We’ve all experienced exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, or a lack of enthusiasm at work at one stage or another in our careers, but if we don’t deal with the underlying causes, it leads to burnout. Can burnout at work be avoided? And if so, how?

Burnout in the workplace is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Burnout can cause you to lack energy, struggle to concentrate, and even have a negative impact on your sleep. All of these naturally result in an increase in stress levels.

The long term consequences of work related stress have been well documented.

Is there a way to avoid burnout?

Marcus Buckingham proposes finding  “red threads” at work as an antidote to burnout.

The theory of finding red threads is simple. Spend a week falling in love with your job. Write a list of the tasks that you look forward to, and then on an adjacent list, write down a list of the things you dread. 

In all likelihood, most of your daily tasks will fall somewhere in the middle.

But, it’s the tasks you love, the “red threads”, that will keep burnout at bay. And the good news is: you don’t have to change jobs.

You only need 20% of your tasks at work to be red threads. Less than that, and you’re at risk of burnout, more and there are diminishing returns. 

You can do this in two steps:

  1. Identify your personal red threads. Spend a week taking notice of the activities you love and the ones that cause you to drag your feet.
  2. Make an effort to weave these into your everyday work. Plan your tasks in a way that allows you to have something you can look forward to doing on the agenda every day.

Playing to your strengths will prevent burnout, but will also give you something to get excited about. Every single day!