Two recent articles caught my eye recently regarding stress levels amongst marketers and how we feel about it. According to a survey of 236 UK & Irish marketers by Axxon Media 71% of our profession are feeling “burnt out”. Despite this, 67% are in marketing because it’s “something they love”. While I’m somewhat skeptical about how that burn-out figure was gathered, at face value it would seem very alarming. Taken together a conclusion could be that we keep doing what we do, even though its hurting us, because we get a sense of self-worth from the work we do. That strikes me as sad.
A similar point is made in Gianpiero Petriglieri’s thought-provoking article in the Harvard Business Review: “Is Overwork Killing You?”. To quote the author, “overwork is not defined by the amount of our day work occupies but by the amount of our selves tied up to it. We “over” work not when we work too hard but when working becomes less of a means and more of an end. When meditation, exercise, sleep, holidays, and even parenting, are cast as tools to make us better workers.”
Many years ago I was going through a tough time at work and personally. A number of contributing factors outside of work had allowed me to find myself in a great (but stressful) job that was consuming too much of my energy and as a result my personal life was suffering badly. In hindsight I was close to burnout. I talked it through with my wife and then a work colleague. He said something that has stayed with me ever since and which I have offered to many people in different scenarios:
If it’s really important to you, you’ll do something about it.
Ouch! When I first heard that it made me feel very uncomfortable. He reinforced it by saying that if I didn’t take action it was because I had decided, consciously or otherwise, that it wasn’t important enough to do so. I reflected on his tough-love advice that evening and it helped me come to the realisation that I really did need to take some action. I met with my boss the following day and said that I needed his help to find a different role while I sorted myself out. Fortunately he was very supportive – I was very lucky and will always be grateful to him. Interestingly, I find myself returning to that challenging phrase whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision – and it has influenced some really important decisions for me.
Reflecting back on the two articles again, I think there are a few thoughts that come to mind. Firstly, if you are really feeling “burnt out” at work, then you shouldn’t be completing surveys for a marketing agency – you should be getting some help. It’s not a funny situation to be in. Take a first step today in moving your situation positively forward.
But 71% of marketers feeling burnt out? Come on – surely you just mean you’re working a bit to hard and feeling tired? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling that either. However, the more important question is how bothered are you about it, and is that enough to make you take action?
For myself, I’ve invested a lot of time over the last several years in developing a more productive approach to my work via various tools and techniques that I write about on my blog. This includes consciously putting less on my todo list for the day, only putting due dates on things rarely, cleaning my email daily, etc. I’m still working on it, but it’s had a huge impact on how I cope with peak workloads, and to maintain a sense of perspective.
These approaches are powerful, but these are simply techniques. I constantly ask myself why am I trying to be more productive? My goal is to get the work I need to get done as efficiently as possible, so that I can do something more fulfilling. If the goal is only so that you can do ever more work then I think you’ve crossed the line into “overwork” territory. And if that really worries you, you’ll do something about it.
This post was originally published on my LinkedIn Pulse. There were several additional comments there that you may wish to read.
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