I’ve been talking with a lot of people lately who are in some sort of leadership position and on the verge of throwing the in the towel and raising the white flag. These are leaders… at work, some are entrepreneurs, maybe you’re a tech director at a church or even student who’s on the edge of wanting to quit. I know this feeling very well. I actually think all leaders and entrepreneurs experience this on a regular basis… and for me it’s very healthy. However I feel like I have found six things that help me avoid burnout and sit in more excitement than anxiety and more drive than doubt.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, I hope they can help you as much as they have helped me.
1. Set a Schedule (And stick with it).
I’ve had to learn this… the hard way, but the healthiest thing I can do when I am beginning to see the signs of burnout is to stick to the “schedule” I expect my team to carry. On the surface it means not working past 6pm and keeping pretty consistent with getting to the office not much sooner than 8:30/9:00am. This reminds me that life isn’t about this job or position, and allows me to get some clarity on my stress or frustration.
Second, it forces me to not make this position or role my identity… My identity should be in WHO I AM not what I do. What life would be like if I didn’t have the mask of this business or career to hide behind?
2. Separate Work and Home Life.
Do you have a place (maybe not a true office per say, but something away from home) that you can go to, to work? This could be a Starbucks, the local Panera down the road or an actual office. Having a place away from your home to work is crucial. I never stopped working with I was working out of my house because my life and my work weren’t two separate things… they were the same, location-wise. I bit the bullet early in our business and got an office. To this day, I believe it was one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.
3. Work Out.
Stress builds up, and contrary to popular belief it doesn’t disappear when you sit by the pool…. it just goes idle. Working out allows us to release the stress in a controlled environment. I love to swim and play racquetball to reduce stress. Swimming takes place in a cool environment, so it literally cools my body temperature down. However the best part of Swimming is the inability to talk, hear, text, tweet or check email. It’s utter silence that allows me to process and just think.
Second, have you ever stepped into a fully enclosed white room with a racquet and a blue rubber ball before? There’s no better stress reliever than hitting that racquetball as hard as you can in a room that is completely enclosed. From the loud SMACK sound of the ball hitting the wall to the energy it takes to smash the ball around the room is a great stress reliever for me. This process takes time… which means it has to be planned, but it allows me to cool off and get my mind off of whatever it is that is occupying my mind.
4. Find a Mentor – A Truth Teller.
About a year ago, I hit almost rock bottom at Orange Thread… It was like the perfect storm of being out of the office for a while, missing deadlines, having the worst client ever, a personnel issue on our team and I remember thinking our team being desperately understaffed at the time. I sent an email to my mentor that said:
“I just wanted to let you know that I am going to be throwing in the towel. I appreciate all you’ve done to help me through the years but I simply don’t believe that this is God’s calling on my life… everything is going the wrong way. I’m done. Just wanted to let you know.”
He actually responded, but not in the way I was expecting… “Don’t Quit. Sounds like you just need a cup of coffee. I’m available.”
Truth be told, that email didn’t address the issue, but one statement stood out… “I’m Available.” I knew this guy cared about me and wanted me to just be me. Sometimes we need someone who knows our story really well to just say “lets hang in there together” It’s incredible when you surround yourself with wise, strong leaders who are available and interested in walking through life together.
5. Start a Hobby.
Those who work with their hands all day need to relax by using their mind (i.e. reading a book, writing, etc). Those who work with their mind all day need to relax by using their hands or feet (building something, gardening, etc). During one of the first “burnout” moments I experienced I started a hobby… creating motion backgrounds. What’s crazy is that it turned into a business (Playback Media)! However that wasn’t my goal, in fact starting a new business was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to create for creating sake.
It’s now one of my favorite ways to relax… with a cup of coffee on a good saturday morning outdoors. Consider hiking, building furniture, becoming a photographer or building a scrapbook.
6. Be Okay with Incomplete.
I learned a TON about business and life by a guy who had his own concert promotion business. I worked for him for nearly 7 years. A few years back he sold the business and moved to California with his family to take an executive position. After being in the new job for a few months I was eager to see if no longer being the entrepreneur relieved his responsibility or stress… I’ll never forget what he said… “Luke, your to-do list is never done. Regardless if you own your own business or you are working for a major company, you’re never going to get everything done.”
He is right… we’re never going to get EVERYTHING done all the time. Don’t let the stress and anxiety of getting that one or two more things done, kill us. I have to be okay with incomplete to-do lists. A business that needs 60-80 hours to let it survive isn’t a business, it’s a death sentence. Be okay with incomplete.
I want to share one final thing with you if you’re in the burnout state right now…
God never promised us easy lives, but He has promised us that
He is with us always and His will is perfect.
If you wait on and trust in God, He will never forsake you nor disappoint you.
You are in good hands.
You are his Child.
He is still on His throne.
And that’s all that matters.