming. Do you see how that's an unhealthy and disruptive habit? Instead, why don't you make the effort to keep your schedule reasonably packed and busy, but not so that you want to quit your job and just go sell ice cream to tourists on an island for the rest of your life. Below are 11 tips on how not to over work yourself — everything from how to keep your planner reasonable to how to pace your projects.
1. Remember: You Decide Your Calendar
Rather than thinking you have to snap up every single project, request, and task thrown your way, keep this one thing clear: You're the one that decides how your calendar looks. Amanda Boleyn, host of a Forbes' "12 Best Podcasts for Entrepreneurs," called She Did It Her Way, shares in an email with Bustle, "We are gate keepers to our calendar. We have to recognize that there is limited supply to our time."
So acknowledge that there are only so many hours in a day, and you can't possibly take on 15 tasks in eight hours and finish them with the kind of quality you're proud of. Be realistic with what can fit in your work day, and guard that calendar relentlessly.
2. Readjust Your Expectations
We all should expect greatness out of ourselves, but if you expect yourself to finish a two week project in three days, then it's time to lower the bar back down to a sane level. Lifestyle site POPSUGAR pointed out, "If you were expecting that your B.A. in English was going to turn into a staff writer position at The New York Times the day after graduation, then it is time to readjust. Everyone has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is generally at the bottom of the pack." It's important to have goals to push yourself, sure — just make sure that they're realistic and tangible.
3. Practice Saying No
I get it, it can feel rude or un-hard-working if you use the word "no" too liberally. But rather than saying yes just to avoid ruffling feathers, look at the situation in a different way. As in, are the projects and events you're taking up helping you reach your goals in the long run? " Too often we say 'yes' to engagements that don't align with our overall vision and then that's when we find ourselves working longer nights and unnecessary weekends. It takes self control and discipline to not overwork ourselves," Boleyn advises. If you want to keep a manageable schedule, only take up things that help you expand in your career and learn.
4. Stop Comparing Yourself
If you see Karen in the cubicle over staying late every night and chugging a Venti black coffee like it's her job, don't feel like you need to do the same. You can work a sane schedule and still put in a whopping 100 percent. PopSugar pointed out, "While healthy comparisons can help you determine exactly what your goals are, 'comparisonitis' will ruin your finances and your happiness as you endlessly try to keep up with or one-up your friends or family members." When you have a vendetta to appear to be the best, you often times over work yourself and, as a result, let your performance and quality slip.
5. Take Stock Of What Isn't Necessary
There are a plethora of tasks we do on a regular basis that we do purely out of habit — but that doesn't necessarily mean that they actually need to get done. Business writer Jeff Haden from entrepreneur site Inc suggested, "Challenge your basic assumptions about your regular habits. Do you need to have that meeting? Do you need to create that report? Do you need to respond to that email? In many cases you don't, but you do anyway simply because that's what you've always done." See what's on your to-do list that doesn't bring big gains, and cut it.
6. Focus On Finishing What Matters
While you might have a running list of tasks that need to be accomplished on any given day, often times they don't actually have a strict deadline. In order to keep yourself from burning out, prioritize your daily to-dos with what is most important to what can be bumped back to a slower day. "Getting stuff done is fine, but getting the right stuff done is what really matters," Haden highlighted. Not everything needs to be accomplished in one day.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Career Path
If you're beginning to feel the fringes of burnout, take it as an opportunity to re-evaluate your career path and what you want to be getting from your vocation. PopSugar offered, "Have your values changed since you first started in your profession? Or is it that the values of your particular company or employer have changed? Are you not being sufficiently challenged — or are you overburdened?" Often times we begin to feel mentally exhausted and resentful of our workloads when we're no longer getting inspiration or value from our work.
Check in with what you currently need from your profession (you might have grown!) and make necessary changes to not fizzle out.
8. Set Boundaries
While it can be easy to declare you're not available 24/7, it can be just as easy to get stuck in a landslide of emails while watching TV or swapping in your weekend for an emergency project. So in order to lead a healthy lifestyle that balances both the stresses of work and the fun of friends and socializing, schedule your non-work activities like they're to-dos. "Set some boundaries: the time you'll stop working, certain times you'll do things with your family, certain times you won't take calls, etc. Then let people know those boundaries," Haden recommended.
9. Shake Up Your Routine
Rather than doing the same tasks at the same time over and over again, shake up your routine to avoid falling into auto-pilot and a constant state of Groundhog Day-like vibes. Lifestyle writer Annie Mueller from Lifehack suggested, "If you’ve spent some time in mental work, it’s time to go tackle something physical. If you’ve just wrapped up a very interactive team meeting, it’s time to do some work in solitude." Keeping things varied will keep you alert and fresh longer.
10. Always Schedule In Buffer Time
After each big task you do, schedule in some buffer time to give yourself a break and a chance to tie up any loose ends in a calm and non-rushed manner. "Give yourself time between appointments, time between deadlines, and time between major endeavors. Spend less than you have to, not as much as you can," Mueller recommended. That way you always have a chance to catch your breath and won't feel like you're constantly racing from one thing to the next. Make those breathers just as an integral part of your day as the tasks themselves — don't budge on moving them!
11. Turn Off Distractions
No, I don't just mean Facebook and Instagram notifications. The list also includes emails, phone calls, drop-ins, texts — anything that would give someone a chance to drop a new assignment in your lap. Haden pointed out, "Schedule blocks of time when you'll turn off alerts. The only way to stay on schedule is to work on your own schedule — not on that of other people." When you get to control your own schedule, things stay a lot less stressful.
So pace yourself at work by using these easy tips — keep them in mind and you won't ever curse your cubicle again.