Your 2016 Habits Overhaul: 3 Tips to Avoid Burnout This Year
We’re about a month into the New Year – just enough time for us to analyze whether or not we’re making some positive changes over last year, or if we’re already repeating well-worn habits. According to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and author of the book, The Diet Fix, “While you may well be able to establish a comfort level with a new behavior in just 21 days, my experiences have taught me that habit formation requires years of consciously reminding yourself of your new choices.” We checked in with our team to see how everyone’s New Year is going! Here’s a recap from Danielle Neal, Leadercast’s marketing coordinator and our Healthy Team Challenge leader.
My recent run-in with burnout
I’m coming out of a recent season of burnout. Burnout is an emotional state in which you feel overwhelmed, overstressed, and unsure of whether or not you can meet the demands of your job, family, life – or all of the above.
Over the past six months, I was working part-time as the only supply resource person for a team serving 14,000 people. It was a big job, and it was exciting to pioneer new systems and processes that could sustain the weight of what needed to be accomplished.
I was used to working at full capacity – two part-time jobs, full-time classes, small groups, family; 100 mph—that’s how I was raised to move. I’ve carried that with me into workplaces I’ve chosen: places that are fast-paced, constantly changing, usually a tad bit on the high-pressure side. And I love it. But I’ve seen people drown in that type of environment, and I have floundered beneath the surface of it all, too.
That’s where burnout comes into play. We’ve all had that thought, “If one more person gives me one more thing to do, I’m going to pop!” Burnout is when it feels like work just to walk into the office. It can creep up slowly over time, or it can rush over you all at once.
“The chaos is not in the world, it’s in your head.” –David Allen, author and Leadercast speaker
Why my burnout is my fault. And why being busy isn’t the problem.
It would be easy to say that burnout came from simply having too much on my plate for too long. Obviously, it came from being in an environment that wouldn’t slow down so that I could catch a breath, right?
But here’s the thing; my boss knew there was a lot going on and constantly asked me how he could help, but I was too overwhelmed with all the moving pieces that I couldn’t slow down long enough to tell him what I needed! I’ve never worked for anyone who cared so much about seeing his team succeed. It was incredible, but no matter how much he cared or how often the team asked, it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t know how to let them help me.
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, talks about bringing order to chaos in his Leadercast Live presentation. He gets to the root of burnout—what happens when we are no longer “appropriately engaged.” According to David, appropriate engagement means being fully present and engaged in each facet of our lives—staff, company, health, spiritual life, family, relationships, etc.
“You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what it is.” –David Allen, author and Leadercast speaker
How do you know whether or not you’re appropriately engaged with something? David says to consider how constantly or heavily thoughts and tasks are on your mind. He adds, “There is an inverse relationship between what’s on your mind and getting it done.”
You know that constant scroll of questions and concerns…“What do I need to do?” “What hasn’t gotten done?” “So-and-so needs to turn that in so we can keep moving.” On and on. Those thoughts are there, explains David, “because we haven’t made appropriate decisions about what it is that needs to get done. Or we haven’t parked the results of that thinking or those decision into trusted places.”
So how can we become appropriately engaged and prevent burnout? Try these action items:
1. At the end of each day, clean up your inbox. Few things are more stressful than being greeted by a jam-packed email inbox when you get into work every morning. Delete what you can, file or flag others, and respond to those that will take you less than two minutes to compose. You may want to try one of the many apps for organizing your inbox. If you’re really ambitious, listen to Randy Walton’s Should You Try Zero Inbox?
2. Make a list of everything on your to-do list. Assign each item on your list a priority level: last, low, moderate, high, top .
- If the top priority is to finish a project with a deadline coming up, then set everything else on the list aside and work on that project to completion. When other tasks pop into your mind, remind yourself that you’ve prioritized them and you WILL address them soon—but not now.
- Identify anything on your list for which you can get help from coworkers or team members to complete. What are the specific things they can do to help? Write down those actions and ask for help. Be clear about the task; set expectations regarding deadlines, budget, quality, etc.
3. Want to take this to the next level? Join the Leadercast Healthy Team Challenge, and make this an exercise you do as an entire team. You could win an all-expense-paid trip for four Leadercast 2016, or the cash equivalent! Learn more here!
• Systems don’t carry people; people carry systems. Your infrastructure only works if you’re able to work well and maintain it—burnout free!
• Ask for the help you need. One of the great benefits of prioritizing and accepting help is that occasionally, you will have time to reciprocate. When you do, ask your colleagues how you can help them achieve their goals.