Over the last few years whilst coaching, one issue has intensified over the past year with nearly all of my clients: burnout. The Covid 19 pandemic has created some of the most trying situations leaders have ever faced. After more than a year of managing in these circumstances, leaders in business are beyond tired; they’re exhausted. Many are also unsure of where or how to set boundaries on their time and commitments given the level of uncertainty in their businesses and industries. It is partly for this reason I run High Growth Retreats, to allow leaders to reset and reenergise.
Interestingly, listening to what these leaders shared with me in coaching sessions about their experiences over the past 18 months, a realisation emerged: Leaders often lie to themselves about their ability to set boundaries in order to manage their work, stressors, and self-care. They fall prey to a false sense of urgency and get overly caught up in the urgency of their work. While this is a natural response given the unusually high stress levels that the pandemic has created, it isn’t a healthy or sustainable approach.
Fortunately, we have far more control over our time and priorities than we allow ourselves to believe. We can decide to take steps toward creating thought patterns and conditions that allow us to take a breath, centre ourselves, and gain perspective around a task’s urgency level.
Below are four strategies for learning to be honest about your autonomy and use (or lack of use) of boundaries, as well as questions to ask yourself when your burnout feels ready to set in.
Build in recharge time
Often when the going gets tough, leaders simply take up more work and responsibility. Instead, you should reverse this tendency and ramp up recovery sessions to deal with periods of excess stress. To help avoid burnout, recharge not just once but multiple times a day with a 5- to 10-minute activity that is just for you.
Redefine the ‘rules’ at work and home
Part of the sense of stress that executives feel comes from other people in their lives. These may be colleagues, spouses, or children, who are awaiting certain actions or results. Relieve this pressure on yourself by changing the game plan and redefining the ‘rules’ by communicating clearly about what you can and can’t do.
Notice the positives
When you notice your stress level, negative thought patterns, or stress escalate, it’s usually a good time to bring in some positive emotions. The fact you’re feeling anxious doesn’t mean nothing good is happening, since both states are true to you and can exist simultaneously.
Ask yourself, “what else is here is positive, existing alongside my stress?”
Each week, look for what you can delegate or completely eliminate. Test out saying no. Even if you don’t believe it’s possible to get out of something, try it once and see what happens. Ask yourself, “what are my must do’s? And what’s truly optional?”