4 Reasons Why You're Burned Out — Plus Ways to Counteract It

Together with Athleta, we're compiling actionable wellness advice you need from the experts — and Well+Good is bringing it to life at events in NYC. Here, Caveday co-founder Molly Sonsteng shares her four-step plan for counteracting workplace burnout.

You should enjoy your job (not dread it), so learning the skills to cope and overcome burnout is essential.
Credit: Getty Images/jacoblund

If going to work every day feels like a never-ending struggle of too much to do and not enough time to do it, you're not alone. A July 2018 Gallup poll of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that about two-thirds of workers experience burnout at work.

Even though that's a majority, you don't have to resign yourself to always feeling that way. According to Molly Sonsteng, co-founder of Caveday, which specializes in teaching people how to focus more deeply, there are ways to avoid burnout if you edit your mindset about work.

"With unreasonably long hours, diminishing quality health insurance and work-family conflict (to only name a few), burnout is inevitable," Sonsteng says. "What we're then tasked with as a society is finding a more holistic and sustainable approach to our work."

To help you find that more sustainable approach, Sonsteng is sharing her top four tips for counteracting burnout, so you can actually enjoy what you do (and not dread going into the office).

1. Take Intentional and Energizing Breaks

You might think that taking multiple breaks a day is the opposite of what you should be doing to increase your productivity (and ideally lower your stress levels as a result), but Sonsteng says that breaks are crucial to warding off burnout.

"The most productive people don't work longer hours, they work in intense focused periods and take intentional breaks in between," Sonsteng says. "Depending on the kind of work you're doing, take a break that falls in the opposite bucket."

So if you've been doing intense work that requires uninterrupted focus, take a social break with a friend or colleague, Sonsteng recommends. Or, if you've been doing more social, less mentally taxing work all day (like meetings), turn your break time into downtime with a puzzle or journal.

2. Protect Your Time and Own Your Calendar

No one likes to see last-minute meetings pop up on their calendar, but the ability to demand time in other people's schedules is a reality of fast-paced work culture that's become commonplace. The trick is finding the way to make the open calendar policy work for you.

"Many places of business allow team members to book time in their colleague's calendars without asking permission," Sonsteng says. "Suddenly, what started out as a fairly open week becomes infiltrated with 60-minute meetings on multiple days of the week."

Her recommendation is to block large chunks of time on your own calendar that people can't schedule over, so that you can prioritize getting your own work done before you help others.

3. Set Expectations

Part of establishing those "do not schedule" hours is letting stakeholders know that you will be unavailable for a portion of the day.

"If you work as part of a team and people rely on you throughout the day, communicate in advance that you'll be indistractable for a period of time," Sonsteng says. Since producing a good results is the goal for everyone, your team should understand supporting you in your process.

4. Have a Hard Stop to the Workday

Another expectation to set: the time your workday starts and ends. This one is important to commit to if you expect your colleagues to respect your hours.

Though it might be easy to dash off a quick email on your walk to the gym in the morning, seeing that you're online early can make your co-workers accustomed to being able to reach you at all hours of the day.

"Set limitations on when you're available," Sonsteng advises. "If you need to be responsive in evenings or weekends, at a minimum, protect an hour in the evenings and at least one morning or afternoon on weekends. Realistically, most of us do not need to be reachable at all times." Taking time for yourself will make you more productive (and happier) at work, so it's an anti-burnout win all around.

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