Managing Workload to Manage Burnout

Rethinking Workload On Your Own Or In A Conversation

One thing pushing clergy towards burnout is excessive workload. Meeting the needs of a complex community is tough. It can wear you out regardless of how deeply you believe in the value of your work. To sustain your effort for the long run, you need to find a sustainable level of involvement. What is sustainable may change from one life phase to another, but there is always a limit. This problem is not unique to clergy, so the central points can apply to just about any kind of work.

Workload means the demand side of the equation. It sums up all the pressures to get something done.

The two driving forces in this equation are the work to be done and the pressure to get on with it.

Who is being demanding?

  • Community members,
  • Bosses, and
  • Colleagues.

They all apply pressure in their various ways.

But the hardest pressures to counter are those from your own aspirations, ambitions, or principles.

Rethinking Commitments

You always have some discretion in how you spend your time. With practice and developing new skills, you can manage time better, getting more out of each hour of activity. But there is a limit. At some point, efficiency can feel like being superficial to others and to yourself.

But any reflection on workload includes identifying part of the job that you can drop. For most people, on the organizational or individual level, it is easier to take on new things than to drop old things. New dimensions of a job keep it interesting. They let you participate in the contemporary world of how your profession evolves. But, time being finite, new responsibilities will push something off the agenda.

The big question whenever a busy person takes on something new is identifying what has to go.

Negotiating a New Understanding

Jobs can demand too much work. It may have been set up wrong in the first place or the job may have evolved into something larger than originally intended. In these circumstances it makes sense to negotiate a new understanding of the job.

The conversation starts with acknowledging that something has to change. The alternatives all present problems:

  • Attempting to do everything will exhaust you.
  • Rushing through tasks will reduce quality.
  • Neglecting responsibilities will cause discord.

In short, the alternatives are to create more resources (eg, employ additional people) to do the work or reduce the scope of the job.

Making such changes on your own not only puts you into jeopardy, but sidesteps engaging other members of the community in process.

If the outcome of the process is that the community expects you to wear yourself out or to do the job more superficially, then you have to make a decision. The outcome may be a message to pursue your career elsewhere. That decision is a tough one to make, but the process provides the comfort that you have made a genuine attempt to resolve the situation constructively.

The other end of dealing with workload is recovery: how to replenish your energy. That’s an upcoming topic.

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