A Google executive in Singapore who has 40 hours of meetings a week told us how she avoids burnout, and it includes 5 pieces of 'calendar magic'

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A Google executive in Singapore who has 40 hours of meetings a week told us how she avoids burnout, and it includes 5 pieces of 'calendar magic'
Stephanie Davis, who's from the US, moved to Singapore with Google in 2017. Stephanie Davis
  • Stephanie Davis, a Google executive in Singapore, typically has about 40 hours of meetings a week.
  • To avoid burnout and "Zoom fatigue," Davis prioritizes self-care like yoga and sailing, and schedules 3-minute stretch breaks on her calendar.
  • US workers have been quitting their jobs in droves, with many of them citing burnout as a major factor.

As the pandemic drags on, many workers have been pushed to their breaking points.

Even among those lucky enough to be able to work from home, many have been struggling with a months-long emotional and mental burden: burnout.

Survey after survey has shown that workers are emotionally exhausted as the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its second year. In the US, people have been quitting their jobs at record rates, many of them in search of better work-life balance. In a June poll by jobs site Monster.com, almost every single worker surveyed said they were considering quitting their jobs, with many citing burnout as the main reason.

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"During the pandemic, we feel a loss of control," Stephanie Davis, Google's vice president for Southeast Asia based in Singapore, told Insider on a recent video call. "We feel vulnerable and perhaps even helpless. And because of that, burnout looms large."

Davis seems like a person who might know a thing or two about burnout. Her schedule, which she recently shared with Insider, includes an average of 40 hours of meetings per week, most of which are now virtual. She oversees teams not only at Google's Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore, but throughout Southeast Asia, and she said it's not uncommon for her to work 12-hour days.

We asked Davis how she keeps from getting burned out and how she avoids "Zoom fatigue" (although, of course, she uses Google Meet) with so many virtual meetings.

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5 pieces of 'calendar magic'

Prioritizing self care and streamlining her calendar have been the most helpful steps she's taken to avoid getting burned out, Davis said.

For Davis, self care means unplugging from work and making time for hiking, yoga, connecting with family back home in the US, and sailing Singapore's waters with her husband.

"Navigating tanker traffic in Singapore's waters certainly takes my mind off of work," she said.

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A Google executive in Singapore who has 40 hours of meetings a week told us how she avoids burnout, and it includes 5 pieces of 'calendar magic'
Davis goes on evening hikes with her husband several times a week. Stephanie Davis

Davis also credits five pieces of "calendar magic" with keeping her from getting overwhelmed with her packed schedule:

1. Eliminating unnecessary meetings: After a look at her calendar, Davis realized she could eliminate some recurring one-on-one meetings. "That was super hard for me to do because I love meeting with people having great conversations," she said. "But a lot of times they just were becoming catch-ups and weren't leading to purpose and priorities."

2. "Batching" or grouping similar tasks together: "So doing my emails at the same time during the day, and [in the] morning and evening grouping one-to-ones together."

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3. Scheduling time to for meeting prep and follow-up: "What I spotted in Calendar was if I had a client engagement, the only thing that would be in Calendar was the client engagement, versus how do I prepare for it? How do I really put thoughtful time to into and follow up? That has made a huge difference."

4. Shaking up the meeting format: "Does it have to be a video meeting? Can I go walking with the person? Can I walk and call from my phone? Or am I the best person to even have the meeting?"

5. Scheduling self-care breaks: "That three-minute walk I used to have in between meetings when we were in the office has become a quick stretch. Go outside, a deep breath of air, super quick. But I've found that if it's not in Calendar, it doesn't happen."

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Creating a safe environment to discuss mental health

For her reports in Southeast Asia, Davis tries to create a "safe space" to talk about mental health and wellbeing, often in recurring one-on-one meetings. Often, she does this by sharing her own feelings.

"I tell them when I have a lot on and that I may be feeling overwhelmed," she said. "I tell them how much I miss my family."

A Google executive in Singapore who has 40 hours of meetings a week told us how she avoids burnout, and it includes 5 pieces of 'calendar magic'
Whenever possible, Davis starts her day with a little yoga. Stephanie Davis

She and other Google leaders in Southeast Asia have also been experimenting recently with encouraging team members to share a goal they can deprioritize in order to focus on big-picture priorities and make room for self care.

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"I've shared with the team that I would reduce management meetings over the next couple of months in order to free up time for annual planning," Davis said. "I also shared that I would carve out creating more deep work time so that I could free up my Sunday evenings. And that would make room for relearning my sailing knots and perhaps calling friends back home."

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