Avoid burnout by working smarter, not harder
The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that 35 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women always, or often, feel rushed or pressed for time. The top three reasons given for feeling rushed are:
- Pressure of work/study
- Too much to do
- Trying to balance work and family responsibilities
We used to think that the more we work, the more we, and the business, benefits. But we now know that how smart we work ‒ not how much we work ‒ is the key to making a positive difference to our state of our well-being, and to our business results.
Go from working long to working smart in three steps
1. Get ready – get into the right headspace
Working smart means accepting what you can and can’t change. We often speak of ‘time management’, but in fact, we can’t manage time. For example, we can’t make time stop when we need to catch up. But we can manage ourselves, and how we spend our time.
2. Get set – set goals and make a plan
To set goals, ask yourself where you and your business want to be within a specific time frame (consider both long and short-term goals). Questions to ask are: What are my work (professional) goals ‒ e.g. Where does my business want to be?, What do I want my role in the business to be? ‒ and What are my personal goals?
Although we are speaking about work and business goals, you must have an honest conversation with yourself about your goals in all aspects of your life, so you can develop a balanced plan to achieve all goals.
I, like many, have changed careers. In my first career I focussed only on my work goals, and assumed that my personal life would take care of itself. This was a big mistake! I was unable to maintain a relentless focus on work, and ultimately burnt out. I learned an important life lesson from this experience— that working smart isn’t the same thing as working long hours; we must prioritise activities to achieve a healthy balance of both work and life goals.
3. Go! – develop work-smart habits
Returning to my earlier ‘to do’ list, here is one daily habit that I find particularly useful: 1. Write a ‘to do’ list at the end of each day; and 2. Systematically review priorities at the start of each day.
To do this, assign one of the five categories below to each item on your ‘to do’ list:
- Absolutely must do. This is a very important task; there are serious consequences if the task is not completed, and/or significant gains if it is completed. If you have more than one A task, rank them in order of importance so your top priority A task is called A1, your second highest priority is A2, and so on
- Be good to do. This task has mild consequences; it will produce some gain, and may avert a negative consequence
- Could do. There are no significant consequences of completing or not completing this task
- I am not the only person who can do this; someone else could complete this task, which would leave me more time to work on my ‘A’ task/s
- Completing this task will make no difference to my work or non-work life
Put simply, saving time takes time—there is much to consider with each step, and we should continuously review and adjust goals, plans and habits to accommodate progress made, new circumstances that arise, and changes in priorities.
 Adapted from the model by Brian Tracy, author of Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.