I got a couple of emails last week and posts on my Facebook page in response to my blog post last week on avoiding burnout. Interestingly enough, the item they focused in on was meditation. Continuing a conversation I was having with my friend Scott, we talked about burnout in relationship to having the right job.
Wait, what is Right Livelyhood and is this something you should care about? And how does this relate to working for J. Patrick + Associates?
Interestingly enough, it counts a lot. My job is to promote jobs and connect people to their next career move. I mean, my job is to get people jobs, can't get more right than that, or can it? The other thing I love about my job working with Dan Sullivan and the gang is that I love my co-workers. The environment at J. Patrick + Associates is a very positive one. We are friendly, respectful and communicate with one and other with the same care we offer to our clients and candidates. It says a lot to love going into work, and I gotta say, I really love my job.
But she didn't answer the question, what is Right Livelyhood? Well, let me offer you the Cliff's Notes version of Buddhism 101. Over 2500 years ago, the Buddha walked the earth, saw all the suffering in the world and came up with the First Noble Truth;
In life there is suffering.
In other words, Life Sucks! Bummer. So he walked around, starved himself, tortured himself, sat still and meditated under trees until one day, he had an epiphany.... there is a way out of this suffering and that way includes walking the Eightfold Path. There are steps one must take to find happiness and one of them is this idea of Right Livelyhood. Ok, they didn't have high technology jobs back in those days, so how does this pertain to you and me?
The Buddha's definition of Right Livelihood basically says to not engage in employment that causes harm. Not so easy in this day and age. Just working in a big office means we're causing harm to the environment by shredding up tons of paper, making waste, powering up loads of computers and big lighting fixtures, dumping chemicals into the environment and working with people who aren't always honest and respectful of one and other.
And let's face it, many of us in technology are creating products for a host of uses and not all of them fit into the Buddha's interpretation of right livelihood. But hey, not all of us are Buddhists either. Right?
But coming from a spiritual perspective, I believe you personally deserve to work in a job that is healthy for your well-being. Not only should your career bring you some kind of financial security, but it should also generate a sense of purpose and be an environment that is positive. In the Technology sector, most of us work extra long hours, get heavily involved in the corporate culture and have a higher level of intelligence to contend with.
Here's a few things you should look to bring your job closer to the Buddha's goal of Right Livelyhood;
1) Practice Loving Kindness. The Buddha teaches that we should love all sentient beings the same way we would love our own child. For me, this is a task too great to master. Instead, I say, "Make everyone your friend." Yes, that annoying woman in accounting, that boss who talks to you like your five and your ex you got the job for in the publicity department. ALL OF THEM! Make them your friend. By putting out the Loving Kindness towards others, you'll be setting an example and attracting kindness for youreself. Sure, we all get frustrated, and maybe you're one to bark.
2) Create a comfortable workspace. Some of us have our own offices, and for us who are that lucky, good for us. It's easy to personalize your space. For others we may have cubicals, or work stations. Whatever your environment, do what you can to make it your own by incorprating objects and images that remind you to keep your mind calm. I have a little blue medicine Buddha in the dashboard of my car for such a purpose. I spend a lot of time traveling, so keeping the peace in my car and on the road is essential. On your desk, pick something, can be a buddha, a stone, a snow globe from Coney Island, whatever it is that reminds you to take a breath and relax.
3) Make boundaries and keep them. Most of us want to please others, we say yes to tasks we don't have time for or even worse, bring work home. Make some healthy boundaries for yourself. Decide when you are working and when you're not. Say no when you don't have time to work on something. Don't take that task home, save it for the morning and allow yourself that break from work. Be clear on what you can do and what extra work is going to cause you stress. Of course, we work in Technology, which is pretty busy and we want to impress our bosses and our team. There's nothing impressive about a burnt out team player. Detach, and put time aside that isn't work time.
Our career and co-workers may be a big part of our lives, so whe you create balance and find the space to be at peace, you'll turn your work situation into a right one.
Over the past twenty years, I've burnt out from the busy work thing multiple times! I have to be very careful, because when I work too hard and get addicted to business I get very sick, like physically and mentally. So I know the consequences of burning out for me are very high.
Fortunately, I've learned to cut back on the 14+ hour days and have retrained myself to get hooked on other things besides that need to be busy all the time. It's not that easy working at an executive search firm and not working too hard. There's a lot of work here at J. Patrick + Associates and I'm never at a loss for assignments and projects to manage and promote.
Here are seven ways I've learned to keep my mind and soul steady and avoid the burnout;
1. Schedule my work time. If it's not on the schedule, I turn off the computer, charge my phone and do something not work related. As a publicist it is counter intuitive to turn my phone off, but getting burnt out is worse. There's a reason we have voicemail. I have included a term in my contract that I am available from 9am - 6pm, Monday - Friday for my clients. This means, I'm not breaking any aspect of our agreement by turning my phone off and taking time to go off-duty.
2. Meditate daily. Getting up in the morning is a busy time at my house. As a mom, I have two people to get ready for the day so I have to do things like pack lunchboxes, make sure the laundry is done, jump in the shower, get my son on the bus, drive to work, make a bunch of phone calls... and that's all before 8:30 am. I used to go nuts by 9am but I came up with another solution, I give my mind permission to stop thinking. Meditation is the practice of making space in my head so I can be present with what is. When I meditate in the morning, I clear the cache in my brain and start the day with a crisp, clean mind.
3. Eat good food. Yes, it's so easy to get busy and chow down on delivery, skip meals, think coffee is a food group, chomp on the leftover birthday cake in the office fridge. I've trained myself to eat healthy foods for a different result. I pack fresh fruit and snacks to keep me from gorging on easily accessible junk food from the vending machine or my workmate's desk. I have breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we order in lunch, I pick a robust salad filled with veggies and grilled chicken instead of the calzone. By fueling my body with what it needs, I don't crash by 1pm.
4. Hydrate. I drink water, lots and lots of it. And, did I mention, drink more water?
5. Hit the spa. Yes even guys can hit the spa. Get a massage or a pedicure. Weekly spa treatments really help me feel like I'm treating myself to me time.
6. Say NO. It's ok to manage expectations with your boss and tell her that you that can't do what she's asking you to do. If you have a problem with time management, then it is time to manage the people managing your time. In other words, Say "NO" to taking on work if it is more than you can handle. People respect a person who knows how to manage their assignments successfully.
7. Get outta here! Pack up an overnight bag and go away for a day or two. Pick someplace like Phoenicia, NY, one of the coolest small towns in America and they don't have cel service. It can be something inexpensive like camping or a night at a really nice hotel. Allow yourself to disappear for a weekend.
How do you check out and unwind? Have you burnt out before? Tell us your story. We’re all ears.