And how getting it backwards beats you down
+ Delete, Delegate, Delay, Do Differently
+ Manage your emotions, surrounding people, and environment, not just your tasks
+ Sequence matters and we often overload our workloads and shutdown
Are you familiar with what it feels like to be overwhelmed and just continuously overloaded with work? Falling short, losing control and frustrated with how everything seems to depend on you?
It’s one of the vicious cycles that comes with burnout. A combination of fatigue and anxiety that leads to a dark path of feeling overburdened and depressed when you fail to get ahead of it. It’s also something that eventually bleeds into other areas of your life.
When it comes to recovering and turning it around, it ultimately centers around how you manage your energy, and how it’s channeled into priorities and focused action that enriches your career and life.
The opposite is true with burnout - it’s as if work and life is a buffet of opportunities where you just keep piling food onto your plate faster than you can eat and actually enjoy it. Over time you lose that enjoyment and the culinary experience turns into a tormenting chore.
At the Burnout Clinic, we run a 30 Day Burnout Recovery Challenge where we help people begin the recovery process.
We begin with energy management and help people get clear on the energy draining and gaining habits in all areas of their lives with our Energy Audit Protocol.
That’s because far too often we unnecessarily give up out of the frustration of burnout in our careers, family and relationships because we over generalize what it means - where in reality it’s actually only a few habits that mentally and emotionally drain you the most.
Gaining clarity is wonders.
It’s difficult to manage what you can’t measure. In other words, you can’t change what you don’t know what needs to be changed. So once you’ve completed the audit exercise, you’ll know exactly the habits, events, situations, people and environments that drain you.
The consistent feedback and insight that come out of this audit process falls very nicely in the Parento Principle, known as the 80/20 rule. That’s when 20% of our habits create 80% of the energy drain.
Liberating your energy comes down to making some important decisions about your energy drainers around these questions:
+ What are the situations and associated behaviours that drain your energy the most?
+ What area of life is the most energy draining?
+ What are the common energy draining emotions and triggers?
+ Who are the people that predominantly drain your energy?
+ When does it frequently happen, and when does it not?
+ Where do you feel the most drained?
When it comes to managing your energy, we have to begin considering how to move your energy usage towards net zero or being energy enriching. That means it’s not a function of more efficiently managing your time and tasks, rather about managing your emotions, the people you surround yourself with, and an environment that makes you feel well.
When it comes to having a career and life that’s fulfilling and meaningful to you, it’s important to operate from the lens of your personal values. Prioritizing your energy spent to what’s aligned to what’s important to you.
Our goal isn’t to boil the ocean when it comes to shifting your energy drainers. When it comes to recovery, like peeling an onion, we take it a few items at a time. In our Burnout Recovery VIP Challenge, I recommend actively tackling no more than 5 energy drainers a month.
We then apply the 4D’s process to re-capturing energy:
+ Do Differently
“I feel so trapped. Most people think there is something wrong with me for trying to work less. I want time to connect with others and myself more. Time is a valuable asset we have on life and cannot get it back.” - Aaron P.
Most people who try to rationalize themselves out of their own energy drainers generally get this process backwards. Plagued with guilt and unfulfilled expectations we go in a frenzy trying to attack our work from different angles. Optimizing. Hacking. As the clock is ticking behind us, we get more frustrated and achieve sub-par results at best. Done is better than perfect right?
Now if we miss our targets, we then delay by finding excuses and blame other people for missed outcomes and failed expectations. Perhaps you’ve been on the blaming end out of fear or denial, or even been on the receiving end of it. Riddled with energy draining politics, it shifts into a battle of toxic behaviours and the tearing down of trust - adding on an emotional drain while already mentally depleted.
Then we pawn it off to the next unsuspecting individual, asserting our charisma and perhaps even dominance onto those who are less motivated and disengaged. While it gives you temporary relief, at this stage apathy begins to settle in. We’re so tired we no longer care. Managing might seem less energy taxing than doing it ourselves - but not when it’s a reminder of a failed chore.
We delegate for the wrong reasons.
Lastly, when all else fails and everyone is exhausted, feeling unappreciated and any remaining trust capital is all spent, activities are then deleted under the guise that “we’ve all tried our best” and brushed under the rug and ready to rear its head at the most inconvenient times.
It’s a destructive cycle that breaks down trust in an organization.
Have you ever experienced this type of loop in your day-to-day work? Even asking the question, why am I doing this in the first place? #TheGreatResignation
The first step is Delete. Ask yourself if that task is essential. Is it within your scope of responsibility? Perhaps even use the classic Steven Covey Priority Matrix if it’s urgent and important. I like to filter through the lens of my personal values.
Like the vicious loop that I explained earlier, many times tasks are just delegated to us in times of frustration. As capable as you are, you probably completed it in a moment of crisis and it somehow became your new full-time responsibility.
Now if it is essential to the overall outcome, then the second step is to Delegate.
Here’s an important note - if it seems like a garbage but important task, it doesn’t mean just garbage it onto someone else. That’s probably what got you in the mess to begin with. Instead, first consider if you can automate it with tools. Especially if it’s work related, chances are there is a business automation tool out there.
The famous adage also goes, “one person’s trash may be another person’s treasure”. There are underutilized people in your organization, likely bored, disengaged and unheard, dying for an opportunity to be re-skilled and up-skilled.
Delegate work to those who have the unrealized talent, the motivation and a values system that would be energy enriching for them. This activity builds trust and creates a more engaged and high performing workforce.
If you can’t delete or delegate, your third option is to delay your activity.
Far too often in our modern society we struggle with the fear of missing out (FOMO) and profit demands create endless amounts of work just to survive and feed our consumer economy. At this stage, the Parento Principle also applies. 20% of our work should lead to 80% of our results.
If you’re delaying work, it means it should fall into this category. It’s crucial and only you can do it properly. The cost for quality completion is greater than the cost of speed. This step also acts as a buffer where activities you thought were speed dependent or necessary at all might actually be unimportant, which will end up being deleted.
Lastly, if all three D’s: Delete, Delegate, Delay fail - your last option is to do it differently.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
It might be clear by this stage that the demands of work are greater than the supply that can fulfill them. It’s a clear business case for management. If hiring isn’t an option, then your last remaining goal is to look at options to complete the task with it being less energy taxing.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
+ Are your personal values aligned with your work?
+ Is your personality and temperament aligned with your work?
+ Are you utilizing your natural talents and skills?
+ Are you utilizing an effective and aligned strategy that applies to your values, personality, talents, and outcomes?
When it comes to empowerment and taking responsibility for how you spend your energy and time, play an active role in designing your work.
You can’t expect your manager, partner or peers around you to be successful at figuring it out for you because you’re the only one that knows yourself the best. The only thing missing is getting answers to those important questions so you can best realize it for yourself and communicate it to others.
As you work through your energy drainers and begin stopping them or converting them into energy gainers, you’ll slowly begin to liberate and free up mental and emotional resources and self-regulate again.
This is the key difference between burnout recovery and prevention.
When we have little to no available mental and emotional bandwidth, installing new preventative capabilities for our wellbeing becomes a fruitless exercise as we wonder why we can’t keep the practice consistent and why even with the best preventative practices, it feels like a band-aid solution with diminishing returns than a long-term solution that we expect.
What will you be doing to start your recovery process now? If you want to learn more about others recovery skills and take a guided step-by-step approach to burnout recovery, join our 30-Day Burnout Recovery VIP Challenge at: www.burnoutrecoverychallenge.com
Written by: Duncan So, C.Ht, MMER, MNLP
Co-Founder & Executive Director at The Burnout Clinic
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