How to Work Harder Without Burning Out

Jan 23, 2021

You're in the midst of an exciting career journey, and your drive to succeed knows no bounds. You relish the satisfaction of accomplishing tasks and have earned a reputation as one of the rising stars within your organization. Your ultimate goal? To ascend to the pinnacle of success.


As a high-performing individual with a strong drive for success, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that you can achieve anything by sheer force – working longer hours, taking on extra responsibilities, and constantly striving to outperform your peers. However, this relentless pursuit of success comes with a hidden danger: burnout.

Passion for your work can sometimes blind you to the fact that while burning the midnight oil and continuously accepting additional tasks might provide short-term gains in your career, in the long run, it can lead to a downward spiral of exhaustion and depletion.

Burnout often sneaks up on high-achievers, gradually pushing them to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. It's crucial to recognize that maintaining a sustainable balance is essential, even as you climb the ladder of success. To prevent burnout and safeguard your commitment to long-term success, consider implementing proactive measures during your ascent. By doing so, you'll not only reach the pinnacle of your career but also have a solid foundation of best practices that will guide you wherever you wish to go.

Maintain Focus on Your Priorities

Lack of clarity in your objectives significantly contributes to burnout. When your goals are ambiguous, setting priorities becomes challenging, ultimately hindering your peak performance. This ambiguity leads to dispersion of your energy across various time-consuming tasks. Consequently, you may experience a lack of fulfillment and accomplishment, paving the way for exhaustion.

During your ascent, it's vital to define the specific deliverables and expected outcomes tied to your role. Understand the metrics by which your performance will be evaluated. Maintaining a laser focus on these well-defined priorities daily is key to managing your energy effectively and avoiding burnout.

Stay Fit

Lena Dunham's character on the recent season of Girls made an astute observation when she started running, emphasizing that the benefits of exercise go beyond physical appearance. She aptly stated, "It ain't about the ass; it's about the brain."

Indeed, research consistently highlights the role of fitness as a catalyst for achieving career success. Exercise provides numerous advantages, including increased stamina and enhanced cognitive abilities. It equips you to handle stress more effectively and fosters a positive self-image, all of which contribute to the pursuit of your career objectives while serving as a protective shield against burnout.

Know What Motivates You

Clayton Christensen, a renowned business figure and Harvard professor, eloquently defines motivation as the internal engine that propels you to work towards success, both personally and in service to your organization. This intrinsic drive empowers you to persevere through challenges and obstacles.

When contemplating the significance and fulfillment derived from your work, it's essential to emphasize elements like continuous learning, personal growth, and being an integral part of a dynamic team. These aspects of your work experience are the wellspring of genuine reward and satisfaction.

However, overemphasizing extrinsic motivators such as monetary compensation, salary increases, or promotions as the sole sources of gratification can lead to burnout. It's crucial to strike a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to maintain sustainable and fulfilling career progression.

Establish Your Daily Routines

Consider the examples of Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Phelps: they've harnessed the power of routines to optimize their efficiency and productivity. Zuckerberg's daily choice of a gray t-shirt simplifies his wardrobe decisions, allowing him to focus on more critical matters. Meanwhile, Phelps kickstarts his day with stretching, warm-up swims, and drills to maintain his physical prowess.

Routines are essentially a collection of habits that eliminate the energy-draining, decision-making minutiae. Think about the countless internal debates you've had over whether to brave the cold for a morning workout. With a well-established routine, that decision becomes a foregone conclusion—a commitment you faithfully uphold.

Perhaps you don't need to adopt a uniform, but imagine having a career-enhancing routine where you tackle your three most challenging tasks at the start of each day, rain or shine, without hesitation. This commitment can be your ticket to success, conserving energy and shielding you from career burnout.

Exercise Wise Time Management Choices

We've all experienced it: late at night, scrolling through our inbox, stumbling upon a work-related email that triggers a cascade of racing thoughts, and suddenly, we're fully immersed in work mode.

In our hyper-connected world, the temptation to be "always on" is ever-present. However, constantly responding to emails, texts, or messages at all hours is not a productive use of time. The more you work around the clock, the more it feels like you never truly stop working.

The danger lies in the fact that much of this after-hours work may not be high-value. Engaging in low-impact tasks can lead to burnout, draining your energy and enthusiasm for your job.

To strike a healthy balance, consider being intentional about your device usage outside of work hours. Set specific times, like checking email at 8:30 PM, and limit your responses to crucial messages. Commit to logging off by 9 PM, so you're not tempted to dive into work-related tasks late into the night. Remember, not all work holds equal importance.

Even in a job you love, it's vital to avoid excessive work. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Cultivate a laser focus on your goals, prioritize your health, and make deliberate decisions about how you allocate your time. Your career, your relationship with your boss, and your well-being will all benefit from this balanced approach.


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