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How to avoid burnout at work

Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of ZirtualMaren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual
Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of ZirtualCourtesy of Maren Kate Donovan

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you stay motivated at work? is written by Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual.

Even the most accomplished people in the world struggle with motivation. Fear, distractions, or frustrations can wreak havoc, seriously derailing workflow. What keeps these productive individuals moving is how they get back on track. There’s no secret sauce, but the following tips will help you get refocused and reenergized:

Remember the overarching goal
No matter how frustrating an element of a project can be, never lose sight of the end goal. When I start to lose motivation I ask myself, “where do I want my work to take me?” For me, it’s building a business that helps people better organize their lives. But for others, it can be anything. Maybe you’re a working mother who wants her kids to receive the best education. Or perhaps you want to become fluent in Cantonese. No matter what it is, never lose sight of that goal. How? Personally, I like to get creative. I’ll make a vision board and hang it over my bed so I see my goal every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed. If you’re more verbally inclined, try this: write down what your life will be like once you reach that goal.

“When my business reaches 100,000 people, I will…”

“When my kids are healthy and in college, I will…”

“When I become fluent in Cantonese, I will…”

Doing either allows you to live in that moment and keeps you motivated to actualize your goal.

Look to others for inspiration
Not all motivation has to come from within. Biographies are great sources of inspiration. I gravitate towards books that range from 1930 to 1960 that focus on the psychology of motivation and positive thinking. I’ll often recommend It Works by R.H. Jarrett to friends and family. It focuses on positive psychology and helps readers get back on their horse. One of my favorite quotes that helps keep me grounded is: Great is the reward to those who help and give without the thought of self, as it is impossible to be unselfish without gain. Revert back to reading from early in your career for inspiration. It’ll likely help you find that thirst again.

Walk away for the day
Quitting doesn’t have to be permanent. One of the best things you can do when a burnout sets in is shut everything down for the day. Go to the gym, take a drive, or play with your kids. Do something that makes you happy. When I hit a wall or feel unmotivated, I’m not afraid to call it quits and completely shut down. Instead of pushing through until I’m exhausted, I allow my mind to relax and reset. The morning will bring a fresh look to yesterday’s challenges.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you stay motivated at work?

How to step outside of your comfort zone at work by Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.

3 ways to recharge at work by Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint Water.

How to impress your boss at work (the right way) by Erica Galos Alioto, vice president of local sales at Yelp.

How this CEO finds motivation at work every day by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.

The art of staying motivated at work by Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University.

The best lesson I learned from joining a board by Juliet de Baubigny, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

5 secrets to stay motivated at work by Sarah Robb O’Hagan, president of Equinox.