Five signs burnout is making your performance suffer– and what to do about it.
So, you think you’re being productive despite the chaos around you…
Are you really achieving what you think you are? How often do you finish work and wonder what you did all day? How often do you check your to-do list at the end of the day and realise you haven’t finished any of the tasks? It could be that your performance is suffering.
We’re all working hard to keep up with the demands on our time, but since the pandemic, the demands have increased. Often, they clash, leaving us to juggle too many balls at once.
If you’re working hard but not getting anywhere, you might need to look beyond your work reports and time management skills. Time to look at how burnout is impacting your performance.
Here are five tell-tale signs of sagging performance AND a solution for each.
- Multitasking: This used to be seen as a fantastic skill to have but now we recognise the downside. It’s a key stressor in life. By spreading your focus across many tasks at once, it reduces your short-term memory. Little things start to slip from your attention, leaving you anxious that you’ve missed something important. It’s bad for your health and the tasks are rarely well done. This can lead to serious burnout.
Solution: Choose the tasks you want to work on and put everything else out of sight. Turn off your email and message notifications, put your phone out of reach and focus on one task at a time. It’s easy, but we’ve forgotten how to do it.
- Indecision: When there’s too much on your mind it’s difficult to think clearly. It feels as though there are lots of alarms going off in your head at once. Which one is most important? Where do you invest your time and energy? You’ve heard of paralysis by analysis? This is like “paralysis because you can’t analysis”.
Solution: In most cases, any decision is better than no decision at all. Trust your instincts. You’re in this job because you’re good at it. Go with your gut. Still unsure? Run your choice by your manager for more confidence.
- Permanent tiredness: When you wake up tired your mind and body are telling you they need help. When you try to keep working in this condition, your performance is bound to suffer. Mistakes creep in, your attention wanders, you have mid-morning and mid-afternoon slumps, and you get very little done – and even less done well.
Solution: You need a break. Don’t freak out! The evidence shows that even a small break can improve your performance, clear your mind and boost your productivity. A 15-minute break now can save you an hour at the end of the day. Unplug, go for a walk or even take a quick nap. You’ll have more energy afterwards.
- Impatience: If you’re finding yourself less tolerant of others and impatient with your own efforts, it will show in the quality of your work. It’s vital – especially these days – to maintain good relationships with people around you. You’re a team, and what affects one affects all. You may need their input for some of your work and certainly to help you make the right decisions. Without it, and when you rush a task to completion, your output and work quality will suffer.
Solution: Take a deep breath and stop focusing on how you’re feeling. Instead, focus on what’s important. People matter more than a task, and outcomes are more important than processes. You can still get the job done even if the method is different from your expectation.
- Poor concentration: How many times today did you start a task only to put it down a few minutes later, thinking “I’ll come back to that”? How often did you find your mind wandering? It can be easy to be distracted by the thought of fun things ahead or by worries, too. If you find it’s happening more often than normal, you need to deal with it.
Solution: Give your brain a break. Tackle a task you can easily do. Then do another. Often, you’ll find this kicks your brain back into gear. You could also break your task down into smaller steps and work through one at a time. Small tasks seem less daunting than the larger ones. Try the Pomodoro Technique and work for 25 minutes (a pomodoro) then give yourself a 5-minute break. After four pomodoros, take a longer break of around 15-30 minutes. This technique helps you manage your time and to focus on something manageable.
If you’re not as productive as you should be and you’re feeling the strain of underperformance, give yourself a break – literally. You’re not a machine. Don't let burnout take hold. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and look at the barriers to your performance. They can all be overcome if you know what to look for.
If it’s all feeling a bit much for you, reach out. I’m very happy to share my experience with you. Let’s talk.
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Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished, award-winning CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience-based to achieve rapid development and growth.