I spent some time recently with a friend of mine who, like me, is a business owner. He is in the event planning business – a very high-stress environment. We were talking about goals, plans and aspirations for our businesses for the next few years, but as we talked, I got the clear sense that a pervasive joylessness was a third party to our conversation. When I asked my friend what was wrong, he shared that he was having a hard time getting excited about work these days. He told me that it was becoming difficult to get out of bed each day and administer to his daily responsibilities. The overwhelming sense of exhaustion he experiences has been causing him to find reasons to leave work early and come in late most days, and he shared that he lacks the motivation it takes to keep a business on track. Most days, he just doesn’t care.
My first thought was that my friend was just stressed out as a result of a series of projects that didn’t go as well as he had planned. But the more we talked, the more I realized that this was no ordinary case of stress – it was deeper than that. This was burnout. While we all have periods in our careers where we struggle to find energy, motivation and purpose, when the situation drags on for a prolonged period of time, what we are actually experiencing is burnout. If not dealt with, burnout will impact your relationships with customers and employees and could mean the downfall of your career or business.
I was reading a recent article that talked about the differences of stress and burnout. For years I thought that burnout was just an extreme case of stress, but the author of this article said that if stress is like drowning, then burnout is like being dried up. With stress we experience sensations of “too much” – too much work, too much responsibility, too many people needing your help, etc. With burnout, the feeling is that we do not have enough – not enough energy, not enough recognition, not enough support, not enough creativity.
As an executive in the business world, you need to protect against burnout. If you want to have a long and prosperous career, consider adopting the following practices to help avoid it:
- Find centering ways to start your day. Consider meditating, journal writing, inspirational reading, exercise, or any other activity that feeds your spirit. First thing in the morning, take time for you.
- Learn the power of the word “no.” Being all things to all people was a contributing factor to the way you are currently feeling, so be selective when you can and discriminating when you should when it comes to preserving your energy and spending your creative currency.
- Spend time “filling your tank” with creative things that give you joy. Find hobbies and interests that excite and inspire you. Learn something new. Always wanted to take singing lessons? Sign up with a vocal coach this afternoon. Is gardening your passion? Join the local gardening club.
- Take your vacations and leave the electronics at home.
- Sign up with a business coach. One of the worst things about burnout is that we don’t know we have it until we can barely function. Your coach can help you keep your career and business full of energizing, juicy possibilities.
We would love to hear from you! What is YOUR best tip for avoiding executive burnout?