Wow – what an exhilarating experience! I just returned from the National Association for Professional Women conference in New York City where I spoke on the topic of work-life balance. Star Jones, former co-host of The View, hosted the conference. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, and Martha Stewart, Founder of Martha Stewart Living and Emmy Award-winning Television Show Host, were keynote speakers.
Balance appeared to be a key theme at the conference. Both Star and Arianna talked about the importance of taking care of self, and the high-powered women on the Power of Networking panel also discussed their challenges and successes with managing work and the rest of their lives.
For Arianna Huffington it took fainting from exhaustion on her desk, breaking her cheekbone and getting five stitches to make her slow down at work. Arianna shared her fainting incident with the audience. Five years ago, she was building the Huffington Post and had taken her daughter on a tour of colleges. Once her daughter went to sleep at night, Arianna would start working. When she came back from that trip exhausted, the fainting incident happened.
That was her wake-up call. Arianna told the audience she’s “rediscovered sleep”. “I’ve made a lot of changes in my life…I now strive to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night. You need time to recharge.”
Arianna encourages the same sort of stress-free living among her employees. She had two nap rooms installed at the Huffington Post offices, and “they’re full all the time,” she says. The company also offers weekly meditation and yoga classes for employees.
Star Jones had her own wake-up call when, at the age of 47, her doctor told her she needed open heart surgery immediately! Star had no idea her health was at risk. She just didn’t feel right. She became very tired, started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Fortunately, Star went to see a doctor, and an echocardiogram revealed she had heart disease.
Star now makes health a top priority and urged audience members to do the same. As a result of her experience, Star is now a National Volunteer of the American Heart Association and is dedicating her “entire life’s work” to raising awareness about the disease.
There’s a key message we can all learn from these speakers. It’s absolutely critical that we slow down and take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we may not have a second chance.
Do you have more to do on the job than you can possibly get done? Is your heavy workload causing you to feel stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted? If you don’t address the issue, then your long work hours can lead to burnout. Burnout can be detrimental to your job and your physical and emotional health.
If you find that your workload has increased beyond your capacity, then it’s time to meet with your boss to address the issue. Here are key points to cover in your meeting.
- Assure your Boss of your Commitment to Work – Explain to your boss that your work is important. You’re feeling overloaded with work, and you want to continue to be productive and perform at a high level rather than burn out.
- Clarify Job Expectations and Priorities – The first step is to make sure you’re clear on your job expectations and priorities. Make a list of your most important work projects. Review this list with your manager, and together prioritize your work priorities. You’ll need to focus most of your time and attention on these priorities.
- Cut out any Non-Value-Added Activities – Review your job description. Make a note of any tasks you perform that are not part of your job description. Your boss may not even be aware of the extra duties you’ve been saddled with. Then determine if there are any tasks that can be eliminated. Maybe you’re expected to write a weekly report, but you know that no one ever reads the report. If it’s not adding value, then get rid of it.
If, after implementing these changes, you find that your workload still requires countless hours a week to complete, then schedule another meeting with your manager to explore other options, such as hiring an assistant or intern, or balancing the workload by assigning it to someone else.
By addressing your heavy workload, you’ll be able to meet your work commitments and deadlines without burning out!