If you told me in March that the world would still be shut down in May, I’d have said you were crazy. If you told me in May that the world would not reopen before the end of summer, I’d have said “no chance in heck!“ And yet, here we are wrapping up September with no light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
As human beings, we like routines, social interaction, and knowing what comes next; all of which are impossibly challenging in our pandemic-fueled world. When we are left in isolation, with uncertainty and no clear vision for the future, it can lead to a host of feelings like anxiety, depression, and for many of us, burnout. And while these unwelcomed feelings are understandable in today’s climate, they are often detrimental to our overall productivity. In fact, several major employers quoted in this New York Times article fear that long-term remote work is causing employee burnout and that the short-term productivity bump we saw at the beginning of COVID is not sustainable.
As a brand strategy agency, this isn’t exactly great news. Much like many other businesses, our busiest time of the year is just getting started with the need to develop public relations plans, social media strategies, creative content, digital marketing plans, and other creative services & solutions for our clients for 2021. Fortunately, there are several tried-and-true tactics to help us all push through the burnout when sabbatical is off the table.
Get your body moving
Google any article on managing burnout and they all say the same thing. Get out and exercise. Why? Because endorphins are pure magic. They make everything better. It is way too easy in this work-from-home environment to substitute good habits of exercise, hydration, and proper nutrition with a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle. Frustrated by a client call that went awry? Instead of mulling in anger (and the snack cabinet), go outside and take a jog around the building. I guarantee you will come back to your computer with a clearer mind, a fresh perspective, and a smile on your face.
Tune back into your “why”
As human beings, we are not motivated by tasks alone. Rather, we are motivated by purpose. When we start to feel burnout and loss of interest in what we are doing, it can often be attributed to no longer “seeing the forest through the trees.” In other words, we get so bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that we lose sight of why we are doing them in the first place. It is important to remind yourself often why your work matters to you and why the tasks in front of you connect to a larger, personal goal.
Take a social media detox
This one has been infinitely helpful for me in managing anxiety and burnout. 2020 has been tense in the digital world, to say the least. Social media platforms that were once used to share family photos, fashion inspiration, cooking adventures, and more turned into heated social justice and political movements overnight. While the messages being shared are important, it can become overwhelming and exhausting to be bombarded constantly with anger and passion. What once was a source for distraction and mindless scrolling (aka rest) is now another trigger of stress in an already uncertain world. Do yourself a big favor and log out of your social media accounts for a few days or weeks. It will do wonders for your sanity, and may even open your eyes to how often you welcome the intensity into your life every day.
Make space for downtime
This is equally as important as taking a social detox. Particularly right now while we are encouraged to stay home and socially distance from friends, family, and our communities, there are seemingly no boundaries between the workday and time off. So what do we do to fill the time? Tend to work emails, get a jumpstart on the next project, and ultimately work ourselves into the ground. One of the best things you can do for yourself to avoid burnout is to designate your “STOP” time for the night and put your phone, laptop, and email out of reach and sight. This applies to the weekend as well. Re-train yourself to leave anything non-urgent until Monday.
Challenge yourself to something new and interesting
While humans love routine, we do not love the mundane! For many of us, we feel drained after chugging along at the same tasks week over week. One of the best ways to “refill the cup” is to schedule something you really enjoy and/or try something new that piques your interest. Studies have shown that engaging in something exciting, even if it is more challenging, can be more beneficial than rest alone. Always wanted to try mountain biking? Make it happen! Not only will it lift your mood and well-being for that day, but will also boost your future productivity and stave off burnout.
Restructure your workspace and habits
Prior to COVID-19 and opening our Denver office, I worked remotely for almost four years. In that time, I learned a lot about myself and how I work best. For starters, I learned that I couldn’t stay in one place for too long before I’d start to get antsy. So every few months, I moved my workspace from one place to another to have somewhere new and exciting to look forward to, and a much-needed change of scenery. I also started to take inventory of which tasks I really enjoyed, and which tasks were always the thorn in my side. From there, I figured out what time of day I was most engaged, and when I was most often “checked out.” I found that restructuring my day to settle some of the daunting tasks during optimum brain time helped my productivity skyrocket. I urge you to try the same tactics if you struggle with keeping on task or lack the motivation to get your work done.
Here’s to finishing out this doozy of a year on a high note! What other methods have you found to be successful in pushing through burnout?