An article review: Preventing Busyness from Becoming Burnout by Brigid Schulte
“Research finds that work-life conflict-which is a potent cause of stress and key contributor to increases in poor health, a drop off in productivity and the stall in gender equality- is largely the result of how workers experience busyness.” —B. Shulte
I noticed that I have developed a habit of busy with work. There have been a lot of changes, growth, and learning the last few weeks. In that same time, I have watched tasks that are quick to finish get priority over the tasks related to long term goals. How has culture influenced busyness? What old gender constructs influence my behavior? What do I believe about myself and work? Here is my analysis on busyness and tips found to prevent burnout.
Work-Life Balance is the Key
We as a culture agree that work-life balance is a critical component to our health, well-being, and happiness. This is a core value. Yet, we are struggling to live this value out. Any time of day and night, work has bits and pieces that get completed after office hours. Schulte found that even loving what you do isn’t enough to prevent burn out if you do it all the time. We as humans need a hard stop on work. We need to walk away until work resumes the next day. The culture shift can only happen with behavioral change. Schulte also discovered that leaders are some of the worst offenders of late night emails, rarely taking vacation, and texting after hours. “Everyone knew what they should be doing, but actually doing it was a different story.”
Try a New Mental Model
Part of the switch to greater work-life balance is shifting what mindset we hold around work. What do we view as the ideal model of work? Is it the image of working through lunch, never taking a break, always available to put work first? Changing our busyness habit starts with creating a new image for success at work. Is starting, ending, and breaking at regular times a beginning of a new construct? It is certainly an example to offer in the workplace. Imagine working in a relaxed body and a clear mind because of great self-care. This is the shift we need to call for as a model for success.
Shulte also discovered a need for slack time as a norm in corporations. Slack time is the extra time needed periodically. The day after a vacation requires catch-up. Emergencies and project deadlines need slack time. Slack time is proven to improve content and delivery of the final product. How much slack time do we give ourselves? Without a buffer, we are creating the repeated experience of rushing and never ending work.
Transparency of Work Load
Popular culture has leaned toward secrecy and hiding of workloads. An attitude of, “I can handle it” gives an atmosphere that we all have to handle what comes at us all the time. Transparency could look like emailing a Friday report with all that you accomplished and support needed for upcoming steps. Being honest about what the workload is enables requesting help being acceptable. This is a cultural revolution! But I think it is necessary for ebbing the burnout so many people feel.
Interruptions cost time, quality and consistency. One solution to this is to block off working times for zero interruptions. Meetings are set on certain days with agendas, time limits, and actionable items formed in a concrete plan upon completion. In other words, make the meeting count. Ask for what you need. Have the team on the same page.
“In the end, the hope is that these interventions will help people begin to act their way into a new way of thinking. If they see they can work more effectively and have a healthier work-life balance, perhaps instead of praising people who brag about being super busy and working all the time, they’ll begin to think: If the workers aren’t getting their most important work done, are on the verge of burnout, and have little time for life, what needs to change at this organization?”
My Take Away
I need a hard stop. I need a good running list so I can dive in the next day and tackle the important things as well as the petty. I can be the example of wellness and balance by living out my own work-life balance.