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It’s Deadlines Week. How Can I Do it All Without Burning Out?

by Cheryl Choo. |

Papers shuffling, keyboards clicking, hands shaking, and will someone just pick up that ringing phone?! That’s the double-shot of espresso talking.

Everyone’s been there before, only that when our parents’ greatest fear then was dialing the wrong fax number, our world breaks down when the WiFi connection gets cut off. Hindsight twenty-twenty tells us that planning-ahead is our best bet at beating the system, but there really is no one-size-fits-all mold.

That being said, most of us tend to lean towards one category of worker or another, so we’ve come up with some old and new adages of how to avoid burning out when it’s crunch time (hah!) based off your working style. Here at Crunch, we believe that everyone one has a style of working unique to their own!

1. The A-Gamers

An A-Gamer is not what fans of Avengers: Endgame call themselves. On the contrary, you’re likely an A-Gamer if you were one of those fiends who had to sneak out their phone to do work during movie. More commonly known as personality Type A in psychology, you’re a workaholic, multi-tasker, and work superhero who bites of more than you can chew. In the face of back-to-back deadlines, you bring on the A-game and ace them all with flying colours, but not without consequences. A study by the University of Malaysia, Sabah, found that Type As’ perfectionist mindset makes them more vulnerable to stress from self-deprecation and mistakes.

The best way for A-Gamers avoid burn out is to remove stress-factors that will lead to burn out to begin with:

  1. Add relaxation to your to-do list: For Type As, there is nothing worse than not knowing what to do next. Incorporating self-reflective activities for yourself such as going to bed at 10pm, sitting for 15 minutes of meditation, or joining a yoga class at 5pm not only helps to quell that OCD personality but also gives you a chance to disconnect from work so that you can stay on top of your game after a well-deserved 30-minutes break.

  2. Get off social media: If you spend every night scrolling through your Instagram feed before bed (guilty as charge, everyone does that), it’s no wonder why you wake up the next morning wondering what you’ve been doing with your life. The perfectionist in Type As identifies that experiential gap and amplifies it, meaning that they’ll be compelled to work twice as hard to make up for the FOMO. If your social media addiction is adding more fuel to fire, it’s time to disconnect from world wide web and reconnect with yourselves. The iPhone has a dandy feature called “screen time” that can add limits to the total time spent on an app. For android users, you can do the same thing with the “digital wellbeing” feature.

2. The Not-So-Busy-Bs

There’s always someone at work or school that aces what they do without even trying – or it looks like they’re not trying. If you’ve got a bad rep of being unfairly smart or lazy, you’ve got a Type B personality. The misconception of Type Bs’ laziness stems from their easy-going nature and laid-back personality, which, in truth, is a necessary asset to balance out the craziness of the A-gamers.

Not-so-busy B’s may be better at prioritizing tasks, time management, and avoiding burn-out, but even they get the occasional bee in the bonnet when during deadlines week. Surprisingly, research shows that relationships with colleagues impact Type B’s work performance more than anything. And nothing strains your relationship with another person more so than when you catch them at a bad time.

Not-so-busy B’s can avoid work burn-out easily, but relationship-induced stress? Not so much. By embracing more of that inner Type-B, you can avoid total burnout by just being yourself:

  1. Go out for lunch, or brunch, or second-breakfast: Type Bs are laidback, not lazy. While your brain is set for a back to back HIIT training during deadlines week, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the break you get in between. Just the act of going out for a quick bite does not only help you reorganize your thoughts in your own time, but that chill personality of yours is also infectious enough to influence the people around you to do the same. So the next time things become too overwhelming, invite that A-gamer sitting next to you for lunch.

  2. Find your quiet place – minus the apocalyptic monster: When your surrounding is abuzz with deadlines panic, it is hard not to be affected. Even for a Type B with a chip on their shoulder, having people run around like headless chickens can be very distracting. As a Type B, you work better in quiet places and at your own pace. By finding a quiet corner in the room, or simply working from home, will put you back on track and smash those deadlines – silent but deadly.

3. The Artsy-Fartsy-Creative

The creative life cannot be bound by time, nor can it be defined – it is an abstract of self-expression. Ok, maybe that manifesto is stretching it a bit, but the point is that creatives’ bouts of productivity happen spontaneously. But there is one compulsion that even creatives cannot escape from: money. Let’s be honest here, there has to be some semblance of consistency and control in a creative’s life for them to keep doing what they do and also survive the lavish Instagram life they’ve carved out for themselves. If you’re a creative, deadlines are the reason and bane of your virtual existence. There’s nothing worse than promising to deliver a work on time only to disappoint followers and fans with a missed deadline (Winds of Winter, I’m looking at you).

When a deadline sneaks up on creatives, the fastest way to deliver is to do a series of warm-ups that will eventually lead to a full lap:

  1. Do something. Anything. For 5 minutes: The most difficult part in the creative process is the beginning - looking a blank canvas. For some creatives, the planning stage can be so extensive that it ate away into their ‘doing’ stage. The quickest way around it is to fill up that blank canvas with anything at all, either with a sketch, blotches of paint, or even little snippets of writing. But do so for 5 minutes straight, without any distractions. The 5-minute rule is a fool-proof trick to tackle tasks that has been put off because that five minutes will get you to eventually doing the whole thing in one sitting. This trick is so fool-proof that even Kevin Systrom uses it – you know, the co-founder of Instagram, who is more or less always the source of our procrastination in the first place?

  2. Find an unrelated outlet: Creatives who work run the risk of losing their passion to the societal obligations and daily grunge. The worst possible scenario is when you come out of a creative project hating the work you did. Sometimes the best way to remain motivated and inspired as a creative is to not eat, live, and breathe the work you do, but remain detached from it. Find a totally unrelated hobby as an outlet. For designers, it can be cooking or playing an instrument. Sometimes the best inspiration can be found in unexpected places, and that can sometimes happen while you’re doing mundane tasks.

4. The Procrastinator (a.k.a The Most of Us)

Image: Mimi Thian

There’s no going about it except to say that the reason why we burn out in the first place is because of poor time management and saying yes to “just one more episode”. We tend to overestimate our pace of productivity, thinking that it is possible to complete five tasks in one day if we’re determined enough when in all actuality each task needs more time than we think.

Before deadlines week is even upon us, create a to-do list and schedule that gives time to buffer and appease the procrastinator in all of

  1. Create a list of everything: Yes, it might sound lame solution but it really works! Try out Google Keep or if you prefer the pen & paper, you could get cute notebooks or a special to-do-list planner to encourage yourself to write it. Even if you procrastinate, you'll always have a list to keep you in check and you won't miss out on anything.

  2. Try the Pomodoro Technique: Put several timers for 25-30 minutes and take short breaks in between. You be surprise at how productive you'll be and get work done more easily.

Of course, it’s easier said than done and one should really practice what they preach. When you feel that a burn-out is eminent, the quickest way to put out a fire is to metaphorically hold the task in your hand and ask to yourself “will this bring me joy in the long run?”. If it doesn’t, chuck it aside with a quick “Thank you, next.”

If all else fails and you can’t snap your fingers to make the undone task disappear, spare one minute to watch Shia Lebouf’s “Just Do It” and prepare energy bars and a bottle of water. It’s going to be a long night.

What kind of worker are you and how do you deal with burn-out? Let us know!

You may find out more about Cheryl on her Instagram as well!

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