Let’s face it… most of us need to work for one reason or another. Some of us like to work, some of us don’t. But regardless of your personal feelings about your current job, your sales quota, your sales manager -- we all have a basic desire to be successful, to be a rock star at something in our lives. And that desire (as well as that paycheck) is largely what drives us, pushes us, compels us to work ourselves into the ground in its pursuit, oftentimes leaving us overwhelmed.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few stats to consider:
- According to the Spring 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 25% of respondents claim to work 60+ hours a week, and 62% said that they give up vacation time to run their business
- The average American sleeps 90 minutes less than they should, and the number of sleep disorders is on the rise (Source: Juliet Schor)
- 69% say that work is a significant source of stress, and 41% report feeling tense or stressed out during the workday (Source: Juliet Schor)
- 34% resent their coworkers for working less than they do (Source: visual.ly)
- Since the recession, 86% of executives say their companies now expect more of their employees, and 59% of employees feel more pressure (Source: visual.ly)
So, how can we possibly fulfill our “rock star” dream, if we are overworked and overwhelmed? Brigid Schulte, an award-winning reporter at The Washington Post, says in her new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time, that you must take regular breaks. She discusses the discovery that humans not only sleep in 90-minute REM cycles, but we also have 90-minute attentiveness cycles during the day. We should use that natural rhythm to stay focused on the tasks at hand, taking breaks – and giving our brains a rest – every 90 minutes. Not doing so, Schulte says, is a “surefire way to produce subpar work.” So, take a quick walk around the office, take some deep breaths, or take a (quick!) cat-nap… whatever you do, just take a break!
Once you’ve given your brain a break and you are thinking more clearly, spend a little energy getting your priorities in order. It may seem obvious, but try to do the most critical tasks first, leaving the less important tasks for the end of the day. And once you’ve made a commitment to your top priorities, stick to your guns! Don’t get distracted by a Facebook update or an Instagram post. I like to check social media as much as the next person… but I’ve found that I can easily get wrapped-up in a “conversation,” and the next thing you know, I’ve wasted 30 minutes. So, unless I’m posting something on social media for work, I tend to stay away from checking my accounts until the end of the day.
Now that your priorities are in order, consider letting go of and reassigning work that can be delegated. This will not only reduce your workload, but it will also demonstrate trust in your colleagues and/or employees. And a little trust goes a long way to boost your team’s energy towards an assignment. Who knows… they may even do a better job than you would have done.
There are steps we can take at home, as well, to help us de-stress and unwind from a busy day at work. If at all possible, pick a time in the evenings to turn off all of your electronic devices that ring, ding, or sing when you get an email or text, and enjoy the peace and quiet. You’ll be better equipped for a good night’s sleep and those 90-minute REM cycles I mentioned earlier.
Do you have other ideas to prevent feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and just plain over it? I invite you to join the conversation and share… maybe your idea will keep someone from becoming part of the 52% of Americans who have switched jobs in hopes of being less stressed at work (source: American Psychological Association).