How to avoid job burnout if you’re an overachiever
Being an overachiever may have worked in high school and college, but it won’t work now.
You’ve always been an overachiever. You turn in your papers on time, every time. Three sources required? You got four. Due Friday? You turned it in on Thursday.
In your first job out of school, it’s easy to walk in with the “yes” man or woman mentality, but you’ll soon learn that it’s easy to take on too much and overwork yourself, which can potentially lead to job burnout.
You’re thinking: “Nah, not me.” Right? Let this sink in. Monster’s Workforce Talent Survey found 86% of millennials reveal some level of burnout in their current positions.
Being an overachiever may have worked in high school or college, but the workforce is a different place. Don’t worry. These are the steps you can take to make sure you don’t burn out on the job.
Make sure you understand the tasks—and expectations
Before you jump in on any project or assignment, “make sure you understand what your boss expects of you,” says Jené Kapela, president and founder of Jené Kapela Leadership Solutions, a consulting firm located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Never assume you know what your boss wants. You want to know important factors such as the end goal, project deadlines, who you’ll need to collaborate with, who your audience is and the tone of your presentation.
Once you have this information, you can work on a project timeline. Instead of concentrating on the amount of work you have to do to declare success, set measurable, realistic short-term and long-term goals that you can reach. If you have a year-long project, set deadlines for three months, six months and a year. Apply the same logic to tighter deadlines.
Communicate your goals with your boss
When you have a chance to speak with your boss (a recurring one-on-one meeting comes to mind), run through your next steps to make sure he or she knows what you’re working on. Then, communicate that you’d like to set goals that are attached to your projects. This not only shows initiative and motivation, but it will also give you a roadmap of what you’d like to accomplish within certain timeframes.
“It is unlikely that your boss is ever going to tell you to work less,” says Kapela. “But as long as you know what is expected of you, you can take steps to make sure you accomplish enough work without putting additional pressure on yourself.” Hopefully, your boss will be able to help you craft these goals, too.
Deal with one-time mistakes
If you stress out occasionally, you can be sure of one thing: you’re a human being.
Some things are natural to stress out over, and we all feel this way sometimes: a presentation to the leadership team, or your yearly review, for example. These are big events that will be nerve-wracking for many people, no matter how young or old.
But no matter how much you prepare, you’re bound to make mistakes. That’s OK. “Don't stress over mistakes, because we all make them,” says Angelina Darrisaw, founder of C-Suite Coach, a career coaching and content platform based in New York City.
The key is to make sure your mistakes don’t become habits, she says. “For example, if you are late once, don't beat yourself up about it. But if you are late consistently, you need to think through changing your habits.”
Learn when to say “no”
As the new hire—and a natural overachiever, of course—you’re trained to say “yes” to any and every request thrown your way. It’s understandable. You don’t want to toss up an opportunity. The key is knowing your bandwidth and knowing who to communicate with and when.
Mishri Someshwar, associate vice president of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, headquartered in Washington, D.C., shares the two most common tricky situations at work she sees and how you should handle them.
When you’re assigned tasks by someone outside your team...
“Always share projects provided by other staff members with your supervisor so he or she can clear your schedule to help you complete it,” says Someshwar. Or, best case scenario, your boss says “no” and then conveys that message, so you don’t have to.
When you have to pick up someone else’s slack...
“Do the work if it's pressing (and affects larger company goals),” suggests Someshwar. But don’t be afraid to “tell them you're busy the next time they want you to cover for them. If it's a repeat pattern, share with your supervisor.”
Being an overachiever is hard work, so don’t be. Be an achiever. Set smart goals, don’t sweat the small stuff, and always be honest when communicating with co-workers.
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