Stress occurs in all workplaces – it’s unavoidable. It occurs when we are too busy, or we cram too much into our lives. Burnout is unavoidable no matter how talented or experienced an administrator (or any type of professional) is. It’s the steps you take when you’re extremely busy that are important.
What do I mean by busy? I’m referring to the stress that comes with being busy. Even the happiest of people can feel stressed, even if you can’t tell. But, how do you know you’ve moved from a manageable workload to being too busy? Is it not taking your full lunch break at least two days each week? Is it because you have a lot of paperwork on your desk or unopened emails in your inbox you’re not getting through? Do you find you get interrupted constantly that you get to the end of the day and don’t feel like you got all your tasks finished?
When I think of work=life balance I see it as a cycle of a working week, where your normal workload stretches across around half to no more than three-quarters of your awake time throughout the week.
If you spend most of your time with a full workload that impacts on your life time consistently, then this will keep you beyond a reasonable point of busy, raise your stress levels and eventually lead to burn out.
Sometimes being busy can be planned, such as organising conferences or meetings where you have long days of hectic activity. But, it can be very harmful when this fast pace is prolonged, leading to burn out. Administrators are jugglers – we juggle many requirements in our job, and most make it look easy. We can project manage, deal with logistics, schedule, manage meeting and events and so much more. Event Coordinator has been ranked as the fifth most stressful profession in 2016 by Forbes Magazine 1. As administrators we want to do our jobs to the best of our ability, but it’s not healthy to be consistently dealing with a full workload – things can get dropped, errors consistently occur.
Thinking about the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’, what steps can you put in place to help manage your stress and minimise potential burn out? These are some steps I recommend:
1. Talk to someone / delegate
If you’re consistently feeling like you’re working at the top end of your full workload and potentially sacrificing your life time because you’re too busy, speak to your manager or HR. Something is not right with your scope of work and you may need to reallocate some of your work to others.
2. Set Boundaries
If you get interrupted regularly and it’s impacting your ability to deliver, set boundaries with your colleagues. This is particularly important when you are in planning phases of your day, such as first thing, after your lunch break and at the end of your day.
3. Prepare for deadlines
You shouldn’t be surprised by your work deadlines, or your busy periods. They should be measured against your deliverables. Plan for deadlines, both mentally and physically. Get yourself ready to focus and minimise any extra stress around those deadline periods. Use visual and audio tools to keep as calm and focussed as possible. Prepare your calendar to give you breaks and time off during the busy period, and let your family know you are in a busy period.
4. Recognise your stress
This is challenging, as you may not realise you are showing signs of stress during prolonged busy periods. If you are comfortable to share with a colleague in your office, give them a trigger word or image they can share with you if you are outwardly showing signs of stress. You don’t want your boss to think you can’t cope, but at the same time, you may not realise that you’re outwardly conveying stress. Make sure you have a way of reducing your stress – exercise, family & friends, music, dancing – use techniques, apps, whatever you need to help you get through.
Being busy is a reality of work, but by recognising stress and planning accordingly, you can manage your busy periods and avoid burnout.
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