Use this tip to stay motivated, avoid burnout, and spend more time on the things you love to do.
Caring for our collective mental health has become a critical priority in the workplace. Over the past few years, I think it’s fair to say that all of us have experienced some sort of mental exhaustion thanks to the COVID outbreak, political turmoil, and continued economic and political uncertainty. And now, with our holidays, it can be overwhelming.
As the pace of change in the business world continues to accelerate, it can feel like you can never keep up. There always seems to be more to do than time (and sometimes, motivation) to do it. This only fuels feelings of exhaustion, along with increased stress and sleepless nights of these growing to-do lists.
“It’s a lot to navigate, so it’s important for professionals in every industry to prioritize their well-being to manage work-life balance,” she says. Andrew McCaskill, LinkedIn Career Expert.
I caught up with McCaskill to learn his top strategies on how we can all protect our mental health while still getting work done during the holiday season.
1. Protect your space
One of the most frustrating aspects of the workday can be the endless distractions. Whether it’s a colleague wanting to catch up or something unexpected popping up just when you thought you were caught, we all experience the feeling of never getting enough done.
The answer, McCaskill says, is that it’s up to you to find and protect your peace of mind at work. This starts with creating an environment that is conducive to deep work.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to create this space for yourself and then protect it!” says McCaskill, noting that this could include working remotely or simply having a quiet office space.
It’s also important to know when and where you feel most productive. Are you the most creative in the morning? Or are you more productive in the afternoon with your second (or third!) cup of coffee?
“Everyone has their own daily flow, and knowing yours will help you make the most of any time of day,” says McCaskill. Take the time to identify your own work preferences so you can focus on certain tasks at the right time for you, which will help you get the most out of your workday.
McCaskill says you should also take the extra step of blocking out time in your calendar to make room for independent work.
“Sometimes I think of it as becoming ‘invisible’ by shutting off your pings and dings so you can fully immerse yourself in the work at hand,” he says.
2. Recruit an AI assistant
When ChatGPT made its public debut in late 2022, it changed the world. Despite many doom and gloom reports about how this technology would steal jobs from people, both workers and executives say they are excited to use AI at work to help them be more productive by outsourcing boring and repetitive tasks to AI.
The opportunity, McCaskill says, is to start thinking of AI as your personal assistant that can help you take on some of the more mundane aspects of your job, such as tackling monotonous or time-consuming tasks like writing emails and sort your to-do list.
You can also use AI to initiate more complex tasks, such as generating creative ideas for a brainstorming session or meeting agenda.
“This can free up more time for high-impact, creative work that you probably enjoy most,” says McCaskill. “You can even use AI to help you strengthen your professional network — which many workers say they would focus on if they had more free time because of AI.”
3. Learn to say “No” more.
Although it would be unwise to adopt a policy of saying no everything new or unexpected that comes up during your workday, you may want to be more selective about the projects and tasks you take on.
“It’s okay to say ‘no,’ or at least ‘not now,'” says McCaskill. “Saying no to things is not a negative reflection on your skills or abilities. My manager often says, ‘This team can to succeed Anythingbut we can’t do everything.”
When trying to decide what to take on and what to skip or delegate, McCaskill suggests thinking about which tasks will have the biggest impact on results and then prioritizing them.
“Delegate from there, and if you’re having trouble deciding, talk to your manager,” she says.
4. Create your to-do list
The truth is, no matter how productive you are, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to check off everything on your to-do list every day. But don’t think of this as a setback. it’s just reality, says McCaskill.
The key, he says, is to create a to-do list of the three most important things you own absolutely must succeed at the top. And then, once you’ve identified them, list the additional tasks you have more time to complete.
“That way, you won’t use up your original work time just checking off the things you need to do, but instead make sure you get your big projects and important tasks done before the end of your day,” says McCaskill. “You’ll be less likely to accidentally put off your most important tasks, and you’ll feel more accomplished and productive at the end of the week.”
5. Give yourself a time out
Although it may feel counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to stay motivated and get more work done is to take a break, McCaskill says.
“Getting away from work can really do you more productive, as you give the brain fresh perspective and space to think more positively,” he says. “You can probably accomplish a lot more in two focused, recharging hours of work than in eight long hours where you’re bound to burn out at some point.”
McCaskill suggests giving yourself permission to take a break, even for a few minutes, and being proactive about it. For example, you could try time-blocking, where you schedule breaks into your calendar to avoid getting booked up with meetings all day.
“Stick to it and stay away from checking email or other tasks you need to do during that time away,” says McCaskill.
6. Ask for help
McCaskill says that taking care of yourself and prioritizing your mental well-being means you’re able to appear your best self—both at work and in your personal life. So if you struggle to feel motivated or dread every work week, it might be time to have a real, open and honest conversation with your manager about how you can improve your mental health at work.
“Be open and honest about the things that aren’t working—whether it’s shorter work days or weeks, better respect for time off, or more time off for mental health days,” says McCaskill.
At the end of the day, we are all human, not robots. Especially at this time of year, when we often spend more time with family and friends, it’s important to stay productive without burning out. If we want to be our best selves in both our personal and professional lives, we shouldn’t be shy about making the adjustments that will protect our mental health—and our motivation—during this busy season.