OK, we’re already making our way through the new year. We can move on. Onward and upward, right? We can avoid burnout in the new year.
By the way, how are you doing on your new goals…your resolutions? Are you on track or have you already given up. Either way, there’s grace here for you! Whether you set goals or not, whether you’re after some new plateau of your life like a tenacious animal or you’ve already limped away like an injured koala bear who fell off the top branch trying to reach that last leaf, and whether you’re expecting big things in the new year or you’re resigned to just handling whatever comes your way best you can—it’s all OK. No judgment here! Enjoy the new year and I hope that this year is the best yet for you!!
But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a phenomenon that happens to far too many leaders—and it often catches them by surprise. In other words, it’s a tragedy that most of us can only react to—rather than proactively take steps to avoid it altogether. The phenomenon, or tragedy, is burnout. Leaders will at some point in their career reach the point of burnout—and it’s a dangerous place to be.
Burnout can lead to health problems, errors and other issues in your business/organization, and a host of other things that can wreck your life and career. I believe, however, that we can avoid burnout—but it takes intentionality. We must be proactive in combating it. And, I want to encourage you to take a journey with me to avoid it. Here are 10 ways that I’ve identified to help us avoid burnout:
- Know when to say “no.” As a leader, there are many things that come your way. Most of them are really good things. And, it can become difficult to say “no” to them. Especially if you’re a “high-capacity” leader, the idea that we need to say “no” to something becomes even more difficult. But saying “yes” to too many things can cause us to fail and enter into the arena of burnout. Narrow your focus and you will experience health and prosperity in the new year.
- Take time for you. It can seem selfish to take time for ourselves. We’ve got a big job to do, a family to take care of and spend time with, and other obligations that we’ve got on our plates—so finding time for ourselves can seem like quite the chore. But it’s completely necessary. Taking time for yourself can look different for everyone. For me, it’s alone time on Friday mornings with my computer, writing. Find what it means to you and do it!
- Don’t own things you can’t control. There are many things that we face in life that are outside of our control. There’s absolutely nothing we could have done and nothing we can do to change the outcome. We need to be OK with that. But, we also need to find ways to not take ownership when those things happen. In other words, don’t take the blame, don’t beat yourself up and don’t radically change your organization because of something happening that you couldn’t and can’t control.
- Give yourself grace. This is a big one for me. I struggle with being too hard on myself when I make mistakes or when I don’t quite meet the expectation I had for myself. My inner dialogue is damaging and detrimental. I want to have more grace for myself. I want to have the mindset that when I miss the mark, it’s OK. It’s not the end of the world. So, I am completely focused on grace…for myself—the hardest person, I’ve found, to extend grace to.
- Spend time with peers. This is an important distinction. Peers—not friends, not co-workers, not bosses—peers. These are people who are doing what you’re doing in some way. They are folks that can sympathize with your struggles, honestly say that they’ve “been there, done that” and even help you find a way through the difficulties that you’re going through. Spend time with them, let them encourage you and take time to encourage them.
- Cling to compliments and dismiss criticism. I tend to dismiss compliments and cling to criticism. Can you relate? I somehow find myself thinking that the compliments aren’t as important or aren’t true, but the criticisms are truth that I need to immediately fix in some way. I want to keep thank you notes and emails and delete/throw away critical ones. I want to internalize the good things people say about me and about my work and quickly let go of the criticisms that others hurl my way. Are you with me?
- Focus on the important more than the urgent. One of my biggest struggles day-to-day is this one. I can easily find myself responding to the “urgent” things in my day at the detriment of the important things. And, far too often, the “urgent” things are brought to me by others—it’s usually a by-product of their negligence or lack of organization. This year, I want to be able to focus myself on the important and not let others dictate the use of my time.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. One of the hardest things that I’ve seen both in the workplace and in the family is the list of unrealistic expectations. These are either things that are wildly unrealistic or expectations that are just over the line of what can reasonably be accomplished. I don’t want to get caught up in the place where I am constantly disappointed because either I or others didn’t meet an expectation that was never going to happen from the beginning.
- Reward yourself often. How hard is this one?! What ways do you regularly reward yourself? Maybe you’re good at this. I’m not. But this year, I want to reward myself when there’s a “win” in my life. This can be in tangible ways like purchasing a treat for myself. Or it can be in the form of spending time “patting myself on the back” in my own mind for the things that I accomplish. I can far too quickly move on from a win in my work and family life and begin focusing on the next thing—but I want to intentionally focus on the things I’ve done well.
- Use all of your vacation time. This one is not a problem for me at all. But I hear it far too often and it makes me think that it’s a major problem. I’m not sure what’s at the root—but my guess is that people who don’t use all of their vacation time in a year feel like they can’t take the time off because something bad will happen if they’re not at work for that time. I would say that regardless of that feeling or reality, your health and sanity are far more important than anything that “might” happen if you’re gone for a week. It’s a benefit that your organization gives to you as part of your compensation—so, use it!