While effectiveness and efficiency are often used interchangeably among non-project management professionals, these terms have different meanings. Effectiveness is about using and doing the right things to achieve positive results, while efficiency is about doing things in the right manner.

Such distinction must be made in light of the impact of burnout among the team members and leader in a project. Burnout, defined as the state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, saps your physical energy, leaves you feeling more hopeless, helpless, and resentful of your job and even your teammates, and reduces your productivity.

You are less likely to use the right tools, techniques and technologies to complete the project. You are less likely to do the right things for your project and your teammates because your physical energy and mental creativity have been sapped to near-zero. Your effectiveness and efficiency suffers because you have little to no energy to do the right things and do them in the right manner. Your project suffers from costly delays and errors, which increase the risks for complete project cessation.

The bottom line: Burnout is a serious matter that will adversely and significantly affect your team’s ability to get the project done effectively and efficiently. This is true even when just a single person on your team, such as yourself, suffers from burnout.

With that in mind, here are a few of the most important tips in preventing and coping with burnout in a project. You, as the project manager, should teach your team members about these tips.

1. Recognize the Symptoms

When you recognize the symptoms, you are more likely to adopt preventive measures to avoid letting burnout get the best of you and your team. While there may be days when you feel overloaded or unappreciated, you may well be on your way to a burnout when these days become too frequent or too closely spaced (i.e., successive days in a workweek).

The symptoms of burnout usually include feeling that:

  • You have a bad day every day.
  • You don’t care about your work and life anymore so much so that you see any effort exerted toward these aspects as a total waste of energy.
  • You are exhausted all the time.
  • Your efforts are unappreciated or useless or both.

Keep in mind that stress and burnout are two different things. Prolonged and excessive stress, nonetheless, can contribute to burnout.

2. Treat the Cause, Not Just the Symptoms

Dig deeper and ask yourself hard questions that will pinpoint the causes behind your burnout. When you know the causes, you can effectively treat the disease (i.e., burnout) and address the symptoms (e.g., lack of interest in the tasks).

Keep in mind that there are several contributory factors to burnout. You have to look at each of these factors to determine your own particular mix of burnout triggers, and then address them.

  • Work-related causes: Do you feel that you have little to no control over your job? Do you feel unrecognized or unrewarded for your good work? Do you think that your job has unclear or extremely demanding expectations? Do you work in a high-pressure environment?
  • Lifestyle causes: Do you work too much, thus, you have too little time for rest and relaxation? Do you take on too many responsibilities? Do you lack supportive relationships?
  • Personality-related causes: Do you have a perfectionist attitude? Do you have a pessimistic attitude toward yourself or your world? Do you have strong reluctance toward delegation? Do you have a strong need to always be in control? Do you have an overachieving Type ‘A’ personality?

If your answers for many of these questions are “yes” and you are experiencing the first symptoms of a burnout, you are in a better position to prevent a full-blown burnout episode. You can address the possible causes of your burnout instead of just treating your symptoms.

For example, you can set clearer job expectations, set aside time for more rest and relaxation, or delegate low-level tasks to your subordinates. Your mix of solutions will depend on your particular causes for burnout.

Recommended Reading: How to Avoid Project Failure

3. Prevent or Cope with Burnout

Indeed, burnout can be prevented – or at the least, you can cope with burnout when it has set in such that it will not significantly affect your job performance. These tips are a mix of strategies for all types of burnout causes.

  • Adopt a relaxing ritual at the start, during, and at the end of your day. Take small breaks during the day that will re-energise your physical and mental energy. Examples include putting up your feet and drinking a cup of hot tea.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle characterized by a balanced diet, moderate exercise program, and sensible lifestyle habits (e.g., no smoking, limit alcohol, 8 hours of sleep each night).
  • Set personal and professional boundaries: Say “no” to personal and professional obligations that will likely overstretch your physical and mental capacity. Delegate low-level tasks to your subordinates so that you can focus on high-level tasks.
  • Take a break from technology: Gadgets including laptops, smartphones and tablets are great tools for work but these can also increase stress levels in many ways. Take 15-minute breaks from gadgets, stop checking emails, and avoid browsing social media sites, among others.
  • Nourish your imagination and creativity: Studies have shown that engaging in creative activities completely unrelated to work increases work productivity by giving the brain a break. Even small talk with office-mates can do the job.
  • Adopt the Desiderate approach: Take control of things you can control and let go of the things that you cannot control. Focusing on controllable things will ward off feelings of being helpless and hopeless in the situation.

Most importantly, you should take each day as it comes. You can only ride a burnout by slowing down, getting support, and re-evaluating your priorities on a daily basis. You will find that when you stop thinking about the future, the present becomes more bearable, even pleasurable – in this way you can get your project done in a more effective and efficient manner.