The World Health Organization just classified burnout as a medical condition. Let me repeat, burnout is now a medical condition.
Many continue to espouse the idea of work/life “balance” – as if we’re on an incessant tight-rope.
Overwhelm is the number one scapegoat used for why people don’t get things accomplished – in their lives or at work.
Burnout results from non-stop overwhelm. Overwhelm is the experience of having too much to do in too little time.
All of the good intentions to relieve overwhelm and burnout in the workplace – everything from mindfulness, Zen dens, breathing techniques, soft music, on-site massages, desk exercise to ax throwing – isn’t making a meaningful difference. Tension, stress, apathy, exhaustion, impatience, low morale, despair, numbing, “sucking it up,” anxiety, all continue to rage on.
There’s a million reasons given as to how we got here – blaming organizations, blaming society, blaming what it takes to be successful nowadays – swearing that cramming, rushing, shoehorning, squeezing in, speeding, and short-shrifting sleep is required.
Yet the number one reason is we choose it. Really. We create and perpetuate this experience for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.
We spend an average of 2000 hours of our lives each year at work.
Work is a part of our lives – not a separate thing to balance. Consider, what are you going to do with your 2000 hours? Spend them in life-draining overwhelm? Or make them shine?
Some transfer the scapegoat piece to their boss – declaring that his/her expectations drive the chosen insanity. I’m not buying it. We create our own crazy-making time crunches. We are neither a victim of time, nor of our bosses. (If the expectations aren’t realistic, then constructively speak up and co-create what does work for both the team and the organization.)
A few years ago I spent a weekend transforming my relationship with time. Yes, I’m a nerd as well as a recovering overwhelm-abyss-creating time optimist. I had to question and evaluate, why am I creating this experience for myself?
I did an initial search for insights in how to reduce overwhelm and burnout – within, from friends and online experts. And here’s a short list of real reasons as to why we choose to be in overwhelm:
Enjoy the adrenaline
Time becomes the scapegoat excuse for all of our disempowering choices/results/lack-of-results
Proof of being needed, wanted, valued, important
To feel like we’re doing enough (veiled driver of feeling good enough)
Here’s to stopping the madness and giving up any of the above lame rewards of overwhelm.
Now that that’s done – here’s the mindset shifts and time management best practices I took on that made a difference in how to reduce overwhelm and burnout:
Stop pretending time rules my life. I rule my life. If I “don’t have time” for something, I’m really saying I’m choosing something different to do with that time. And verbally express the choice being made and own it.
Change my language around time. Stop using “I’m a victim of time” pressured statements like “I’m too busy”; “I have a zillion things to do”; “There’s not enough hours in the day” etc.
Savor this moment.
Manage priorities, rather than time.
Remember – I’m not in a race.
Manage my mood.
Know that I create as much, if not more, in less time when my mind is well-rested, focused and clear.
Choose to be a person of increase.
Be intentional and unfold my plan for the week on Sunday – scheduling time in my calendar with bite-size action items to accomplish strategic priorities
Define my top 3 meaningful action items for the next day the night before
Morning power hour to proactively create a juicy context for my day
Give myself buffer time (especially when driving)
Block out time for 15-minute afternoon power naps
Protect sacred accomplishment time in the morning (pick your best productivity/ “flow” time)
Microloan my time for non-client support (awesome concept courtesy of Adam Grant)
Before I try to do it faster, ask if it should be done at all
Remember that focus is nothing more than eliminating distractions
Create an anchor event for the weekend
Here’s to tapping into the expansive breathing room that’s right in front of you now.
And now you have how to reduce overwhelm and burnout whenever you want!
Team Building/Culture Building Activity:
Overwhelm is unfortunately incredibly common for those in leadership positions. While not always the case, often at the root of this overwhelm you’ll find fear of losing control or the desire to prove one’s worth. Good news – you’re worthy and the type of control that would ensure 100% security doesn’t exist. Oh, and never-ending pressure, stress, and unfinishable to-do lists that lead to burnout, neither feel good nor are healthy for your business or your family.
So how can you be strategic about reducing your sense of overwhelm? In essence, how do you choose what to delegate? Grab a white board or piece of flip chart paper and try this exercise:
First circle in green everything that you enjoy doing and that gives you energy.
Second circle in orange everything that you’re really good at – it’s your expertise and strength.
Third circle in blue everything that’s strategic, that will truly move your business forward.
Fourth circle in red everything that ONLY YOU can do. Really push yourself to answer this one strictly, meaning if you were out of the country or got hit by a bus could someone else do it?
Now take it in – what do you notice?
Some items might be circled multiple times – these you keep.
Some items have no circles – find a way delegate these items. Either find someone who has this area as a strength or take the time to train someone. Keep in mind this is a great opportunity to provide someone who loves to learn a challenge and opportunity for growth.
Prioritize the ones you’re keeping.
Now take the bottom 3-5 on your prioritized list and give those away as well.