Two Ways to Leave Work Stress Behind

After a long day, it can be a struggle to leave work behind you. Too often, we take out job-related stress on our friends, children, or partners. Here are two ways to make sure your work troubles stay at the office:

  • Have an end-of-work habit. Signal to your brain that it’s time to go home with a ritual that helps you unwind. Take a more scenic route home, listen to music on the bus, or go to the gym. Make time for this habit so you can switch gears before you get home, not as you’re walking in the door.
  • Create a third space. It’s easy to just shuttle back and forth — physically and emotionally — between work and home. But having a third space besides these two locations will help you decompress. It might be anything from a quiet café to a book club to a poker night. It should be a place where you explore your interests, relax, and ideally find fulfillment.

3 Strategies for Presenting When Your Time Is Cut Short

One of the most common—and unpleasant—surprises you can face as a presenter is having your time cut short. Maybe there’s a technical issue that causes a delay, or maybe the previous speaker(s) ran long. How can you still nail your presentation when you have less time than you expected? Keep these three strategies in your back pocket.

  • Come prepared with two versions of your presentation. Create a full-length slide deck and a short, backup one—and practice delivering both from start to finish. If you have to go with the shorter one because of an unforeseen time constraint, be sure to let your listeners know that you’ll provide additional context after the meeting.
  • Deliver the headlines. Don’t just write bland headers for each slide; instead, write complete, descriptive headlines that tell the story. For example, rather than titling your slide “Economic Outlook for 2023,” write “Economic Outlook for 2023 Is Optimistic.” This small tweak will highlight the important, bottom-line information up top, making it easier to go through your presentation quickly in a pinch.
  • Don’t apologize, throw your colleagues under the bus, or sulk. Act like this is exactly the version you’d always planned to present all along. If you do, it’s highly likely that your audience won’t be able to tell the difference.

Are You Taking Effective Breaks from Work?

Taking breaks throughout the workday can boost both your well-being and performance, but far too few of us take them regularly—or use them effectively. Research suggests you consider the following factors to get the most out of your pause from work.

Length. A longer break isn’t always better. Disengaging from work for a few minutes but on a regular basis (micro-breaks) can be sufficient for preventing exhaustion and boosting performance.

Location. Changing locations will help you recharge. If you can get outside, even for a short walk, all the better.

Activity. Browsing social media is a popular, but not necessarily effective way to take a short break. Instead, choose to do something that enriches you, brings you joy, and gives you energy.

Pets! Research shows that interacting with a dog can lower levels of cortisol hormone, an objective indicator of stress. So if it’s possible to spend some time with a furry companion during the workday, give it a try.

Music. Music can be a really good breaker from work. It nourishes you and you feel really good after a good music break.

Movie or TV. Movie or TV watching can also be a good break, provided you use it effectively and within the time limit.

Are You a Chronic Overachiever?

It’s good to be ambitious in your career. But a relentless drive to achieve can lead to burnout, hurt your relationships, and create an unhealthy work-life imbalance. How can you dial back your overachieving instincts? Start with these steps:

  • Do some self-reflection. When did your pattern of overachievement begin? Was it through high performance in school or sports? Be honest with yourself about how your identity and self-worth got hooked on achieving. Those insights will help you begin the process of undoing what is likely decades of programming.
  • Challenge your assumptions. Ask yourself: What might happen if I were to take my foot off the gas? Am I afraid of failing? Looking incompetent? Letting people down? Our fears are typically based on faulty assumptions and, left unexamined, these assumptions keep us stuck in old patterns.
  • Redefine success. Take a holistic view. Life isn’t just about professional accomplishments. What else do you want in terms of your health and well-being, family, social life, and community? Then choose one small and simple action that will move you toward this broader definition of success.

How to Work After a Bad Night’s Sleep

We all know we need a good night’s sleep for the sake of our health — and our effectiveness at work. But what about when that’s just not possible? Here’s the bad news: Coffee is only a temporary fix. But there are a few ways to mitigate the risks of working while sleepy. For example, try to focus on routine tasks that don’t require a lot of creativity (which is hard to muster when you’re depleted), and avoid taking on any high-stakes projects (because sleep deprivation makes you more prone to mistakes).

Also, look for ways you can rely on other people. Is there anything you can delegate? Or can you ask colleagues to look over your work to catch any mistakes? If not, set aside some time to review it yourself when you’re feeling more rested. Finally, if you can, consider a nap. Even a short 20-minute rest can make a meaningful difference in your effectiveness for the rest of the day.

Tackle That Task You Keep Avoiding…

When we’re exhausted or stressed, our brains want to save mental energy and avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable. 

So how can you get stuff done, especially challenging tasks, when you’re tired and your mind is telling you it’s not worth the effort? 

Try changing your perception of the task by using a tool called “reappraisal.” For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m going to feel better once I get this new process down on paper,” rather than repeatedly thinking, “I just don’t want to do this.” Also, remind yourself of the long-term benefit of getting the task done. For instance, you might consider: “Do I want to experiment with a new project management tool that may boost my team’s efficiency, or do I want to stick with the same existing process that none of us feel great about?” 

This will make the easier path less appealing. By reframing hard work and envisioning an incentive, you’re more likely to move past your instinct to avoid the effort and convince yourself to just get it done.

Increase the Impact You Have at Work Without Adding More Hours

If you’re feeling burned out, it’s natural to assume that you need to lessen your workload. But research suggests that burnout isn’t always a function of too much work; it’s often the result of too little impact. 

Fortunately, you can increase the impact you have without adding more hours. 

First, invest in relationships that make you feel valued and psychologically safe, and avoid workplace politics and drama at all costs. They feel like a waste of time and just add to the exhaustion you feel. 

Next, look for ways to increase the level of challenge — not volume — of your daily workload. There is a strong correlation between being intellectually challenged and job satisfaction, so seek out projects with visible impact and a scope that will push you to stretch yourself and learn new skills. 

Finally, take on a leadership role on your team — either formally or informally. Where are there leadership vacuums in everyday moments? Who on your team seems to be in need of mentorship that you could possibly offer? Adopting this kind of responsibility could reenergize you when you’re feeling like your work isn’t leading to meaningful results.