Preventing Burnout: Pacing

One of the defining qualities of burnout is exhaustion. So, any plan to prevent burnout includes ways of managing energy so that it is not entirely depleted.

Energy has many facets.

    • There is the physical energy that carries you through demanding exercise.

    • Emotional energy allows you to experience a depth of feeling.

    • Mental energy supports concentration on complex ideas and plans.

    • Social energy supports empathy with other people.

These various types of energy tend to rise and fall together. When any one of these forms of energy are depleted, it is difficult to get much going. One exception may be physical energy. After a day of mental concentration or interactions with demanding clients, physical exertion through a long walk, running, working out, or a game of tennis may be just the right activity.

As mentioned in the previous post in this series, your subjective feeling of being energetic, a bit tired, or completely exhaustion provides a pretty useful guide to monitoring your energy level.

What To Do

Recovering from complete exhaustion is tough. It is much easier to maintain a reasonable range of energy than to ride the roller coaster of major energy swings. While being tired at the end of a demanding day of work can be associated with a pleasant sense of accomplishment, complete exhaustion tends to prompt discouragement.

The central quality of pacing is to monitor your energy levels through the day. After focusing intently on one aspect of a job, you can shift your focus to a different area of work that calls upon other skills and energy. At the very least, getting up and walking between bouts of intense concentration helps to maintain energy. The breaks can increase productivity over a day or a work week. This strategy reflects the approach of some marathon participants who include periods of walking within their marathon run, finding that the change in pace actually improves their overall time over what they would achieve by running the entire time.

Developing an effective approach to pacing in your work requires strategic planning. It also requires developing the capacity to modify your work day in ways that are effective and fulfilling. The result is greater resilience at work. An upcoming post on job crafting will explore this issue in greater depth.


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