In a typical year, the last quarter might have started off easier than most. You would have taken a nice family vacation, enjoyed the August lull many businesses have, and be relaxed and ready for charge to the year-end work. Even September in recent years has been a more gradual phase in period for many. But of course, that’s not how things turned out in the year of a once-in-lifetime pandemic.

The struggle now, familiar to so many, is working remotely with kids only partially in school. Or bracing for a trip back to the office. And this all comes amid reports of a second COVID surge to go along with usual year-end business push. Little wonder that according to one recent survey, nearly six in 10 employees reported feeling burned-out last month, up from just a few months before. "Employees need to be their own advocates, push back and say, 'I need to step back for a second,'" says Dan Kaplan, a Korn Ferry senior client partner in the firm’s Chief Human Resources Officer practice.  

There are incentives, of course, to push through no matter what the new few months hold. Year-end performance reviews, for example, are often affected by how well you work and handled pressure in the last quarter. Or if their firms can still afford them, year-end bonuses become a good reason to recharge. But experts say just working harder is rarely the only answer—and that brief recharging techniques in the months ahead are critical. Some steps to consider:

Set a (break) schedule.

Most of us have fallen into a pandemic routine, getting up early to prepare for the long day and blocking out certain hours for Zoom meetings when your kids are napping. But one thing that many workers do not schedule is breaks. “It’s not just about saying ‘I don’t have anything at noon, I’ll step away,’ but actually putting it on your calendar and noting exactly what you’re going to do,” says Stacey Perkins, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach.. By weaving regular breaks into your day—say 20 minutes at 2 p.m. for a nap or a quick yoga session—you can recharge.

Focus on the work you enjoy.

Even if those with jobs that seem full of purpose and good pay aren’t thrilled with every part of their day. So when you’re having trouble getting motivated, it’s easy to get bogged down over the parts of your job that particularly irk you. Instead, experts say try to focus on the aspects you like and pause to think about why you like those things. Oftentimes, you will find the tasks you enjoy remind you of your best skills and can pump you up to keep you moving forward.

Find efficient rewards.

There’s no harm in giving yourself a reward when you have finished a hard project, particularly one that’s made you want to pull your hair out. But too often we choose a reward that can set us back. “If the reward for excelling at work one week is to allow yourself to slack off the next, you could diminish the positive impression you’ve made,” writes Ayelet Fishbach, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, in Harvard Business Review. “Research on what psychologists call balancing shows that goal achievement sometimes licenses people to give in to temptation—which sets them back.”

Take a Day (or Two) Off

It’s an open secret that a slew of paid time off is wasted—768 million days in 2018, according to the latest count by the US Travel Association. It takes planning ahead now, but using at least some of that time to disconnect, particularly if you had to cancel a vacation this summer or weren’t able to take time off, can be paramount from a recharging standpoint. “Maybe you can’t hop on a plane and take off to Mexico, but you can discover something in your town or go for a picnic,” Perkins says. “In these uncertain times, taking a day off is so important.”

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