I was in a meeting recently where several members of the audience were either on their laptop, smart tablet or checking their phones.  I wasn’t the speaker but I did feel sorry for him since I am not sure how much anyone got out of his talk.  Plus, many of the meeting attendees looked like they had sensory overload.  It probably didn’t help that the speaker included slides that were so packed with charts, graphs, and information.  However, that is a subject for another post.

Why is it that so many people look overwhelmed or burned out at work?  Well, studies show that nearly half of those employed workers are suffering from burn out on their jobs.

There are usually many reasons for employee burn out and some include the number of hours worked.  Since the economy has forced employers to lay off workers and downsize their workforce, those still employed are covering the gap resulting in longer working hours.

However, that isn’t the only reason,  some experts think that the reason for the burn out is that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time…multitasking.  In other words, working on laptops in meetings potentially taking notes but more realistically surfing the net, answering email during conference calls, eating lunch while in a meeting or at your desk, calling while driving–the list goes on.  I am also guilty of this and am making a conscious effort to focus and get adequate downtime.

While I can argue that technology lets us do our jobs better and faster it also has no stopping or starting points and no boundaries.  We can go anywhere and access our email, text messages, Facebook, twitter.  Sometimes it feels like I just have to look to see what new information popped up on my twitter feed or incoming email message.  That type of behavior detracts greatly from my focus and the work that I need to get done.

Why is lack of downtime a problem?  Because when there is no real downtime that causes a loss of productivity.  Then because we switch back and forth from our primary tasks which are important to something else that takes our attention away, we are increasing the time it takes to finish a task by an average of 25 percent.

So if you have a primary project that you need to get done and it would normally take you 2 hours to complete with all the other tasks it would take more like 2 1/2 hours–30 additional minutes–at least.  And, this is a small project–what if it is a project that takes 40 hours.  Not being able to focus will add at least 10 hours to the completion time. And, then with no downtime or shutoff point, there is the possibility of burn out.

I know that when I focus on getting a blog post done and I don’t let interruptions or other activities get in the way, I am not only more productive my post is done more quickly.

What are  some of the ways to set boundaries and aid against your own burn out.

  • Make a schedule of what you want to accomplish for the day.  I make my list the night before. Do the most important thing in the morning-right away.  Try to not be interrupted.  So for 60-90 minutes right away in the morning focus on your most important task for the day.  Then take time to reflect.Establish a 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off.. work 50 minutes on your primary project and then take a 10 minute break.
  • Work at a standing desk.. I like this idea allot and just got a standing desk for my office.
  • Establish regular, scheduled times to think about long term objectives.  One of my favorite HBO TV and book series  is called “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”  In one of the episodes the secretary of the owner of the agency asks her why she is not being more productive and has just been sitting and staring for an hour.  The owner replies that she was using that time to think and that thinking time is very important before moving ahead.  Truly spoken!
  • Exercise is also really important.  There are numerous studies on the benefits of exercise not the least of which is better cognitive function.
  • Take regular and real vacations..get away.
  • And, take time to enjoy the little things.  Maybe even get out that gratitude journal you got years ago and start writing in it.

Add, your own mental relaxation and downtime ideas and send them to me I would love to hear what you do to establish balance and rejuvenate your mental juices.