6 Things You Can Do Not To Burn Yourself Out

I remember when, several years ago, I thought about how many things I could do, not only to be successful but to fill fulfilled professionally and personally. I set some goals that I thought were realistic and some that would take some extra effort. Work changed, goals changed and so did I.

I used to believe it was great to do many things at the same time, especially because I so love diversity and get easily bored with routine. Only if I knew how badly I was burning myself out!

Most of my life I had a day job and something on the side. Some times many things.

Changing my ways was not something that I had plans to do but times changed and made me change. After 2011 and the “hard economic times’ we started to do the job of three people, get the stress of five and the paycheck of one. We are so spent at the end of the day that the side projects, hobbies and sometimes even the family life suffer or simply were put on hold, or literally in the drawer for an undetermined  period of time.

The crazy pace and piling tasks changed our perspective on success. The idea that success was also ideological, that you could feed your intellect with innovating, unconventional and fun learnings and your heart with satisfaction were a part of the amazing definition of a successful life. That gave place to a rush-rush frenzy and the “got to do it now.”. Keeping your job and fulfilling your company’s expectations became our goals and if you can do it, you consider yourself a more-than-successful person.

The biggest problem that I see is the change on productivity: companies’ expectations are incredibly high and they are burning their employees out. So, what can you do not to “burn yourself out?”

Here are six suggestions to help you keep yourself healthy and productive at work:

1- Do One Thing at a Time. Organize your time and your tasks. It can be quite challenging to do one thing at a time in a multi-tasking world but you might be wasting more time than gaining it. Schedule your emails – checking emails ALL the time kills your productivity. According to Ellie Pope from “ Many emails ask for you to act on something – whether it’s a new opportunity or handling a problem – they get your brain thinking about work that’s not related to your original project.” So you stop to read the emails and take the necessary action but your brain will take a while to get back to the original project. The projects “ compete for the same brain resources, so you’ve got even less concentration available when you go back to work on it. – says Ellie.

2- Take breaks. Stand up, stretch, walk around. Go drink some water and have a laugh with a peer. According to a research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, men and women that sit all day are much more likely to die of heart attacks. That is because the enzyme, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), breaks down fat in the bloodstream and turns it into energy.  When people are sitting, it is likely that LPL levels drop according to Marc Hamilton, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri.  This causes fat cells to build up.

Hamilton researched the lifestyle of 17,000 men and women over the duration of 13 years. The research is mentioned in Amit Chowdhry’s article for Forbes “12 Tips to Increase Productivity.”

3- Adopt a healthy diet. According to the UCLA Health System, poor diet habits can lead to increased fatigue and irritability, decrease mental effectiveness and the ability to thinking clearly and lead to higher levels of stress and depression. With the crazy schedules and work load many people start their day with coffee, coffee and coffee. A donut sometimes. Believe me, I love coffee! However you need to fuel your body with good food to have a productive day. And coffee and donuts won’t do it. Have fruits and vegetables-the fresher the better. Whole grains, low-fat protein and low-fat dairy will also help you start your day. Many researches (Mayo Clinic, UCLA) show that a good diet improves concentration, alertness, problem-solving skills and productivity.

4- Learn to Say No. You first have to learn to prioritize. Make a list of the highest value tasks and most relevant actions you have to take every day. Most important things first. Once you know your priorities, say no to the small things. “Not everything that is important is a priority,” so make sure you scale your tasks and align them with your goals. If it can wait, let it be. Get to it when you have spare time.

5- If you get stuck, move on. Sometimes we get stuck on a project and cannot find a way out. You might be exhausted. Go to the next item on your list and get back to it when you finish the other item. Many times when we work on the same project for too long we start to focus on problems and challenges, not on the solutions. It might be time to take a break, have some water, chat for a minute with someone that you have never met. Do something out of your routine so you can freshen your eyes and clean your mind.  Move on. Then get back to the project.

6- Love what you do and have fun!  When I was little my dad used to say that “Happiness is not on doing what you like but liking what you do.” Find the positive and fun on your projects and tasks. Find something that you like. Laugh at your mistakes (and fix them then) and allow yourself to be creative, unconventional and silly sometimes. “If you do it always the same way, you will get always the same results.”

So, work, take a break, say no and have fun. You are your most valuable asset. Have other tips? Share!


9 Tips to manage conflict in the workplace

Many of us grew up with the idea that conflict should be avoided,  that it is bad and that time will fix everything.
As kids, our parents would tell us not to argue with our siblings, our teachers would many times punish us for  “fighting”, Grandma would give us a candy to “calm down”.
Reality is that conflict is part of our lives and is not necessarily bad.

Conflicts emerge for different reasons and it rises when at least two people do not agree with a thought, do not share a belief or have incompatible ideas. And that happens everywhere. It happens at home, where supposedly the two “parties” love one another, are more patient and tolerant, are tied by emotional knots. “Parties” that theoretically chose to share a life and are bound for similar interests.

What about conflict in the workplace, where you gather people from different cultures, believes, who do not necessarily share an emotional bond? Do you know that strong feeling that comes up when someone who is much newer than you in the company, who you do not believe is that competent, gets that promotion that you thought would be yours? Yeah…ego, pride, injustice…however we call it, that is sure a huge conflict trigger! Think about that boss of yours who micromanages you to the bone and want you to report every single step of a project that you are working on? You really believe that your boss does not empower or trust you. Another trigger…

In a Canadian study about conflict, Psychometrics found that more than 93% of the respondents had to deal with conflict one time or another; that the most frequent outcome of workplace conflict is people leaving the organization (81%) and that the main causes of conflict are warring egos (86%) and poor leadership from the top of the organization (73%). Curious but not surprising. Jealousy, ego, pride, bad communication, emotions, competition, difference in style,  unclear policies, personality differences and unclear expectations are some of the causes of conflict in the workplace.

Does it ring the bell?  Absolutely! Conflict happens and it is normal. How you, as a leader, handles the conflict is what makes the difference, what really matters.

Setting expectations, making acceptable behaviors clear, communicating frequently and concisely, listening and acknowledging concerns, acting early on those concerns, leading by example, being approachable and in a friendly manner can reduce the conflicts in your workplace.  However being ready to deal with conflict is an absolute MUST for any leader.

Getting formal training as a mediator was one of the best things I did for both my personal and professional success. Learning how to get to the actual reason for the conflict and learning to ask the right questions made me very successful on finding “win-win” resolutions. So, here are some tips for you leader to manage conflict and get to positive outcomes:
1-    Be aware: conflict will happen at one time or another. Act quickly and do not wait for the conflict to get more serious that it needs to be.
2-    Listen, listen, listen. Some times, all the parties need is really to be heard, to vent.
3-    Be open-minded. You will be dealing with people who have different cultures, different values, believes, goals and understanding of issues. Try to understand both parties’ points of view. Respect their differences.
4-    Understand the actual reason of the conflict: the “parties” are usually emotionally involved, many times so deeply, that they cannot really tell the reason for the conflict. The trigger is not necessarily the reason.
5-    Do never take sides. You are not the judge, you are not there to blame anyone. Your role is to manage the conflict. Once you get involved and take sides, one of the parties will automatically be defensive and every solution will seem unfair and unreasonable. You are a facilitator, act as one.
6-    Make sure that the communication is clear and concise and all parties have a clear understanding of the matter. When they get to the solution, to a bilateral compromise, write it down.
7-    Always aim towards “win-win” outcomes: if one of them ends up “losing”, the conflict is likely to re–emerge.
8-    Follow through and follow-up. Make sure that after an agreement is reached, the parties are sticking to it!
9-    Look for opportunities to point out the success of the outcome, compliment the parties insights, cooperation and achievement . Praise them for their progress.
Sooner or later leaders will have to manage conflict in the workplace, so my main tip is “look at conflict as an opportunity to grow and to help others to grow”!


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