How to Overcome Burnout at Work

Here’s the water we’re all swimming in:

  • In 2019, The World Health Organization classified burnout as a medical condition. This was BEFORE the pandemic. And the stats have only gotten worse.
  • 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 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. We choose to buy into the narrative of hustle and grind culture which leads to a sense of time poverty.

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, advocate 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 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
  • Pleasing others
  • 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.

So how do we overcome burnout at work?

Mindset Shifts:

  • Manage priorities, not time. You cannot manage time. A minute will go by right now wether you manage it or not.
  • Stop saying you "don't have time." If you “don’t have time” for something, your really saying, "I’m choosing something different to do with that time. I have a different priority." Verbally express your choice and own it. For example, "While I would love to X, I'm choosing to prioritize Y."
  • Remember, you are not a victim of time. Time is not a bully. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week and get to choose how we will allocate that time.
  • Change your language around time. Stop saying things like “I’m too busy”; “I have a zillion things to do”; “There’s not enough hours in the day” etc. Perhaps you choose to live a "chock-full life" or you're "richly scheduled." However don't sugarcoat it either. If you have too much on your plate, take some off. You get to choose what you consume.
  • Savor this moment. No, really, right now. Savor it ;)
  • Remember – life is not a race to the end.

Best Practices:

  • Define top 3 priorities for the next day the night before
  • To determine a priority, ask yourself, "What matters most right now?" (As in, what REALLY matters.)
  • Morning intention hour to proactively create an empowering context
  • Give yourself buffer time and honor it (great for reducing stress hormones)
  • Give yourself spaciousness for creative reflection and contemplation (I promise you'll unexpectedly come up with a brilliant solution to the thing that's plaguing you.). By the way, as an organization you can all commit to a time per week where there's no meetings simply for this purpose.
  • Block out time for 15-minute afternoon reset naps (rather than drink more caffeine)
  • Protect sacred accomplishment time (pick your best productivity/ “flow” time of day and if possible, don't have meetings at that time)
  • Before trying to do it faster, ask if it should be done at all

Now if you're looking for a simple framework to Restore Joy & Vitality to your team - look no further! (Bonus, this DIY just-in-time digital tool also includes our super popular "How to Eradicate Overwhelm" exercise.)

Restore Joy & Vitality

80% employees have felt burned out at their current job, according to Gallup. (Burnout is defined as high levels of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy.)
So if you are feeling overwhelmed, or your team is a bit crispy—know you are not alone. Also know you and your team do NOT need to be part of this statistic. After doing this work for many years, we have picked the most powerful practices to take back your vitality and restore joy to your daily workday.
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