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When you first start working, it is common to be enthusiastic and full of spirit. It is an exciting new aspect of your life; it is when you start becoming independent and start being responsible for yourself. It is also very common for you to overwork yourself due to your enthusiasm and experience a crash in productivity and efficiency. This crash is commonly referred to by therapists as a ‘burnout’.
Burnouts can happen due to numerous reasons. It could be that you are overworking or taking on too much responsibility. It could also be a situation where you have taken on a task that you believe is too hard for you and this forces you to push yourself in an attempt to prove yourself.
The most common reason, though, is that you haven’t learnt to balance your workload. The first step to avoiding this kind of burnout is identifying the signs of burnout and dealing with them.
Signs That Indicate You Have a Heavy Workload
To identify what burnout looks like, we must first answer the question – how to know if you have a heavy workload. Here are 12 signs that you are close to burnout due to an irregular or heavy workload:
- You are working longer hours than you should.
- You can’t identify what your work/life balance looks like.
- You are constantly stressed.
- You have panic attacks when thinking or talking about work.
- Lethargy takes over and you find reasons not to work.
- You are constantly drawn to the allure of other opportunities.
- You feel like you are constantly juggling too many responsibilities.
- You notice a sharp decline in the quality of your work.
- You feel unhappy when you think of your job.
- You begin resenting yourself and your loved ones because of work.
- You stop spending time with friends and family, with work being the main reason for it.
- You’re always rescheduling and realigning numerous things to meet a deadline.
- If you notice any of these signs, it is important that you take a step back and evaluate your situation.
How Can a Heavy Workload Affect You Negatively?
The main reason you should re-evaluate your work management is because there is a direct link between an excessive workload and stress-related health issues like high blood pressure and anxiety. A negative workload can have disastrous effects on your life. Here are 5 ways you can be affected negatively by an excessive workload.
One of the most dangerous and common side effects of working too hard is that it could push you into deep depression. Overworking can strain your brain to the extent that it actually alters brain chemicals. This alteration of brain chemicals can be harmful to your mental health.
2. Bad Cardiac Health
The stress caused by overworking is the leading cause of high blood pressure and this, in turn, can lead to dangerous cardiovascular diseases. Stress is a leading cause for cardiac arrests, heart attacks and strokes.
This type of mental illness creeps up on you. A very common side effect of overworking, anxiety can become a full-fledged disease on its own. It can manifest in any form and can lead to drastic breakdowns and cause harm to personal relationships. You also run the risk of developing social anxiety which can damage your working relationships or even stop you from interacting with society as a whole.
An excessive workload means you will be up at night, and at times, consecutive nights in a week. This can lead to sleep disorders like insomnia. Insomnia, like the other side-effects mentioned, is a full-fledged disease that can cause massive damage to your everyday life and overall health.
5. Impaired Judgement
Overworking can lead to bad decision making. When you have too much work on your plate and can’t handle it all, chances are, any decisions you make will come under extreme duress. Decision making in a stressed and unclear state of mind can lead to impaired judgments that can cost you dearly.
How to Manage a Heavy Workload Effectively
To avoid dealing with the negative side effects of burning out, it is essential to take precautionary and preventive action. To do this, you will need to develop key workload management strategies and skills.
1. Don’t Overcommit
While entering the workforce, it is easy to overcommit to the amount of work you can do. Be careful with how much you take on and learn to finish work before taking on fresh work. This is key to creating a balance in the workplace so that you feel less stressed and more productive.
2. Log Out
Be it from your laptop or the office, it is crucial that you learn to switch off from work. Set a time for yourself to complete your work, and end your day at that time every day. No matter what the circumstances are, end your day on time. It is okay to start your day early once in a while, but never work longer than you need to as it can impact other aspects of your life.
3. Wind Down
Plan your work carefully. It is always best to start slow, peak, and then wind down. Don’t take on work that feels heavier towards the end of the day. The winding down is a way to tell your brain to relax towards the end of the workday so that you can focus better at the beginning.
4. Take a Deep Breath
Breathing exercises are great for composing yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Practice breathing exercises when you leave for the office and when you arrive at the office. Do the same when you start your lunch break and end it. Finally, wind your day down by taking a couple of deep breaths after you finish work at the office, and then again, once you leave the premises of your office. This helps you centre yourself to face the challenges of the day and to ground you otherwise.
Don’t go at it alone; if you are working in a team, find the people who can help you get work done efficiently and delegate some part of your work to them. Share the workload because it is more efficient and also because sharing the workload reduces the stress on everyone involved. Work as a team.
6. Manage Your Time
Organize yourself; overworking usually comes with lacklustre time management which slowly adds up to an unmanageable workload. Get your work done in the time it needs to get done in; meet deadlines or delegate the work to someone else to ensure that it gets completed. It is crucial that you don’t take work home with you or try catching up with work.
7. Work/Life Balance
It is important that you enforce a balance between work and the rest of your life. Get separate numbers for work and home, and don’t take work calls at home. After work, switch off your work phone and don’t go through your work emails. Cut yourself off from work till it is time to get back to work again.
At work, set priorities and divide tasks – this is crucial to both, time management and work management. Come up with a pragmatic list of priorities and make sure you get the high-priority tasks done on time. Clear your list of priorities before accepting new projects and work.
This is essential to not overworking. Communicate clearly with everyone involved at work; if you are behind on a project, keep people in the loop. If you’re going to miss a deadline, let the higher-ups know. If you have more work than you can handle, communicate that and delegate the work or have it assigned to someone else. If you have your hands full and new work comes your way, learn to say no or ask them to come back with it later. Clear communication also eases the managing team’s workload and lets your superiors re-adjust tasks as needed.
Leave time in your work for reflection. Before you finalize a project or sign off an assignment, evaluate it yourself. Make sure you take notes when your superiors or colleagues mention something that they see that you don’t and try to reflect on their strategy or inputs, and whether they are valid. Reflect on past projects upon completion and note down what went right and wrong.
When you ask someone for tips on how to handle a heavy workload, remember that they can only give you solutions that work for them. If you are worried that your workload is too heavy or that you are in a difficult work situation that you have no control of, please talk to your superiors, HR personnel and if needed, a therapist. This can ensure you get the help you need to manage your work life and avoid dangerous burnouts.