How to be less busy

How can we prevent burnout? A new book seeks to help us relearn the art of rest.

Working Late

 

We live in a world of constant overload where the lines between work and life are increasingly blurred and it’s hard to switch off. It’s not just that we are chained to email, Slack or whatever other communication method our employer uses, but many of us are also in work-related Whatsapp groups which demand instant replies, 24/7.

So how can we take more control of our lives and ensure that we don’t end up burnt out? A new book seeks to provide some answers. Crazy busy: keeping sane in a stressful world by psychologist Thijs Launspach encourages us to rethink some aspects of how we live and work.

Burnout is an increasing issue for employers and they are beginning to address it: one in three of all cases of absenteeism in the UK are related to burnout.

Launspach’s book starts with 10 ways to lower your stress levels and then goes into detail about how to do so and why it matters. They cover everything from self-care, breathing, turning off notifications on devices and only checking email three times a day, where possible, to mindfulness, training your mind to focus and doing nothing more often. He says cancelling things like meetings can be a relief, and it might not just be to you.

Overwork

Launspach describes how we have become stuck in overwork mode: we no longer regard work as such a punitive thing as it has increasingly become the source of our self-worth and self-realisation. He says: “However, all this meaningful work comes at a considerable price: complete and utter dedication to the cause, even at the expense of our own health.”

Work has often become more complex, he adds, with managers no longer needing to keep an eye on workers so much because they keep an eye on themselves as the 9-5 mentality has gone out the window and everyone is expected to go the extra mile – and to feel guilty if they can’t.

But do we have to be so perfectionist and crazy busy? Launspach says we don’t and that fear of missing out which leads to us feeling we have to squeeze so much into our days means “we often miss out on the very things we want to experience”.

He argues that being busy is a choice and that we need to learn to prioritise, to delegate, to lower our own and others’ expectations of what we can deliver and to say no more. The book includes what he calls a ‘how to say no course’ with practical advice on not accepting more work.

We need, says Launspach, to understand the early signs of stress and burn-out and the damaging, longer term impact they can have.

A burnout-free future?

Other ways of cutting ourselves some more slack include working in short spurts to encourage a more efficient sense of focus and using apps like Forest that encourage you to abandon your devices so you can concentrate better.

The book ends with a manifesto for a burnout-free future. Launspach says employers need to make stress a topic of discussion, teach workers the basics of stress reduction, develop protocols for identifying and dealing with burnout and take measures to reduce workplace stress such as adjusting the number of methods of communication they use. Individuals, whatever their rank, can also set a good example for others and can urge their employers to develop clear guidelines on availability, communication and overtime.

“We need to relearn the art of rest,” he states, adding that work is a marathon not a sprint.

*Crazy busy: keeping sane in a stressful world by Thijs Launspach is published by Capstone, price £12.99.



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