The past several months, I have been on fire! My partner and I have been building our business, building a team, creating training programs, and finishing up our book. It has been a whirlwind of excitement, late nights, and long video chats. I can tell that the late nights and constant expense of energy is beginning to catch up with me. My body hurts, my head aches, and my energy is crashing. With a to-do list a mile long and deadlines quickly approaching, it’s hard to find time to slow down.
In the midst of exciting launches, my internet called it quits. For four days it would sputter and spurt, randomly cutting out between episodes of crawling along. In my frustration, I snapped at my husband, sighed loudly, and barked orders at anyone who might possibly be able to help. Flinging my body dramatically on my unmade bed, it hit me that my internet and I had something in common: we were both burned out.
We often talk about employees in the workforce being burned out. Oftentimes, it is used to support the notion that they need to move on to something else. For years, I bounced from one job or hobby to the next thinking that it would fix the feelings I had. In reality, being burned out does not indicate that you are doing the wrong thing. People get burned out in their marriages, careers, hobbies, and even parenting. Have you ever seen or been an exhausted momma? Just because she’s burned out does not mean she doesn’t love being a mom; it simply means she is out of balance. Give that momma a nap!
Although my internet is supposedly unlimited, the reality is, services are often tethered once you hit a certain threshold. They try to slow you down because you’re using too much data or service. Similarly, our bodies begin to slow us down when we use too much energy. Sure, we can build this level up so that we can run longer before being tethered, but ultimately, we all need a break. We need to rest and recharge, even from the things we love. Now, it doesn’t have to be a LONG break, but we do need balance.
In my work with corporate teams, I often discuss this concept of burnout. It is an individual process, but there are things that leaders can do to foster an environment that combats burnout in their employees. Let’s take a look at my 5-step anti-burnout solution that doesn’t just apply to employees in organizations but also entrepreneurs, moms, and families.
1. Identify What Balance Means to You
Balance is no longer a dichotomy of work and life as it has been discussed for years. Rather, life includes work. I like to refer to it as the life-balance trifecta. This trifecta is a triangle with the edges being self-care, work/career, and family/relationships. Where most people immediately think of a well-balance equilateral triangle (where all three sides are the exact same length), no one ever said that balance means all things are equal. Your triangle may be a right triangle, isosceles, or even scalene with all sides being a different length. Yes, I had to look these up. What creates balance in your life is knowing what you need and making sure that you have the proper balance in all areas of life; the balance that is the right fit for you.
2. Get Clear on Your Role
In organizations, role clarity is one of the top struggles when it comes to lack of engagement and job satisfaction. When employees don’t know what they are supposed to be doing and what they will be held accountable for, they struggle. Similarly, we need to know exactly what is expected of us in our various vocations. How big of a role is housekeeping in my life? How about my career or business? What about my expectations in motherhood? Unlike an employee, no one is going to hand you your job description and tell you exactly what you do. YOU need to create it for yourself. What are YOUR expectations for yourself, and when is enough…enough?
3. Focus on the Task
Related to clarity is focus. Clarity greatly impacts focus by giving you guidance on where to spend your resources (i.e., time, attention, energy). In this case, though, I am referring to actually focusing on what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. It sounds obvious, but how many times have you been working but thinking about what you’ll cook for dinner, or playing with your kids while checking email, thinking through a plan, or eagerly strumming your fingers to get back to your to-do list? We have all done it, and sometimes we need to. Being present in what you’re working on, giving yourself specific timelines, and setting clear goals for each chunk of time will help focus your attention and keep you from bouncing from one thing to the next, expending unnecessary energy and burning yourself out.
4. Find Your Engagement Happy Place
Engagement and meaning (influenced by clarity) are the top contributors to overall well-being. The term ‘engagement’ is often used by organizations to understand employee job satisfaction and overall commitment to the organization. In terms of well-being, engagement is more about absorption in your work and finding the point where challenges and skill are perfectly aligned. Psychologists often refer to this as the state of flow, or where one is ‘in the zone’. As challenges begin to surpass skill, more energy is required to achieve the same results. Although you may still enjoy what you are doing, you tap out faster and need more time to recharge. As skill surpasses challenge, the work becomes boring and tedious. You may feel burned out from running into walls or spinning your wheels waiting for others to catch up. Existing in a state of flow will allow you to run faster and longer before wearing out, though you still need to have the appropriate balance in the life-balance trifecta.
5. Slot Activities in the Appropriate Place
I love products that serve more than one function. A fall decoration that doubles as Christmas or a cute plant that cleans the air gets me every time. As women, we love multi-tasking too. We try to fit as many things in our schedules as we can. I love the people I work with, so meetings satisfy my work/career needs as well as my relationship needs. I really enjoy my children, so family time also doubles as accomplishment and career needs. I love writing my blog, so that can serve as my self-care time. Most of the time, we forget about the self-care side of the trifecta altogether. We may think that our children or our work brings us so much joy that those things are self-care and recharging. This is a dangerous trap to get into. In the short-term, it may appear to satisfy those needs. In the long-term, our triangle is collapsing.
I encourage you to not view burnout as a sign that you are doing the wrong thing. Sometimes, it simply means you need to take a break, rest, and recharge. It could mean cutting back hours, taking a weekend off, or pausing for a season. I guarantee you, a single bubble bath and a glass of wine is not going to alleviate burnout, but it may help you recognize how badly you need a vacation. Take the bubble bath, then plan the vacation. You deserve it!