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5 weapons for battling burnout

Robert Half International

Many workers have been tackling large workloads for months and slowly but surely losing their "get-up-and-go." If routine assignments have taken on mammoth proportions, you may be suffering from burnout. Long work hours and seemingly relentless deadlines can lead to low morale and reduced productivity -- not to mention decreased job satisfaction. Following are additional warning signs that you may be "running on empty":

·         You have trouble getting out of bed when you have to go to work.

·         You frequently arrive to work late.

·         You feel bad about your performance.

·         You feel withdrawn.

·         You watch the clock excessively.

·         Work stress spills over into other areas of your life.

·         You get into frequent disagreements with your manager or co-workers when you didn't in the past.

·         You feel you aren't making progress, despite your best efforts.

If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to make some changes. Here are some strategies to help you renew your enthusiasm and get your career back on track:

1. Evaluate your role
If your company has experienced layoffs or has a hiring freeze in place, you might be shouldering more responsibility than in the past. Although taking on new assignments can be a good career move, doing so can lead to burnout if the scope of your responsibility has expanded beyond what you can reasonably manage. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't try to "tough it out." Instead, meet with your supervisor and be honest about your situation. Work with him or her to reprioritize projects or look for ways to delegate some of your work.

2. Look at your schedule
The way you manage your time also can affect your ability to rebound from job exhaustion. If you are overbooked or expending too much energy on non-critical initiatives, you may be creating additional pressure at work. Try keeping a simple record of your activities for a week and divide the findings into categories such as "researching," "reviewing proposals" and "responding to e-mails." Are you devoting adequate time to the highest priorities?

3. Identify your stressors
Understanding the factors that contributed to your decline in motivation can help you move in a more positive direction. Think about what has contributed to your burnout: Is it the feeling that projects are out of your control? Have your own actions exacerbated the problem? For example, you may have set an overly ambitious timeline for completing an assignment, creating unnecessary stress and obstacles to its success. Even small changes to your routine, such as seeking assistance from your manager when you have too many projects on your plate, can help brighten your outlook.

4. Ask for help
A common symptom of burnout is a feeling of isolation. You may think you're the only one who can review a particular document because you understand the project best, but someone else might bring in a fresh perspective -- not to mention relieve some of the burden. It's OK to let others know that you're facing difficulties and request their assistance. Keep in mind that you won't be perceived as a complainer if you objectively outline the specific issues you're trying to address and ask for guidance.

5. Take a break
Make sure to allow time to periodically recharge. Even if you're working long hours, you can counteract stress and maximize your performance on the job by taking five- or 10-minute breaks throughout the day. Stand up and stretch or go for a short walk. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, try the break room or outside courtyard. When you're able, try to use your vacation days, as well. Getting away from the office, even for a day or two, can give you a fresh perspective on your situation and allow you to return with new focus and energy.

A certain amount of stress is inherent in any job, but when the pressure gets out of hand, it's important to act quickly. Burnout can negatively affect not only your overall job performance but also your personal life. By taking measures to reduce the amount of stress you're facing, you can regain your motivation.


Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at

Last Updated: 03/03/2010 - 3:56 PM