How I Beat Burnout Like a Drum
Once upon a time, burnout got the best of me. Why? I got comfortable. Too comfortable. I enjoyed what I was doing so much, coaching new employees, building relationships, managing my team, that I forgot about something important...the big picture.
I was good at my job and my team was performing well, but somehow I no longer felt the love and joy for my work that I once did.
The low point came when a few colleagues of mine and I were monitoring a customer service call. We observed calls often to ensure our associates provided excellent service (and weren't arguing with our customers!). An error was made during the call and everyone caught it...everyone except me.
Did this happen to other mangers? Yes. Did my error result in a loss of money or impact the bottom line? No. But I remember it clearly because I knew I wasn't truly focused on my work. I wasn't in the moment like I had been before. Somewhere along the way, I had lost momentum.
“Burnout is nature's way of telling you, you've been going through the motions" - Sam Keen, author and philosopher
After some time, I was able to overcome my feelings of burnout and once again find joy at work. To do it, I had to be deliberate and make conscious decisions to change some things.
Exercise, eating healthy foods, and sleeping well are the usual tactics, but when those don't work, what do you do?
Here are a few things that helped me conquer burnout when it hit me.
Cultivate a rich life outside of work
Pick up an instrument, catch a show, attend a community event, visit the museum, go for a bike ride, revisit an old hobby you once loved, talk to new people and make new friends. Life is full of amazing people and amazing things. New experiences can inspire you...and might be just what you need to beat the burnout monster.
Every day after work (and now, after school) I pick up the guitar to strum and sing for 5-10 minutes. It's amazing how therapeutic it is.
I remember when my mother, sister and I took a family vacation to New Orleans in 2010. It was such a fun and memorable trip. We don't take many vacations as a family so this one was special, and my mom still says it's her favorite vacation. It was mine too! This vacation helped me re-energize and refocus when I returned to work. Of course, you can't always take a vacation when you want to, but you can always plan for one!
Take on a new job, project, or responsibility, that excites you
Find a part of your work that excites you and make it your "thing". This can inject some energy into you and your work.
I managed a bilingual sales team for four years and loved it, but when I was offered the to opportunity to move into a training manager role, I jumped on it. The new role re-energized me and gave me something new to learn and add to my resumé. This happened again when I left one committee after several years to join a new one.
Take a career assessment
Last month I took the Myers-Briggs assessment (I'm an ENTJ) and it gave me some insights into what careers I might enjoy based on my interests and preferences. If you've been feeling totally burned out, I recommend taking one of these career quizzes. Whether you're looking to improve your current job or you're looking for a new dream job, these quizzes can point you in the right direction.
Take a class
Sign up for a class and learn something new! Dedicating some time to personal development on a regular basis can help us all beat burnout like a drum. Some colleges offer certificate programs and executive learning programs like the ones at UCLA and NYC Stern.
As some of you know, I'm back in school full-time, at 39 years old, and I'm totally loving my financial accounting class. Want to know how to read a business's financial statements? I'm your guy. Or how to calculate net profit margin? Go ahead, ask me (hint: it's net income divided by total revenue).
“Choosing to laugh doesn’t undermine the serious work we have to do. It enables us to do it.” - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Helping others is a great way to help yourself by learning new skills, advancing your career and even conquering burnout. And there are many more benefits to volunteering. One that surprised me? Harvard School of Public Health reports that "people who volunteered spent 38 percent fewer nights in the hospital". Check out Volunteer Match for opportunities to volunteer in your area.
Get Comfortable, but not too comfortable
In an article for Tiny Buddha, Jess Whittlestone said "discomfort stops us from doing exactly the things that help us grow". Personal growth is a process, and getting better at something new usually requires a period of discomfort as you learn the ropes.
Volunteering to give the presentation, lead the new project team, or join a new committee that you're passionate about are just a few examples. Another big one is checking out a local networking event. I did and I wrote about my experience right here.
The US Department of Labor reports that as of 2014, the average job tenure for all workers aged 16 and over is 4.6 years. If you find yourself at your current employer for much longer than that, ask yourself if it's time to make your next career move. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but proactively taking control of your career before someone else does seems like a good way to keep your career moving forward, on your terms, and avoid burnout altogether.
Thanks for reading! How do you beat burnout? Let me know in the comments below or at my website www.milesshattuck.com.