Whether you’re a working woman or the CEO of your household, you juggle many important things throughout the day. Mornings are defined by to-do lists, afternoons by surprise emails or stinky diapers, and evenings run rampant with dinner plans, bath times and laundry baskets. So, how do you keep yourself from burning out?

Burnout is defined as “a psychological state of physical and emotional exhaustion” often induced by work-related stress. When you feel a lack of support, are burning the candle at both ends, and don’t know where your job ends and your personal life begins, it’s hard to protect your mental and emotional health.


That’s why you should remember the 3 P’s of preventing burnout: priority, positive constraints and psychology. By prioritizing what’s most important, setting boundaries and reframing how you approach work-life balance, you can remain a high-performing employee (regardless of whether your boss is 60 years old or 6 months old) while feeling healthier, happier and more fulfilled.


Two things can be important, but both can’t be the most important. The idea of having multiple priorities is so ingrained in our culture we don’t really question how two (or twelve) things could all be critically important at the same time. But it’s important to remember they can’t.


During the post-World War II industrial boom, our language saw a shift. We went from using the singular word “priority” to more commonly using the plural form “priorities.” It was no longer enough to focus on manufacturing one widget. Employees needed to think about the widget in front of them, the widget coming down the line, the widgets they would produce tomorrow… Our culture shifted from working to live to living to work. And it’s never gone back.


According to a recent Gallup poll, 76% of employees have experienced some form of burnout. These exhausted employees are more likely to take sick days, visit the emergency room and even start looking for new jobs. That’s bad for individuals, teams and entire companies.


For stay-at-home moms, the demand to be productive is also real. Mommy blogs and Facebook gurus tout how they make their own baby food, get their kids to eat homegrown veggies, keep a perfectly organized home and still find time to go on three date nights a week with their hubby. But with everything in life, what seems too good to be true is probably just that.


You get one priority. Singular. It may change from hour to hour as you accomplish the most pressing tasks or situations change. To help you make those determinations, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Is the task at hand still important, or has the situation changed?
  • Am I the only person who can do this, or can I delegate?
  • Is this task really important? Or am I using it to avoid something else that’s causing me stress?
  • If what I’m doing right now was all I completed today, would I be satisfied with my day’s work?

At the beginning of each morning, sketch out a list of things you need to accomplish. Reorder them based on what’s most important. Throughout the day, look at this list and reconsider your top priority using the questions above. You’ll be amazed by how much more focused, relaxed and productive you’ll feel.

Positive constraints

You have your list and are working on one priority at a time. Awesome! But you would probably need 25 hours in a day to get them all done. This is where “burning the candle at both ends” usually becomes a problem.


Preventing burnout is about more than just refocusing your energy and keeping yourself organized. It also requires setting healthy boundaries around where you dedicate your energy.


Parkinson’s Law says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In short: The more time you set aside for work, the more work you’ll have. If you stay up long into the night, you’ll think of other tasks to put on your to-do list. Or you may make mistakes because of exhaustion and lack of focus, and those will take time to correct. Either way, without boundaries, work becomes endless.


So, if you work in an office or do your desk job from home, set time limits. For example, never start before 7 a.m., always take lunch between 12 and 1 p.m., and close the laptop and mute email notifications after 5:30 p.m.


If you’re managing your household full-time, make arrangements with your partner that create clear lines between being the primary caretaker and just being part of the family. Maybe your partner takes the trash out before work, cleans the dishes after dinner and manages bath time while you read a book or go for a drive. If you’re the primary caretaker in your home, lean on your support system to establish similar boundaries and breaks.


Everyone’s boundaries look different, and regardless of yours look, it’s important to simply have them.


If the scales of work-life balance are still tilting toward work, it may be time for a mental reset.


There’s no doubt being a good employee requires hard work. But more importantly than performing at a high level, you need to protect your ability to perform at peak capacity. If you’re always doing what it takes to succeed without protecting your mental and emotional health, eventually you’ll run out of steam.


Here are two ways to help shift your way of thinking toward a more balanced approach:

  • The 80/20 Rule is a great way to reevaluate how much time you devote to work. To be a good employee while still showing up for yourself and the ones you love, spend 80% of your energy on work and keep 20% stored up for hobbies and family time at the end of the day.
  • Diffused problem-solving is one of the two methods we commonly use to solve problems. Focused problem-solving requires giving our full attention to a problem until it’s solved. This can be very effective, especially when it’s a problem we deal with often. However, diffused problem-solving is a lower-stress, more creative way of finding solutions. Step away from the problem, let your mind wander, and allow your brain to connect seemingly unrelated ideas on a subconscious level.


The juggle won’t stop. New balls will be tossed into the mix every day. But you don’t have to be defined by to-do lists, surprise emails, stinky diapers, dinner plans, bath times or laundry baskets. Taking charge of your schedule to avoid burnout is just one way you can nurture your mind, body and spirit.

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