There’s an interesting psychological term used to describe the feeling of being overworked: burnout. The term comes from drag racing, where drivers spin their wheels at high speeds, creating massive amounts of friction to burn off irregularities on their tires while not actually going anywhere. All too often, that description also sums up a work experience: pressure to go faster in daily tasks while making no progress toward larger goals. And as sure as a tire burnout makes smoke, job burnout leads to apathy, dissatisfaction, and depression.
If you find yourself suffering from burnout, it’s time to reexamine how you approach your workday. Start with these five steps from The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity:
1. Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
You may be familiar with the classic time management quadrant system, where the activities in your day are divided by their importance and sense urgency. The key to a happy life is spending your energy on tasks that are important, but not urgent (labeled Q2 tasks), planning ahead to stay on top of your responsibilities without feeling rushed or stressed. Often, however, these most important tasks take a backseat to things that seem urgent, or get pushed off by unimportant distractions. Identifying your Q2 tasks lets you see what parts of your day move you toward the finish line and which ones are just spinning your wheels.
2. Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
Of course, before you can make it to the finish line, you have to identify where it is. The second choice involves identifying your roles in life: one man might be a father, a nurse, and a husband. The second choice involves an honest evaluation of your performance in these roles, letting you crafting a Q2 role statement: “As a nurse, I will provide my patients with the humanized care they deserve.” Keeping your eyes on these finish lines helps direct your planning sessions toward the most productive tasks.
3. Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
Fitting tasks into a day is much like fitting rocks and gravel into a jar. If you fill the jar with gravel, larger rocks won’t have space to sit. Put the big rocks in first, however, and the gravel can fill in the empty spaces. The third choice involves prioritizing your daily tasks, and accomplishing the Q2 tasks before pursuing other activities.
4. Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let it Rule You
Nothing competes for your attention like modern technology. With constant streams of notifications from your workplace, social media accounts, and entertainment choices, it can quickly pull your attention away from your Q2 tasks. One strategy for managing technology is to keep your appointments in the cloud while keeping your goals and tasks on paper. The 5 Choices Planner provides an optimal space for this practice, with weekly space for tasks and notes.
5. Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out
For each of us, there are physical and mental realities that shape how our brains perceive the world. If you’re heading to work in the morning on five hours of sleep, only to eat three break room donuts and sit in your chair for four hours until lunch, you shouldn’t be surprised at how you feel. The fifth choice involves a benevolent cycle: Move, Eat, Sleep, Relax, Connect. Positive choices in each of these areas give your brain the physical and mental fuel it needs to continue to perform at its peak ability.
The most important choice you can make is the choice to evaluate your life and change as needed. As you follow these five choices, you can move beyond spinning your wheels and hit the finish line with record performance.