When you feel like you’re running to stand still it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing more to clear the decks. Working longer hours is detrimental to your health and your performance. What if there was another way? One rooted in data? Here’s how to succeed without burning out.
It may sound like a counter intuitive approach, but sometimes we need to slow down to get more done. It’s a paradoxical truth that we often ignore, at our own cost. Succeeding doesn’t have to come at such a high personal price. It’s possible to succeed without burning out.
The landscape of Burnout
Burnout has 3 distinct domains. You’ll recognise it by these 3 components that begin to reveal themselves as you head toward burnout.
- Emotional exhaustion This is when there’s nothing left in the tank, for you or anyone else.
- Depersonalization Your energy reserves are so low, you start to feel numb. Your colleagues? They’re starting to look a little bit annoying.
- Reduced personal accomplishment You feel like you’re not developing and you’re not accomplishing anything worthwhile. You have little or no motivation and your productivity nosedives.
It takes honesty and wisdom to recognise when you’ve become the victim of your own drive to succeed and you’re burning out. Or if you’re skating around the periphery of burnout, tempted to keep going at breakneck speed, now is the time to press pause and examine what’s really going on.
Workplace burnout is now recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a diagnosable condition, adding it to the International Classification of Diseases It’s big news in terms of performance and one of the major blocks we come across in our sustainable leadership coaching.
Maybe you feel incredibly driven but there just aren’t enough hours in the day? If you’re starting to feel stressed and bordering on burnout, that’s a signal to switch things up and start doing something different. You can’t reach optimal performance by working longer hours or sleeping less. It’s time to adopt some performance smart strategies.
We are living under the collective delusion, that in order to succeed we have to burnout along the way” – Arianna Huffington
Visualise instead of burning out
Really? Can visualisation truly make a difference? Data from the field of sports psychology suggests it can. When basketball players were asked to visualise for an hour a day, it was found to have the equivalent impact of 7 hours of physical practice. Science is only just beginning to understand the mind body connection and the impact that it has on performance. Visualisation is a technique that we’ve used in our coaching with sporting bodies like UK Sport and the Football Association. Why? Because it works. Whatever the habits are that you want to change, begin by visualising them. This is the first step in beginning to align your mind, habits, goals and performance. This mental practice combined with real world effort has been demonstrated to improve results What’s more, it’s more effective than just doing one alone.
Downtime is the key to high performance. That’s why it’s always a mistake to work harder. The constant striving associated with sacrifice syndrome will only take you on a journey to depletion and eventually burnout. Skipping lunch, working late, using your weekend to play catch up are all corrosive practices that will only serve to slow you down. You’ll put more hours in and see fewer results for your efforts.
Renewal is critical for peak performance. Build regular intervals into your daily routine to develop physical and psychological renewal. This is the way to high, sustainable performance. Yes, you need to set goals and work hard, but there also needs to be space for essential recovery time. Dampen down the sacrifice with some simple changes; take lunch, go for a walk, periodically disconnect from tech, practice mindfulness, invest in decent sleep, develop compassion and cultivate hope. Research has demonstrated that the mere act of hopefulness that things can be different, has a positive impact upon our neurobiology and our performance. Don’t wait until it’s too late to strike the balance.
Be strategic without burning out
It sounds obvious, but when we’re stressed or burning out, we lose our way. Our decision making is impaired and we lack the clarity necessary for effective thinking. That’s why strategy is so critical to performance. Effective strategy involves setting clear goals, designing a plan to deliver them and monitoring your progress. Decide upon your metrics for success and tackle your goals each day. Remember to stay flexible, things change and you need to be able to adapt to each situation.
If you’re doing something and it won’t help you to achieve your metrics for success, ask yourself if you should be spending time on it. Think in terms of ROI for your time to maintain your focus and keep your strategy on track.
We’ve successfully worked with thousands of businesses and individuals around the world to help them achieve their goals. We’ve coached hundreds of leaders in business, elite sport and tech. We work internationally with Fortune 100 companies to optimise performance, reduce burnout, building resilience and workforce wellness. We provide consultancy, leadership coaching and training. If you’d like to know more about how we can partner with your organisation, get in touch.