I once worked with a trainer who gave me excellent advice that translated far beyond the gym. Many of us wish that we could eat as unhealthfully as we desire and come into the gym, exercise all day once per month, and get into shape. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s consistency over time that produces results – small bouts of daily activity and mindful eating habits. I think many of us ascribe to this same analogy when it comes to working and vacation – that if we overwork ourselves to the point of burnout, we can fix months worth of exhaustion with a week’s vacation. In my experience, this tends to keep the strive, hustle, burnout and crash cycle flowing. Taking a vacation, albeit refreshing, doesn’t cure burnout unless I change my mindset toward how I approach the work that’s causing my burnout.
To change my results, I had to find my part in creating them. How did so many projects and commitments end up on my plate? To start, I struggled to say no. I noticed I carried a belief that, “I say no, I will disappoint my leader.” This led to saying yes to everything and thus, overwhelm, because I thought if I say no, people might think I was not capable or that I didn’t support them. In delivering up so many yeses, I discovered the opposite is also true. When I say yes, I’ll disappointment my leader – because my overflowing plate means I miss deadlines and lose sight of important projects.
I had to learn a counterintuitive reality that brought me freedom, even when I say no, people still have found me capable and supportive. This change of mindset helped me to set microboundaries, consistently over time, and say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.
Instead of hoping that a long vacation will fix our burnout and hustle culture, I challenge us to change our mindsets so that we can infuse more work life balance and break the hustle/burnout cycle. Here are two simple practices you can use – today – to prevent burnout.
A simple boundary-setting framework that’s helped me say no, yet remain collaborative and open to their request flows like this: 1) Thank them for the ask that you’re happy to do, 2) Share what you commit to, 3) Communicate what you can accommodate, and 4) Reframe into a question statement. For example, when I led training teams in the corporate world, I would get requests for last minute training. They’d ask me on Friday for a class on Tuesday. Here’s is how the framework was helpful.
“I’m happy to deliver training to your team (1). I want to make sure is that it’s relevant and high energy (2). This type of event typically takes about two weeks to prepare (3). How does two weeks from Tuesday work for you? (4)”
Despite our inner fear, most people are happy to collaborate on a joint solution. This framework allows us to establish a daily habit to say yes to the things that matter, set healthy boundaries that honor our current commitments, and collaborate in a way that serves our workplace and clients.
Our energy is one of our most important investments. Do you ever stop and reflect on what your return on energy is? Are you spending it in the areas that propel you toward your goals? Or, are you spending it in low performing tasks that detract from your goals? Here’s an analogy. If you are investing for retirement, a good investment advisor will consistently manage the investments in your portfolio to align with your goals. So as you age, they are dumping investments that are either low performing or too risky for your retirement age. They make a habit of meeting with you to rebalance your portfolio to keep you on track.
Transferring this analogy to work, what meetings, projects and commitments are on your plate that no longer serve your long-term goals? Our goals commonly change, but we often neglect to rebalance our energy portfolio. Perhaps you said yes to something a year ago and now it’s not working for you. Many times, we try to add more things to our plate and don’t think to take anything out, leading to overwhelm and frustration. What’s on your plate that no longer brings a positive return on your energy and contributes to your goals? What routines can you establish to help you consistently evaluate your “energy portfolio?”
For more on this topic, including lessons learned from a two-week break and how to carve time for one, you can read my previous blog here. To learn more about my leadership coaching programs for high-achieving women (without the hustle) visit www.kelliraethompson.com.