Maintaining a healthy work-life balance and reducing burnout is critical, especially in today’s work environment—regardless of how long you have been in the workforce. At the end of the day, while we strive to find value and motivation in the work we do, it is crucial now more than ever not to exhaust ourselves, which can leave less room to enjoy and pursue things that bring us joy and make us feel accomplished at the end of the day.
Burnout varies from person to person; however, it is most often the result of poor time management. Burnout can cause you to remain caught up in work or tasks, miss deadlines and deliver subpar work. You may even experience procrastination, become disengaged and hit a wall creatively. Even more troublesome, burnout can put a strain on your relationships, give you a lousy reputation professionally and put your health in jeopardy (Amherst College, 2023).
Time management is one of the best tools to prevent and address burnout. Time management does not have to be overcomplicated and can be a simple set of practices. Amherst College provides some helpful and easy-to-remember ways to incorporate better time management into your day. These practices are intended to reduce stress and allow more time to enjoy life inside and outside of work.
- Use that calendar. A paper or virtual calendar is essential to keeping track of your schedule. Make sure you write all your classes, meetings, appointments, work commitments, etc., on your calendar, and refer to it anytime you need to schedule something.
- Write it down. Get in the habit of writing down everything you must do in one place (multiple calendars and lists only add to the chaos). Writing things down can help keep things from falling through the cracks. Find a system that works for you. If you notice some things never get crossed off your “to-do list,” ask yourself if the task is essential. If not, get rid of it. If so, take it off your to-do list and put it on your calendar.
- Plan ahead. Whether you plan your day in detailed minute-by-minute increments or broad chunks of time, make sure you put deadlines and due dates on your calendar, then work backward, so you have a handle on what needs to be accomplished and when.
- Allow for flexibility. Things don’t always go according to plan. So, leave yourself a little wiggle room to adjust when something unexpected comes up.
- Prioritize and re-prioritize your tasks. Prioritizing tasks ensures that you are spending your time and energy on the things that are most important to you. Look at your “to-do” list and decide what needs attention now and what can wait. If unexpected things happen, as they tend to do, you may need to shift your schedule and re-prioritize. Prioritizing also means recognizing that it’s impossible, or at least unhealthy, to do everything.
- Avoid over-commitment: learn to say no.Overcommitting can lead to excessive stress, which means you’ll get less out of each activity. On the other hand, saying yes to one thing often means neglecting another, so be conscientious about how you want to spend your time. If it’s tough to say no, practice saying, “let me think about it,” or “can I get back to you later?” to give yourself time to weigh the pros and cons.
- Ask for help, clarity or for more time. This can mean asking your supervisor, manager, colleague or peers.
- Get started. Starting a project is often the most challenging part. If you’re avoiding an unpleasant task, scheduling 10-15 minutes daily to work on it can be helpful. Make sure to reward yourself when you achieve goals!
- Self-care. Sleep, rest and breaks can improve focus and concentration, enabling you to complete your work more efficiently. In addition, eating well and exercising can give you the boost you need to get through your task (Amherst College, 2023).
Will time management entirely prevent or stop burnout? Most likely not, but managing your time is a great way to start. These practices might help you feel more productive, value your actions and motivate you professionally and personally.
Amherst College. (2023). Center for Counseling & Mental HealthTime Management. Time Management | Self-Care and Stress Reduction | Amherst College. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/health-safety-wellness/counseling/wellness/self-care-and-stress-reduction/time-management