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Exhausted After Work?

Don’t treat the symptom. Cure the disease.

Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Most of my contented clients are not exhausted at the end of most workdays. They’re usually just pleasantly tired but have enough energy for a fulfilling after-work life.

Other clients say they need a lot of downtime to recharge. So they do things like meditate, knit, and play video games. Such approaches treat the symptom, not the disease. When I probe, it often becomes clear that the client can change one or more of the following so their workday doesn't often drain them:

Is your job too great a misfit? I had a client who was a school psychologist and came home exhausted every day because she found herself not caring enough about special ed kids nor respecting many teachers sufficiently. So she found herself intolerant of too many interactions. She left school psychology to become a coach to menopausal woman and now almost never feels drained after the workday. Indeed, her work energizes her.

Do you need to manage your time better? For example, are you spending too much time on tasks you enjoy but that aren’t that important or that don’t need to be done so perfectionistically?

Or are you delegating enough? And if there’s no one to delegate to, should you get permission to hire someone or even recruit a volunteer intern?

Are you not sure where the time goes? If so, should you, for a day or two, log what you’ve done the previous 15 minutes?

If you’re not sure how to be more efficient, should you have a co-worker or outside career coach watch you for an hour or more to offer feedback? Should you ask that person how s/he'd tackle a specific time-consuming task you frequently have to do, for example, writing a report?

Do you need to manage a supervisee better? Do you need to do a better job of training that person? Giving the person more or less supervision? Having the employee trade a task with a coworker? For example, if s/he writes poorly but handles customer complaints well, perhaps there’s a coworker who's the opposite.

Do you need to manage your boss better? For example, do you need to reset your relationship, for example, by asking your boss something like, “I sense I’m not meeting your needs as well as I should. Is there anything you’d like to see me do more of? Less of? Something new? How could I make your life easier?”

Or are you and your boss like oil and water—You just don’t mix, so you need to minimize the interaction—for example, by giving more or fewer written status reports but avoiding one-on-one meetings. Or might you ask to telecommute for at least part of the workweek?

Do you need to extricate yourself from a boss, supervisee, or coworker? Is it time to request a transfer? To ask your boss if you might have a different cubicle? Request being assigned to a different project? Are you confident that you and perhaps your workgroup would be wise to replace one of your supervisees?

Do you need an attitude change? For example, some people’s unconscious mindset is to do as little work as possible. Such people get stressed when they have to do more than the minimum. Or they get frustrated when something takes more effort than they thought. Do you need to realize that your life’s meaning—at least in substantial measure—lies in how much you’ve produced and so your goal should be as productive as possible, not do the least you can get away with?

Are you unreasonably intolerant of someone? For example, some employees seethe and even try to sabotage a more competent coworker. Conversely, some employees are too intolerant of a weaker worker. If you can’t do anything about such a person, is it time to replace your enmity with gratitude that you're more competent?

Do you need to jigger your job description? For example, if you’re better at managing people than data, is there a way you could change your job description, if only modestly?

The takeaway

Do you want to try one of the above so you’re treating the cause of your end-of-workday fatigue?

If not, might you want to keep a log of when you’re feeling stressed at work? That can help you identify other ways to reduce your stress.

If none of that works, you can always try video games.

Dr. Nemko's nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at