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A former McKinsey partner shares 7 techniques that will energize you when you’re feeling burnt out at work

caroline webb

Caroline Webb

Sevenshift CEO and McKinsey adviser Caroline Webb.

Sometimes, you just find yourself lacking energy or motivation at work.

Rather than waste your day feeling sorry for yourself, there are a few fast and easy ways to overcome burnout at the office, says Sevenshift CEO, McKinsey senior adviser, and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb.

Her new book, “How to Have a Good Day,” is a collection of career best practices she’s learned in her 16 years as a consultant.

Here are the techniques she recommends trying the next time you find yourself unable to accomplish anything at work.

1. Think about what you’re grateful for.

Webb makes use of an exercise called “three good things,” which is simply taking a moment to think about three things you’re grateful for, whether it’s something positive that happened earlier that day, things you cherish in your life, or even just a moment that made you smile. “And yes, you will feel better as a result, even if the good things aren’t very big,” she writes.

Webb cites research led by Martin E. P. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania that found such an exercise had a notable positive impact on test subject’s self-reported happiness over the course of six months, as it develops habitual optimistic thinking.

Webb recommends setting aside a particular each time to go through the exercise, and to write down your three good things in a notebook.

2. Do a random act of kindness.

UPenn’s Seligman also found, in his words, that “doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”

If you’re feeling burnt out, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to step outside of yourself and help someone out. Let one of your colleagues know how you appreciate them or offer your help to a coworker the next time you see them struggling.

3. Find something interesting in even the most mundane situations.

When Webb worked at the Bank of England in the mid-1990s, she and her colleagues would occasionally play “buzzword bingo,” where they’d pass a painfully dull meeting by tallying up all of the jargon speakers would toss out. It not only brought grins to their faces, it also caused them to pay attention to what was being said when otherwise they may have drifted off.

She writes that your approach doesn’t have to be as subversive. For example, if you’re working on a complex group project, make it a point to learn more about how your teammates are doing their jobs. You’ll not only gain a better appreciation for your coworkers, but you’ll become more engaged in the task and handle your own responsibilities better.

4. Give yourself a quick win.

When a time-consuming, challenging project looms in front of you, it’s easy to procrastinate tackling it, all while your dread drains your energy.

To avoid this, Webb recommends you build “quick wins” into your schedule. Consider this project you’ve been avoiding and ask yourself, “What would be the smallest first step I could take toward that today?” and then do it right away. You’ll immediately pick up momentum.

5. Make time for connecting with others.

As Webb notes, “using a huge cache of British data, London School of Economics professor Nattavudh Powdthavee found that meaningful personal interactions with others had as much impact on well-being as an extra $142,000 of income a year.”

If you find yourself lifelessly staring at your computer screen, block off 15 minutes or a half hour and go grab a coffee or bite to eat with a friend. Time spent in a fun conversation won’t be a waste of time, but rather the catalyst for a more productive day.

6. Find your personal purpose.

Attaching meaning to your work is the best is the best motivation to get it done, and while you’re most likely having a bad day because you don’t enjoy the work that was assigned to you, Webb encourages you to put forth effort to link it with some greater purpose.

“As in: Why do you (as opposed to your boss or colleagues) think this work is important?” Webb writes. “Or at least, why is the way you’re going about it important to you? Even when you don’t have a lot of space to choose what you’re doing, the ‘why’ is usually yours to define or interpret in your own way.”

7. Don’t forget to smile.

The brain associates smiling with pleasure, and research has found that even faking a smile can boost your mood.

“I find it an exceptionally useful mind-body loop to know about, because it’s so quick and easy to build into whatever I’m doing,” Webb writes. “Just before giving speeches and running workshops, you’ll see me put down my papers and start grinning at people. (They don’t seem to mind.)”