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7 Ways to Prevent Work Burnout


My friend Emily is suffering through a rough time at work. Her company did a round of layoffs and she survived. Yes! But then came the downside—Emily is now doing her job, plus the job of a co-worker who was fired.

No responsibilities were taken away from her and there’s no extra pay. Each workweek is the equivalent of a marathon, with long days, dozens of e-mails, and not enough time to accomplish tasks. The last time I spoke to Emily she was on the verge of tears—she’s tired and overwhelmed.

If you can relate, try these tricks to fight off burnout at the office.

1. Don't skip spin class. Scheduling even just 30 minutes to exercise will revitalize you and add more energy to your workday. A morning run, midday yoga class, or nighttime Zumba workout can boost your daily creativity and help reduce stress. Or instead of after-work drinks, why not schedule a hike or spin class for your next meeting or office get-together? You’ll end up killing two birds with one stone by combining your workout with “work.”

2. Take a breather. When you are swamped, your productivity often goes down because you don’t have large chunks of time to accomplish tasks. Make sure you set aside time in your day to devote to those things you really need to think about and focus on. Also be sure to schedule a few minutes before meetings to go over your notes and remember the items you want to discuss. The conversations will go faster and be more productive. 

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3. Choose the right tools.  While its purpose is to make our lives easier and more productive, sometimes technology can add a whole other level of stress onto our already overwhelmed shoulders. The right digital tools, however, really can streamline our lives. For instance, need to stay informed but don’t have three hours to spend reading blogs, magazines, and newspapers? LinkedIn Today helps keep you up-to-date on trending news and insights that help professionals stay one step ahead. Make time during your day to take in this news, even if it’s during your commute or while sipping your afternoon coffee.

4. Record, record, record. Buy a cute work notebook and carry it everywhere. Use it as a catchall place to make lists, record notes, and write down random thoughts. When your brain is working overtime, it isn’t possible to remember everything. If a coworker stops you in the hall and asks you for a copy of an email you sent three weeks ago, you might forget to track it down unless you make a note of it. At the end of the day, use this notebook to create a fresh to-do list for the next morning. Even if you arrive at work to find a new crisis, you’ll be able to keep track of the other things you really need to do.

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5. Manage email and voice messages. We’re all addicted to email and other forms of quick communication. But during a frantic day, lots of new messages will only make you feel more stressed. Resist the urge to open new mail the second it enters your inbox. Check email periodically, and know that it’s okay if you don’t respond right away. Most people expect a prompt response, which is different from an immediate response.

6. Go to lunch. Take advantage of the free time you deserve. Don’t work through lunch or breaks. Even 20 minutes away from your desk can help revive you and make you better prepared to cope with the afternoon’s dramas.

7. Say something. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed and sense that it will be a perpetual problem, communicate this to your boss. He or she may not realize your stress, either because you appear to be handling it well or because they are also overworked and preoccupied. Talking to the higher-ups may produce a solution, and you’ll feel better and less resentful if you ask for one.

Are you feeling burned out? How are you coping? Tell us in the comments below and @Shape_Magazine.


Nicole Williams is the bestselling author of three books, the latest of which is Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career SuccessNicole is also LinkedIn's Career Expert. The company she founded, WORKS by Nicole Williams, is the go-to resource for career-minded young women and was named one of Forbes magazine's Top 10 Career Websites for Women. You’ve seen her on TV—as a regular guest on Today, Good Morning America, and CNN—and in print, where her advice has appeared on the pages of SHAPERedbookELLE, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, and the Wall Street Journal. Visit, and follow her @TheGirlOnTop and on LinkedIn.


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