For many people, breaking away from the gravitational pull of work is extremely difficult. Our drive to get things done, feel a sense of accomplishment, and succeed often keeps us working well past the point of diminishing returns. We find ourselves saying, “Let me just squeeze in one more thing from my to-do list and THEN I’ll go home for the day,” or “Once we get past these huge projects, THEN I’ll take a vacation.”
This noble drive to do “one more thing” is one of the ways in which we get ourselves into a state of burnout, where it’s no longer efficient or effective to keep working. A study conducted by Stanford University found that efficiency drops off over 50 hours, and truly plummets at 55 hours. Time management is all about managing your energy for peak performance.
So how do you know if you’re experiencing burn-out, and need to give it a rest? Chances are, if you find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over, you’re spacing out in meetings and/or things are taking much longer than they should, you’re in the danger zone.
Take this Work-Life Balance Quiz to find out just how far off balance you are!
If you’ve identified that you are feeling overworked, exhausted and depleted, what do you do? The first step is to let go at work and take care of yourself. Though it can feel counter-intuitive or even like career suicide, stepping away and focusing on your balance is actually the most effective way to improve your performance. When you give yourself a chance to re-energize, you think more clearly, make better (and swifter) choices and tolerate frustrations so much easier. Simply put, you work smarter, and are more efficient, and actually make a greater contribution to your company, colleagues and clients.
The best part is that recalibrating and finding balance doesn’t have to involve big changes. Try shortening your workday by 30 minutes, and you will likely get more done. (Kind of like being on a deadline). You can also fold bursts of balance into your schedule, for more regular recharges. Fit in a 20 minute walk midday to refresh your mind, grab an hour to have a lunch date with a friend, take a whole day to yourself to enjoy your garden and a book, or plan a week of vacation with your family. The idea of “finding balance” is about identifying what uniquely engages and restores you. Whatever you do, make sure to have a concrete plan of how you’ll use time away from work so you don’t end up back working your to-do list. Recharging your batteries allows you to show up and be fully present, and will actually do more for your time management and productivity than staying late trying to cross off one more thing on the list.