Burnout to Leadership

Ep#5: Overwork

October 22, 2021 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 5
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#5: Overwork
Show Notes Transcript

What you will learn:

  • What IS overwork?
  • What overwork is not.
  • Why do we experience it?
  • How to tackle overwork.

Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, Dex here. Today, let's dive into Overwork, a hot topic for anyone in burnout, and we'll look at what overwork is, why we get it and what to do about it, and hold tight, 'cause this is kind of a big episode on a big subject. And I just wanna point out that this work stands on the shoulders of giants, such as Brooke Castillo, Greg McKeown, Jim Collins and others, but it's filtered through a lens of burnout, so my gratitude to all of my teachers without whom I'd probably still be in burnout myself. So okay, part one, what is overwork? Overwork is defined on the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia as excessive work or work beyond our capacity or strength. I reckon it's all about the way we think and feel about work and our perceived ability to complete it, it's our emotional capacity to bear the workload. Overwork has a harried quality, doesn't it, it's like straining to get enough things done and keep everyone happy, and the strain comes actually from a sense of inadequacy and the anxiety that arises from that, my experience, by contrast of people who are very self assured in their job is that they don't mention overwork regardless of how many hours they work, it appears that they simply recognize their contribution as good and sufficient. Now, most of us here are not physical labourers, we tend to do mental work, so we think of overwork as related to or caused by five main things. Number one, the amount of time we spend in work mode, productive or otherwise, including the amount of time we make available outside of hours to work communication or to worrying and thinking about work. Number two, the size and tenacity of our to do list, number three, deadlines and unreasonable demands, number four, the organization requiring too much red tape, and number five, excessive quantity and diversity of the tasks we have to accomplish. Of course, there are more, but if we deal with these, few we'll have the problem licked... As an example, I have a client who works nights due to the time difference between Australia where he lives and the USA where his colleagues live, of course, he also works days to accommodate his local team members. I have another client who works nights because his family are in bed then, and he can get to the tasks he didn't have time to do during the day. In this podcast, by the way, I'm all about finding your strengths and where you have agency to create a work life that you love, I'm never judging, never blaming. Don't forget, I've had a big messy burnout myself and I fixed it using all the tools I'm gonna present to you. But I am going to be direct and honest with you, about where you may be contributing to your own burnout, and I do it in order that you can resolve that, so I'm trying to put power into your hands here, so with respect and care for all of you, with your best interests at heart. Let's look deeper at what overwork is not. Overwork can't be simply the amount of time we devote to work because that's variable depending on many things, if overwork was directly related to time then anyone doing the same number of hours as us would feel overworked, and anyone with the same workload as us, but better time management would not... It also can't be the communications and worry time, since we often have unexplored levels of control over that, and also there's an element of choice here that we'll talk about shortly. Overwork can't be the size of our to do list, partly because we're not even doing that work yet, but also because the to do list is subjective, it can contain anything our mind can think of to do in the coming days, weeks or even months. Overwork can't be deadlines and unreasonable demands, since juggling those demands, it's is actually part of professional life. Overwork can't be organizational red tape, because again, that's part of the professional standard and landscape, overwork can't be the number or diversity of tasks as we're at least partly responsible for that via prioritisation, scheduling. Delegation and saying no. As I read those out, you may have felt some strong emotion, you might want to argue with me, and it's really useful to be aware of that because in burnout we have some poor time management habits, which we may try to deny. When we're in burnout sometimes we're overworking voluntarily, and it might be helpful to consider how and why... So let's go on to part two. Why do we experience overwork? Having argued that overwork isn't a fact, that it's not 100% circumstantial... I present to you the idea that overwork is a feeling... We tell ourselves we're overworked and that it's unfair, insupportable, etcetera, we complain about our bosses, the system, and the demands placed on us, even if we voluntarily signed up for them. The way we talk about ourselves, and the way we talk about our work and our ability to complete that work creates our emotional weather at work, if we think mainly anxious, self doubting and resentful thoughts, we deplete our own emotional capacity to succeed. The aspects of overwork inside our control include saying yes or no to tasks that come our way, noting that all high flyers say no to almost everything. Centralising our efforts on our area of expertise, delegation and teamwork, prioritising tasks effectively, limiting our work hours to retain creative problem solving capacity and concentration, being efficient in execution, not trying to multitask, not taking on others' unfulfilled tasks, not procrastinating, not making ourselves available for communication at all hours, not sacrificing family time to work, but here's where anxiety steps in, the reason we make ourselves available any time we're awake can include anxiety about what other people will think of us, procrastination, perfectionism, prioritising our time inadequately and never saying no to a task. We choose to keep a constant eye on incoming messages, and we tell ourselves that people need instant responses. You know that's not always true, is it? If we negotiate response times and windows, we might not get any kickback, or very little... When people know what to expect from us, they tend to respect us more, not less. In other words, it's often an internal need to monitor messages and protect reputation that drives this perception of overwork that we have, it's not usually an actual demand of the job, and we'd all like to argue with this idea, but arguing for our limitations is I think not really why we're all here. So part of the problem is also that we have self image as a fixer or go to guy, we can fix any problem, and our ego doesn't really want to let go of that and sees any concession to working less or being less accommodating as a defeat, and we probably need to look into that. So part three, how to fix overwork, if you're anything like me and you were able to skip to this section right away, you probably did. Okay, some simple techniques for fixing overwork, and I'm just gonna run a quick list here, number one, spend time every day looking deliberately at what you're getting right, build yourself up, build your confidence, don't give into confirmation bias and look at only what you think if fails, it's gonna degrade your performance. Get serious about your time management, I teach a bunch of techniques to save time and frustration, and the first and simplest is just to stop taking on other people's work, give it back, they're adults. Likewise, what you can reasonably delegate, delegate, you're gonna need to trust and accept that people would do the work just fine. Your very high standards apply to you for now, not them. Strike all your shoulds off your to do list. Should is just saying, I want to want to do something but I don't want to do it. Prioritise your work and don't over schedule yourself, be realistic, say no to low priority tasks, don't attend meetings out of FOMO, time box your communications and let people know when those windows are, when they can expect a response from you, stop compulsively checking messages all the time. Learn how not to procrastinate now, that's a big one, that's the subject of another episode coming later. And here's another big one, don't be a perfectionist. The last 10% of your quality is not worth delaying your work over at your level. Let it go. And don't worry so much about what other people think of you and your work. Trust your own judgment, it saves a lot of time and hassle, when you have a big scary task to do, take five minutes of action on it right now to break the ice, don't leave it big and scary, don't lapse into helplessness about it and dread. And if you can't do something, ask for help sooner rather than later, this is gonna go against the grain for you, but people like to help and they also like to work with people who are human, not invincible. And who occasionally need help and like to collaborate. I've got a really big tool set for optimising performance for use of time for leadership, which most of which will come along in future episodes of the podcast, but if you even begin to work with the ones I've mentioned here, you're gonna save time. So to review. You might wanna re listen, there's a bit of pith in there that you know you may have lost in the translation, but this episode's been a little bit chunky, however, if you can just consider this, that overwork may not be circumstantial, that it may be just a feeling you create with your thoughts about your time and performance, if you get to that understanding, you're probably on a useful path. Developing self assurance and self trust are very important steps in emerging from burnout, and managing time is just... Where we see evidence of burnout or at least chronic stress and lack of self belief, it all comes out in time really... So I'm gonna leave you with this thought overwork can be fixed, whatever your job, you can do that. And next time on the podcast, we're gonna talk about feeling out of control. So I'm gonna see you then. Thank you so much for listening today, I appreciate that. You can visit my website at dexrandall.com for the show notes and please subscribe and rate this podcast. Thank you. If you are in burnout, and ready to recover, come and join my burnout to leadership programme, you can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com, just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.