7 strategies for how you can avoid burn-out
Does your holiday seem a dim and distant memory? Do you feel like you need a break again already? September can feel as much like going back to school for adults as it can for children as everyone piles back into the office and the meetings and emails kick off again.
It’s easy to feel like you’re a mouse on a wheel, running to keep up with all the demands, feeling like everyone wants a piece of you – your leadership, your team, your peers, not to mention family and friends.
If you also work across multiple time-zones, as many of my clients do, there’s the added pressure of being on demand for calls from first thing in the morning to late into the evening.
Does it have to be like this?
We’re all familiar with the phrase “work/life balance”, a catch-all term for the aspiration not to allow work to dominate all your waking hours. The “balance” is different for everyone – there’s no right or wrong unless the cost of maintaining your particular “balance” outweighs the benefits.
For example, are you finding your health is suffering because you can’t find time for exercise or is your busy mind disrupting your sleep? Are your relationships under strain because you’re snappy with your friends and family, or you just don’t see them much because you work long hours?
You may not like this question : how are you contributing to this situation?
We get pay-offs for our behaviour, even if there seems to be no benefit. For example, one of my clients doesn’t like to say “no” because they want to be seen as collaborative and likeable.
Another is ultra-responsive to questions from their direct reports, because they want to be seen as a good manager.
Another assumes that they need to be emailing at unsociable hours because their boss is online at 6am, and they want to meet what they think are their expectations.
Perhaps you get a kick out of being busy, that adrenalin rush from being constantly on the go. A sure-fire route to burn-out, and it’s not likely to help your chances for career progression either.
Changing the pattern
Changing the way you do things is tough, and it may not always make everyone happy. However, it’s your life, it’s your career, and it’s a long game.
So if you’re not spending your time on what you deem important, then you may live to regret your everyday choices.
7 Strategies to avoid burn-out
If you want your work/life balance to be different, here are some strategies which may help.
1. Examine where and why you’re allowing your work/life balance to be impacted. For example, you may be agreeing to conference calls at 7pm. What is the story you’re telling yourself which drives your behaviour?
For example, “I’m being paid alot of money for what I do. I need to work for it” or “I’m single so there is no reason why I shouldn’t stay late”.
What’s the cost to you of believing and living that story?
2. Decide what’s important. What goals are you shooting for? Who is it important for you to make time for? Does where you spend your time reflect that?
3. Set boundaries. Boundaries don’t mean that you aren’t flexible, but they can help you make habits and help other people understand where they stand with you.
For example, you are not available for meetings after 6pm. This may involve negotiation, but if it’s important to you, you will find a way to make it happen.
4. Don’t let work time automatically become meeting time. Block time out for important work that you need to do independently – for example strategic thinking, writing a proposal, researching a pitch, or preparing for a performance review.
Question whether you need to attend the meetings you’re invited to based on your reflections on these first 4 strategies!
5. Notice the warning signs that you’re feeling the pressure. You may notice that you gather tension in your neck and shoulders, or that you are doing everything faster in a race against time. It’s likely that you are breathing high in your chest which means less oxygen in your body.
When you’ve spotted them, you can take action before it’s too late. Taking a few deep breaths is a good quick fix. Take some time out as soon as you can, whether it’s a walk outside, or a few days off.
6. Book time off well in advance. For many years now both as employee and business owner, I have booked a week off around every 2 months, even if it’s just for a staycation. It’s a great way to pace yourself. If you don’t do it, you may find that work commitments get in the way of you scheduling a break when you most need it.
7. Recapture your holiday. I’ve just got back from holiday and have already found myself getting back into “doing” rather than “being”. This weekend, my intention is to postpone chores and bury myself in a good book.
If you found this post helpful, you might also like to read 5 tips to thrive not just survive
Alison Reid is a leadership expert helping senior managers and directors conquer new leadership challenges and drive business growth. She specialises in helping them overcome the fears which hold them back from showing up to their full potential. Alison is an accredited coach, experienced facilitator and speaker.
Alison Reid helps new Directors focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm and effective under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.