Nobody sets out to burnout.

Like a swim in the ocean with an undercurrent, it’s easy to get caught up in the drift. We start with the best intentions, clear boundaries and appropriate margins. Then we add. Then we add a little more. Suddenly we come up for air and wonder how it’s 5:30pm and we haven’t had a bathroom break in the last five hours, and worse, we didn’t even notice.

It’s rarely a major decision to overcommit, it’s usually a series of minor decisions that add up.

Microsoft recently released new research which found that in the last year ‘the amount of time spent in Teams meetings has doubled‘ and the average meeting time is ‘now 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes‘.

I’ve noticed it. We’re all trying to fit longer meetings, more often into already crowded calendars. Australia had one of the highest burnout rates of any country in 2020. It’s not uncommon for our calendar to be so full we’re left feeling empty at the end of the day.

The problem is we don’t get more time, we only lose our margins. The more we try to put in the middle, the less we have at the edges.

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Microsoft announced a new Outlook feature which automatically carves out time at the start or end of meetings. While systems support change, they won’t enforce it. It has to start with a personal decision.

If we want margins, they need to be:

  1. Created – Others can’t make them. You need to create them.
  2. Guarded – You need to protect them. Others rarely consider them.

A question to reflect on:

“How could I schedule more time than I need or wrap up earlier than I planned so that I can break more often than I do?”