I grew up knowing about cars. I spent many a summer day hanging out in my grandpa’s autobody shop, watching him hammer out dents, sand out the rough spots, cut away rust, and re-paint classic cars. It was amazing watching him restore those cars to their former beauty.
And then there was my mom, who tore apart the transmission in her car because we couldn’t afford a new one. She meticulously removed each piece, set them out in the garage in the correct order, and over the course of a few weeks, had rebuilt it.
So, as I started to think about burnout and the impact it has on the lives of corporate women, I immediately thought of gears and cars. Every aspect of a car’s machinery is made to operate smoothly. The gears are meant to turn easily, each tooth notching into the open grooves without a sound. The bearings reduce friction, the shafts rotate to transmit power, and perhaps most important of all, the belts essentially drive all the parts and make it possible to function.
The same is true for you and burnout. Our bodies are uniquely designed to operate a certain way. We have natural systems for responding to stress, but when we ignore the early warning signs – fatigue, forgetfulness, illness, loss of enjoyment in the day to day things, pessimism… – we set ourselves up for bigger problems.
Burnout is characterized by three dimensions – exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of ineffectiveness – and within each dimension, there are increasing degrees of severity. The key is to pay attention to and act before too much damage is done. That’s why I want to give you 4 strategies for preventing (and tackling) burnout.
Know your priorities
We all have a finite amount of time each day, and it’s very easy to get sucked into doing things that don’t help you move the needle forward or meet your goals. When you know what’s important to you, how it fits into your life plan, and what success really looks like it becomes much easier to manage your time.
There are loads of philosophies on how best to structure your day and how to manage your tasks, but I’m a firm believer that when you take a step back and determine the ONE thing that must get done each day, each week, each month… it’s easier to manage your life and business. Stephen Covey talks about tackling the big rocks first. Brian Tracy calls it “eating the frog.” Whatever you call it, doing the most important thing – or the thing you know you need to do but don’t want to do – first by scheduling it on your calendar as an appointment is going to simplify your life.
Yes, I know this is hard. You’re bombarded with perfection on every social media channel – the corporate women who is effortlessly keeping all the balls in the air without a hair out of place, the entrepreneur who’s on the private jet or working on white sand beaches all the time, the Instagram influencer making 7-figures overnight… While there may be some truth to some of those images, it’s not the whole truth.
We’re each on our own journey, and when you try to measure yourself against someone else, you’re no longer focusing on your own vision, your own goals, and your own priorities, which invariably ramps up stress and fatigue.
In years past, whenever I started training for big races, the one thing books always said was stick with your training plan. Don’t get sucked into what others are doing and derail your system. Run your own race. Having done both – deviated from the plan and stuck with it, I promise you’ll be MUCH happier and MORE successful when you stop comparing and do your own thing.
I once heard someone say that when you take care of yourself, you’re taking care of your business, and I love that concept. The topic of self-care is all the rage, and for good reason. When you’re depleted, running on empty, you cannot bring the best version of yourself to your work or to your life.
So, what does this look like? Well, it means getting enough sleep, exercising, nourishing your body well, taking time for yourself. But on a very practical level, it means creating some separation from your work. Silencing notifications, turning off your computer, taking breaks, a lunch hour, and *gasp* a vacation.
When you find yourself either feeling completely disengaged and apathetic or working harder to the point of exhaustion, trying to prove your worth, it might be time to pause and check whether you’re in alignment.
Find your tribe
I’m all about having a community of support. That’s one of the beautiful things about having a corporate job; it comes with ready-made support systems. So, when you make the leap into entrepreneurship, it’s even more important to find people who get you, who want you to be successful, and who will hold you accountable.
It takes a village to live your best life, and when I think about who I need in my life, it looks a little like this:
- A community of like-mind individuals who are in varying stages of what you’re trying to do. In the Smart Girl Community, we have women who are still in corporate jobs, women who are building side hustles into full time businesses so they can make the leap, and women who’ve been in business 1, 3, 5+ years. This results in a powerful space where virtually any question can be answered and any challenge solved.
- Family and friends. They play a critical role in life because they help you find balance, manage your downtime, and keep it all fun. They may not always get what you’re doing and they may not always fully support you the way you want and need, but they provide important balance in your life.My husband, Jeremy, is the adventure seeker in our marriage, and he’s always pulling me along to try new things, push the boundaries, and that helps keep me sane.
- Coaches, professional advisors, and mentors, including your personal board of directors, are the ones who can help you make changes, faster and more easily, because they’ve got nothing but your best interest at heart. They’re the ones who’ll help you build a plan, show you your blind spots and how to overcome them, support you unconditionally, and hold your feet to the fire when the going gets tough.
Your tribe is a powerful force when it comes to helping you see when you’re not acting yourself, when you’re disengaging from life, and when you need to seek real help. Do not underestimate the importance of support or be afraid to ask for it.
These 4 strategies will help you avoid burnout, but if you’re struggling right now, I urge you to pause and take stock. Just like in cars, when your heart, soul, body, and mind aren’t working smoothly, when you ignore the grinding and screeching and rough riding, you’re going to have costly repairs.
Now’s the time to tackle burnout, once and for all.