Opinion: How to set realistic boundaries and avoid burnout at work

Sep 6 2023, 5:37 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Andrena Liu, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur, certified life coach, and freelance writer.

Everything you knew about maximizing productivity is wrong.

Right now, you may believe that putting in long work hours will give you better outcomes. However, it is not necessarily the best long-term strategy.

Studies in occupational health literature indicate that entrepreneurs are highly susceptible to burnout. Hustle culture leads to lower levels of productivity and efficiency.

A two-year study in Iceland tested workers with reduced hours of work in a week and found their mental health improved, they had less burnout and stress and got more work done in less time. The same study showed that professionals with fewer working hours became more productive, efficient, and creative as a result.

In essence, you can work fewer hours and still get everything done. You can organize your days and weeks in ways that help you do more in less time while maintaining productivity.

Work-life integration

As an entrepreneur or senior executive, your business is your baby. It is everything to you, so a concept like work-life balance might seem unrealistic. Instead, consider work-life integration.

Work-life integration is an evolution from work-life balance. It is a concept where instead of dividing work and personal life, like in work-life balance, one integrates work into life in a harmonious way.

When you are living in a true work-life integration, your boundaries might be a bit more fluid. For example, if you normally have a boundary where you stop working after 6:30 pm, you might loosen that rule if you decide to end your work day earlier so you can attend your daughter’s school performance. However, you might bypass your boundary the next day and work a few extra hours to catch up on any work you might have missed.

Studies also show that employers that value work-life balance or work-life integration have improved employee retention. Another study revealed high job satisfaction and less anxiety and stress among employees.

Putting it into practice

Now that you know what work-life integration is, here are some key steps to take:

  • Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid burnout, which means setting limits on things like work hours, technology use, and knowing when to step away from work-related tasks, based on your own capacity and needs.

  • Optimize your schedule for maximum productivity by planning your tasks, prioritizing your most productive times, maintaining flexibility, incorporating self-care, using time-blocking, and automating or delegating tasks.

  • Prioritize rest and breaks to enhance productivity, as studies show their positive impact on decision-making and overall mental health, allowing for sustained focus and improved work performance.

  • Build and maintain positive relationships outside of work, as they can contribute to your mental well-being, reduce stress, and improve your job performance.

When work is completely enmeshed with your life, it can lead to overwork and burnout. Work-life integration is achievable.

The bottom line is this: working fewer hours at a high level of productivity is possible, but you must make it an intentional goal. There are ways to structure your days and your weeks that don’t compromise your productivity, but actually increase your efficiency.

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