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8 Ways to Prevent Overwork

8 Ways to Prevent Overwork
7 April 2020 John Moore

With the current COVID-19 crisis 3.9 billion people, or half of the world’s population is in lockdownThis has left many of us feeling anxious about our own health, as well as the health and wellbeing of our loved ones.

 It has also resulted in the lines between our personal and professional life being blurred like never before, potentially leading to many of us suffering from overworking 

There are many negative impacts of overworking. It can also impact on our mental health as well as our physical health, whether through stress or lack of sleep. A consequence of mental and physical stress can then impact our work, through reduced concentration and eventually, a drop-off in productivity. 

8 ways to avoid overwork during lockdown 

Here are some tips for preventing burnout as the COVID19 crisis continues. 

  1. Set boundaries:  


  • Create a ‘workspace’ – somewhere in your home designated just for work.  
  • Agree with the people you live with your start and finish times of your ‘office hours’. 
  • Agree with your manager, when you will work and any flexibilities you need. 
  • If possible, agree with others to share childcare responsibilities to help create uninterrupted time – look at one hour on and one hour off and share the responsibilities. 
  • Speak to your manager and team to make them aware of any hours you will be ‘offline’ and with your family. 
  • When you finish for the day make sure you are not tempted to check emails just one more time! 


  1. Prioritise the daily tasks 


  • Be clear on what tasks and activities to focus each day – do not be distracted by task-hopping. 
  • Ensure you focus on these only, and communicate any urgent priorities with your team, ensuring they are realistic.  
  • Use on old fashioned ‘to do list; and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing out completed tasks. 
  • Break BIG tasks into smaller sub tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Keep your task list to one day’s activities only as it will also give you a greater sense of achievement at the end of the day, whilst still being aware of the BIGGER PICTURE. 
  • Remember planning helps us to feel things are within our control.  


  1. Do not be afraid to say “No”  


  • During times of crisis, priorities might change quickly and almost daily. Therefore, you need to have the confidence to say “NO”’ to some tasks that that are not important right now. 
  • Know what is important and what constitutes your ‘true north’ – your key purpose and deliverables.  
  • If you are one of life’s habitual over-achievers (and therefore often a ‘people pleaser’), you need to say no especially if certain tasks threaten to overwhelm you, and you know they are not a priority.  
  • Protect your time and boundaries which means: 
  • Not skipping your lunch: Avoid eating at your desk! Try to take time to go outside for some fresh air, while respecting social distancing guidelines.  
  • Do not work longer than agreed:  Aim to leave your ‘office’ on time and avoid the temptation just doing a few hours late at night as this will disrupt your sleep and reduce your motivation and energy in the morning 
  1. Switch off your work phone (if possible): It is not always possible to do this, but at least try to limit yourself to checking emails once during the evening. Aim to be ‘off-the-grid’ which means work-related social media as well! 
  1. Make time for YOU: Take time to unwind, to chill and relax. Take some exercise, watch a video or play a game. Cook a meal, chat to people, do a crossword, but DO NOT WORK! 
  1. Avoid dwelling on the negative: At times, we all find it hard to switch off. We allow our ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) – to take over. As hard as it is practice ‘five minutes of gratitude’ by concentrating on your PETs (Positive Enhancing Thoughts) – the things in life for which you are grateful. Say out loud – or at least in your mind – ‘I am grateful for my health, I am grateful for the people in my life, I am grateful for the sun shining… Literally, list and say out loud with feeling and meaning the things you are grateful for and notice how much better and connected you feel.   

Do not let burnout impact your health and wellbeing. If like me, you feel guilty that you are not working more hours or even the hours you usually work, then know this – your family, friends and work colleagues need you to protect yourself ready for the long game. You owe it to others and most of all yourself to look after yourself, so you are able to look out for others.  


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John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.