I cannot even explain how often I hear this one from the leaders I work with. And it’s usually followed by a huge SIGH.
I get it, I really do. All of those proactive emotionally intelligent actions that you need to take as a leader… they all take mental and emotional energy. Not necessarily a tonne of time, but brain and heart space.
Being a great leader is a daily practice, not a destination to reach and then move on to other projects.
And sometimes you just don’t have it in you.
David Ballard with the American Psychological Association defines Burn Out, as follows:
‘Burn out is defined by an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.’
The markers are:
2. Lack of Motivation
3. Frustration and Cynicism
4. Cognitive Problems (ie trouble focusing or problem solving)
5. Slipping job performance
6. Interpersonal Problems
7. Not taking care of self
8. Pre-occupied with work
9. Decreased Life Satisfaction
10. Health Problems
(Big disclaimer here - remember I am not a mental health professional. Although ‘Burn Out’ is defined as a mental health issue rather than a mental illness, if you are struggling with this and it’s negatively impacting your life I highly recommend you find a qualified practitioner in your area to support you in healing)
If you are feeling just at the brink of burnout, there are a few strategies to start thinking about to bring you back to a better space to be a better boss (and enjoy life a wee bit more!)
1. Create a STOP doing list
For every to-do or action you say yes to, there absolutely HAS to be a corresponding NO. Write out everything that’s in your head that you’re responsible for. Take at least 20% of the items and STOP doing them in whatever way makes sense - stop completely, delegate, find a system or automation to do them for you, hire someone to do them, whatever works. STOP doing it ALL.
2. Prioritize Play
Sounds super fluffy but this is SO key to bringing back that spark and energy you once had. Stop and really think about the question ‘what is play for me?’. Most adults don’t actually know the answer.
Find a class or hobby or activity that you do purely for the joy and fun of it. You lose track of time, you do it with no goal or outcome. It can be doing jigsaw puzzles or painting watercolours or rock climbing or running. Whatever it is that brings you joy.
Stuart Brown has done some great work on this and defines play in a really interesting way, check out his books and articles for more here. http://www.nifplay.org/institute/about-us/
3. Physical Health Overhaul - Sleep, Exercise and Nutrition
Cannot be emphasised enough. Self care in a big way. And make it EASY on yourself. Find a local company that does healthy meal prep. Turn your phone off at 9pm every night, no exceptions, and keep it out of your bedroom. Find a buddy to go for walks with.
Start small. Care for your physical body.
4. Gratitude Practice
Gratitude every single day. The research is in folks, this isn’t just for the new age hippies anymore, this is mainstream therapy interventions.
Tie it to another habit - over dinner, when brushing your teeth, driving home - think of 1 thing you’re grateful for every single day, even the shitty days. Bonus points if you add in telling other people when they were the source of your gratitude.
5. Mindfulness Practice
Another one that ain’t for the hippies anymore, silicon valley has made sure of that! Even 5 minutes of just being totally focused on the present moment every day will do wonders.
If you need help on this one check out headspace app for some instruction and info on a mindfulness practice.
6. Team Structure Review
Stop, take a breath. Think of your business needs objectively - what would an ideal structure of team members look like to be able to meet your goals (forgetting about the joys of budgets and talent availability for a minute).
How close are you to this ideal? What is one step you could take tomorrow to get closer? What’s a longer term strategy you could take starting next month to get closer to this ideal? Start working towards getting your business set up with the right resources in the right places to make your business structure work FOR you.
Being a leader is hard. It’s emotional and mental labour that is often overlooked. Go easy on yourself.
If you need additional help on this and getting yourself to a place where you really can be the great boss you know you have potential to be, get in touch and let’s see how I can help.
For more information check out Workplace Strategies article on burn out https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/managing-workplace-issues/burnout-response