I think it’s fair to say that no one ever starts their day or week with the hope that they will eventually burn out from exhaustion and overwhelm. In fact, I would say most people would like to avoid burnout at all costs. Despite what we actually want, “burnout” has become a bit of a buzzword these days due to the increasing levels of it that people are experiencing.
While this is a summary of Episode 4 of my podcast, I do want to make sure we cover what burnout actually is, how we can determine if we’re getting close to burning out in the things that we’re doing, and how to avoid it.
How do you change your trajectory so that you don’t actually reach burnout? First of all, you need to know what burnout actually is and what it is not. Many people imagine they’ve reached the stage of burnout when they have thoughts like,
“I’m just exhausted.”
“I’m spread too thin.”
“There are not enough hours in the day.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“Work is just too hard.”
Burnout is not just, “I’m too busy and this is hard.” It’s not like you run out of gas and swerve off to the side of the road. Burnout is crashing into a wall, exploding into flames, and being burned to a crisp. That’s burnout.
Here’s a quick overview of what burnout looks and feels like in a practical sense:
- Less productive, not as motivated
- More irritable, mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping/insomnia
- Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, hormones out of whack)
- Withdrawing from people, less interest in hobbies
Regardless of how you personally deal with feeling overwhelmed, there are several questions you can ask to do an overall “capacity assessment” (measure your personal capacity).
- Look at the tasks on your plate, and ask:
- Do I have enough available time to do all of these things?
- How much energy do I actually have to give towards these things?
- What is the level of difficulty for each task?
- Am I including tasks that work towards larger goals, or am I just staying busy?
- What is the purpose of each of these things that fill my time?
- Do I have enough time to plug this in today? (Do you have a good sense of how long something will take?)
- What else do I have going on today/this week? (Consider appointments, meetings, and events when filling the day with tasks.)
- How much energy does the task take? (Consider how much energy it takes to attend meetings with people vs folding laundry.)
- Is this in my wheelhouse, or will I have to stretch myself to get this done?
We now know what it can look and feel like when we hit burnout, right? The crushing, the burning, the blazing… It’s awful, and we don’t want to go there. But do you know what living within your actual capacity can look and feel like?
Here are a few examples:
- Setting boundaries to protect your energy and time
- Leaving space to create some breathing room for yourself
- Making choices that align with your goals and priorities
- Feeling empowered and fulfilled by living intentionally
Living in a state of overwhelm will lead to burnout, but there are simple ways to avoid this if you’re willing to take a hot second and make adjustments. There are several questions you can ask to do an overall “capacity assessment,” and knowing how you typically deal with everything when you’re drowning allows you to make an intentional and effective plan.
Start taking action, and put boundaries in place so you can live within your personal capacity and create some breathing room in your life. You’re worth it.