For as long as I can remember, I've been a task-master and proud of the number of things I can check off my list and accomplish in a day or a week or a month. This drive has help me reach many goals I've set and conquer many milestones.
However, there is a dark side to being an overachiever and it's called burnout.
Having too many priorities, saying "yes" to too many things, not giving yourself enough runway to properly tackle a most likely long list of tasks are all precursors to reaching some level of burnout. Why? Because when you take on too much, it often leads you down a path of putting in herculean efforts while de-prioritizing your physical health and mental well being. To read more about the signs of burnout, check out this article by Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D aptly titled The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout.
I have experienced burnout first hand from a life-long journey of repeatedly piling a heap on my proverbial plate. While I am a continual work-in-progress in adopting a more balanced approach to my days and weeks, I have actively embraced living a balanced life that includes both work and play.
In this blog post, I share what I've gleaned and what I now do that assists in keeping me at a slightly slower pace and away from a burnout curve as much as possible.
actively plan your days and weeks
One of the concepts I talk about in my book is the importance of time estimation, a simple, but challenging task of estimating how much time it will probably take to complete each of the items on your to-do list. If you've never done it, it's quite an exercise and I encourage you to try it for a week. When you actively plan out each of your days by writing down what you need to accomplish, estimating how long it could take and then scheduling those tasks to get done, you can end up completing those to-do's in a calmer state rather than rushing around in a frenzy last minute to check those items off.
forgive yourself if you wind up in the same spot
It is likely that many of you end up taking on too much and getting burned out at some point in your life. Piling on shame doesn't help. Forgive yourself for making decisions that have led you to this same place and be gentle with yourself as you make different decisions to alter that state to a place where you are balancing effort with more ease. Remember, if you've been taking on too much for a very long time, being in overwhelm and rushed might feel like a natural resting place. It will take you some practice to do things differently.
course correct sooner
Course correcting means stopping if you are completely overwhelmed, adjusting priorities on your to-do list, saying "no" to new requests/asks, and giving yourself some space for self-care and rest. Over time, the ultimate goal is to know the warning signs of burnout sooner and adjust your schedule and priorities based on your current reality.
if you are completely overwhelmed, stop.
If you've blown past the warning signs of burnout and have come to a state of utter burnout, I recommend that you stop everything and take a necessary pause. Walk away from your to-do list, get out into nature and breathe. Going for a walk and being mindful of how you are feeling will help you clear some of the mind clutter that has you in spin mode. Slowing down will also provide you the space to make decisions that can aid you with a course correct.
get help if you need it
At the end of my corporate career, I had experienced such significant burnout that it took me quite a long time to recover from it. While I had initially thought that I might be able to work through the burnout on my own, it became clear very quickly that I needed additional support and I began seeing a therapist. My therapist has been helping me to see patterns that I had created in my life and ways forward that can assist me in making new decisions and choices that result in different and healthier outcomes. For me, therapy has been life-changing and I recommend it for anyone going through some sort of life event where you simply require the support.
Life happens. Energy levels ebb and flow. And we all experience tough stretches of time. If you can set work/play boundaries and be cognizant of burnout symptoms then take time to adequately reset when those occur, you will find yourself with a more balanced approach to your everyday no matter what life dishes up.
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