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3 Ways to Be Indispensable at Work Without Burning Out

Indispensable at Work Without Burning Out

How can you be indispensable at work and yet avoid job burnout and stress?

“I couldn’t have done this without you.” Those words, when they come out of a manager’s mouth, maybe music to our eager-to-please ears. But a desire to be seen as indispensable at work can come with a downside: In our attempt to go the extra mile (or 10), we may be sacrificing our own well-being. 

It turns out, conscientious, highly dedicated employees are at greater risk of emotional exhaustion and conflict between their work and family responsibilities, according to a 2016 study from King’s College London and the University of Bath in the U.K. And other research has found that our drive to impress our boss and colleagues at every turn, borne out of hustle culture, comes at the high cost of burnout.

So how can you make your mark and add tremendous value without compromising your sanity and well-being?

These 3 tips can help:

1. Pause before you say yes

In a quest to be indispensable, some people bite off more than they can chew. If being a “yes to everything” person is leading you to the brink of burnout, the first step is to understand what’s causing your inability to set boundaries around your workload, says clinical psychologist Michelle Golland, Psy.D. 

Could it be, for instance, that you’re a people-pleaser, and you have a long-held belief that saying no will lead to rejection? Or does it come down to a need to control, and not trusting your colleagues to do a good job if you let them take the lead?

Once you’re clear with yourself about your motivation, you may be more willing to let things go. Spoiler alert: Having too much on your plate can compromise the quality of your work, and that’s not a good strategy for winning over your boss — or anyone else.

Read Remote Worker Burnout: 5 Key Tips To Create Healthier Remote Cultures

2. Look for the grey areas

Black and white thinking can lead you to take on too much and risk burning out. After all, if “no” isn’t a realistic option, you might assume your only option is to say “yes”. But there’s usually a grey area or middle ground — a way to be a team player and contribute value without doing it all.

For instance, if a higher-up asks for your involvement on a project and you truly don’t have the bandwidth to take it on, you can still provide support or offer to be a sounding board or a second pair of eyes, Golland suggests. 

Read 5 Ways To Create A Work-Life Balance So Your Job Doesn’t Ruin Your Marriage

3. Train yourself to clock out

For an overachiever, there may be no end to the workday. But regularly letting work spill into your “off-hours” can lead to burnout over time. To prevent this, create your schedule so you have a set number of days per week where working late is simply not an option. And to make sure your most important tasks are getting done on these days, divide your to-do list into two columns: “critical” and “can wait.”

Then, prioritize accordingly. At Thrive we call this “relentless prioritization” and “getting comfortable with incompletions.” Ultimately, embracing incompletions allows you to leave the office so you can recharge — and bring your indispensable self to work again the next day.

Written by: Mallory Stratton
Originally appeared on: Thrive Global

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3 Ways to Be Indispensable at Work Without Burning Out

Mallory Stratton

Mallory is Senior Product Content Editor at Thrive Global. She was recently Associate Editor on “It’s All In Your Head” by Keith Blanchard (Wicked Cow Studios, 2017), an illustrated brain science book, and worked closely on its accompanying cross-platform partnerships with Time Inc. and WebMD. She spends her off-hours curating playlists, practicing restorative yoga, and trying new teas.View Author posts