The global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated remote working, with figures from a Gallup survey from 2020 showed that 62 percent of employed US adults were working part or full time from their homes. While data in the UK compiled from a survey by the Office for National Statistics showed that on average 37 percent of people here have been remote working. However, working from home, hasn’t been the only thing that has been on the rise, as sadly, burnout is hitting an all-time high.
As a former corporate executive, non-profit founder and executive director for ten years, and founder and CEO of a B Corp social enterprise, I have the lived experience of – for years – burning the candle at both ends. I did not need a pandemic! What drove me to the brink of burnout in the past are things that I still work on today, but once I understood what they were, it was then easier to deal with and some of these challenges are probably ones that we can all relate to in some shape or form. Working as a global leader, there is always so much more to be done. On top of everything, I also have a fear that if I am not on top of everything, then people will ‘find out’ I’m not that smart (at least in the way that they are) – yes, the ‘imposter syndrome.’
Smart people learn from their own mistakes; really smart people learn from others’ mistakes. So I am going all ‘radical transparency’ on you so you can be in the latter category.
Burnout can sneak up on anyone of us and if you think it just means being exhausted from your work, think again. It can cause numerous physical and mental conditions from high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression and other ailments, which can include death. While this information may be difficult to digest, there are ways to nip burnout in the bud and I have outlined strategies that can help, so you can get back on track.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I do advocate daily practices to shift your mind-set and approach. I call these techniques ‘hacks’ as they are quick tips and easy to do practices. I believe these high-level hacks will help free you up, so you are able to work in your “zone of genius” while creating space for others that support you and your organization to thrive in their zones of genius.
So, let’s get tactical and here is one my higher-level hacks that can be adapted to you and your work depending upon what fits:
- Time – As a social entrepreneur, I always have the visionary “app” running in the background. Turns out that is a good thing – it means I can solve problems or connect dots effortlessly while “off duty”. But I need “off duty” time to create the space for this to happen. I remember an article I read years ago, that highlighted Charles Darwin, and other great minds would work just four hours a day. While I cannot turn off my entrepreneur brain other than in meditation, or absorbing activities like skiing really fast or sleeping, the GOAL now is to be in a chair just four hours per day maximum, including all meetings/zooms.
I do not have it all figured out and while I’ve shared one of my higher-level hacks, here are some of my more granular ones:
- ‘Do It Ugly,’ but get it done. I type 100 words per minute, with typos and I am going for speed to create the ‘ugly first draft’ – curating the content, salient points etc. and then have someone else shape it up. But it’s that ugly first draft that gets me farther faster.
- If someone can do something 80% as well as I can, delegate it. Good enough is good enough!
- The Litmus Test: Does doing this map with accomplishing my priorities? Does this move X forward? My current focus is ‘does this help move $1B in new funding into the hands of proximate leaders in the Global South?’. I also ask is it FUN? I say yes to things that bring me joy and juice.
- Giving myself permission to slow down, enjoy the success, enjoy the relationships – seek a depth of connection in my work with team members and client leaders. I give myself permission to take a walk if that is what I need. Take the work seriously, but not yourself. Enjoy yourself!
Remember, it all begins with by building a level of self-awareness around the warning signs of burnout, take preventative measures to stop burnout in its tracks to be able to live a fuller, more sustainable life!
Written by Natalie Rekstad.
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