“Leadership is an active role; ‘lead’ is a verb. But the leader who tries to do it all is headed for burnout, and in a powerful hurry.”
~ Bill Owens
Client Tony asks: We’ve had some cutbacks recently and I’ve been asked to take on a lot of additional responsibilities. I’m feeling exhausted and burned out, but I’m afraid to slow down. What should I do?
Coach Joel answers: You are definitely not alone, and in today’s business environment, many of my clients, like yourself, are having to take good old-fashioned time management to a new level. Here are four of my executive coaching tools that will help get you back on track.
- Schedule yourself first
- Set and maintain boundaries
- Monitor overload warnings
Schedule yourself first.
Work overload combined with fear of losing your job has a powerful negative impact on your physical and mental health. This can become a vicious cycle where you feel constantly exhausted, less able to be productive, leading to even more stress, etc. You need to break this cycle now by putting your health first. Don’t start your day in overdrive. Cut the adrenaline rush and avoid burnout by spending the first half hour of the day in relaxation mode. Disconnect from technology—don’t answer emails or check your Facebook page. Spend this time reading, listening to music, staring out the window, or playing with your cat. Eat a decent breakfast rather than grabbing a cup of coffee as you head out the door. (Hint: TV news and talk radio are NOT relaxing.)
Start by isolating your time-suckers. For many people, it’s emails or phone calls. For others, it’s meetings or drop-bys. (You know drop-bys—those colleagues who peer through your office door five times a day and ask, “Got a minute?”) Then bundle. Set a specific time (or times) each day to return emails and phone calls. Turn off the nasty little chime that rings every time “you’ve got mail.” Develop a courteous but firm response for the drop-bys, or stand up and have a brief exchange while you move them—and yourself—toward the door. By sticking to scheduled times for e-mail, meetings, and other distractions, you’ll manage your time more effectively and get more work done.
You may be able to have a subordinate handle much of your email and phone communication. You may be able to combine, or even eliminate, some of those meetings. But for really effective delegation, give away an important project, something that makes your co-worker or subordinate feel important. Make it something that will bring satisfaction and recognition, preparing that person for a position of increased responsibility. By delegating important work, you will be preparing your subordinates to advance and avoiding burnout at the same time.
Monitor overload warnings.
Your body will be the first to let you know if your job burnout is reaching the danger zone. Are you having trouble sleeping? Experiencing back pains, stomach upsets? Having accidents or mishaps at home or at work? Getting frequent colds or flu? If putting yourself first and setting boundaries is hard for you, it may take practice. If any of these job burnout warning signs occur, repeat steps 1 and 2 above until they go away. Your body and your boss will thank you.
Personal leadership coaches work with clients in challenging situations to custom design strategies for creating life balance and improving work productivity. Could this be the right move for you? Contact Joel now to find out how he can help! Read his book Time Management Mastery for more actionable advice on lowering your stress level and increasing your job satisfaction, too.