In a world where being exhausted is seen as a badge of honour and business owners schedule their days in 5-minute slots — here’s looking at you, Elon Musk — burnout is becoming more and more commonplace. As a leader, it can often feel like you’re juggling too many balls at once. Managing your team and their happiness, managing your clients and their expectations, and even just the general admin tasks that need to be done to keep a business running; these are just some of the many boxes that need to be ticked on a daily basis. Letting everything pile up and get on top of you can lead to burnout, meaning less productive hours and perhaps even being treated for stress. If you want to avoid burnout, follow some of these tips from successful leaders.
1. Finding the perfect blend
We’re not talking about coffee here, but instead finding the perfect blend across all aspects of your life. There’s a lot of talk about work/life balance, however, most leaders will know that trying to find that ‘balance’ can be more daunting than avoiding burnout itself. It’s not always possible to put one part of your life on hold to focus on another, but it is possible to find the perfect blend. When we listen to our bodies, we’ll be able to tune into when they’re telling us to stop and take a break or focus on something else entirely. Plenty of successful leaders swear by taking time out for themselves to recharge, both physically and emotionally. Padmasree Warrior, the Chief Executive Officer of NIO U.S. — and one of Forbes’ top 100 most powerful women in the world — is a key advocate for taking time out for yourself. She schedules in 20-minute meditation sessions every evening to unwind and recharge her batteries. Finding the perfect blend for you could involve taking time out to exercise, catch up with friends, meditation, enjoying a favourite hobby, or whatever else brings you renewed energy.
2. Monotasking, not multitasking
We live in a digital age, surrounded by distractions and notifications. It can be so easy to think you’re being productive by multitasking and trying to get as much done as physically possible, all at once. However, this is a surefire way to burn out — and fast. Yet if you talk to any successful entrepreneur or leader, they’ll tell you that monotasking is the way forward. This means focusing on just one task at a time and shutting off everything else; yep, that includes checking emails or answering the phone. As soon as you get sucked into notifications, you’ll find yourself working on lots of ‘little tasks’ and not finishing the project you’d started. Entrepreneur and author, Francesco Cirillo, invented the Pomodoro Technique for this exact problem. If you find yourself getting distracted and trying to multitask, try using a timer. Set it for 25 minutes where you focus solely on your primary goal, then have a 5-minute break. You can use that 5 minutes to check your phone, emails, or whatever else you usually find yourself distracted with.
3. Seek support
Nearly every successful leader will tell you that they have, or have had, a mentor or a strong support system. Even the famously independent Steve Jobs had several friends and colleagues he would turn to when he needed advice. The hard truth of the matter is this: You can’t always do it on your own, all of the time. Being a leader can seem lonely so seeking support is vital if you don’t want to suffer from burnout. We’re not born knowing how to manage a team or run a business, so turning to others for advice can help us feel less overwhelmed. It’s important to find a mentor or coach who understands what you’re going through, has experience in the issues you face and can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders. Only then can you give 100% each day.
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