Yesterday I shared my experience with burnout. It went on longer than I had planned and so the practices I learned to avoid burnout had to wait until today. There are several ways I learned to detect and either avoid or minimize burnout.
The first is to make sure in whatever you do that it is your idea. If you start a project make sure it is something that you want to do, not someone else”s idea of what you should do. You will only get so far with someone else’s passion and drive. That does not mean that you can’t join in and support another person’s project, but you shouldn’t be the driver/owner of it.
Now there is an exception to this. We all have things that we have to do – we have no choice to do or not do. Like tasks at work assigned by the boss, or the basic activities of life – paying bills, taking out the garbage, or household/yard chores – especially when a child/teenager. Those things need to be done. But in those cases we do have a choice in how we do them. We can trudge along, complaining all the while. Or we can choose to find/make joy in the doing – transform them by our attitude. I was there once as a kid, assigned to mowing the lawn and we had a big yard:(
The second practice is to have firmly in mind your purpose. Why are you committing to this project? Keep that as a reminder when the going gets slow and the feelings fade.
Third, make sure not to spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Of course there will come times when you wonder what you got yourself into. You commit to serve as the lead on a project and you discover there was more to it than you realize. I have had that experience with each of my Toastmaster officer roles. I felt overwhelmed, but then as time went on and I practiced I got more comfortable. Just make sure you are aware of your capabilities and time commitments. Stretching yourself is healthy, just don’t stretch yourself too thin.
With that in mind, learn when and how to say “no”. If you are like me you want to help others, you see a need and want to meet it. That is good, but sometimes you have to say “no”. You can’t do everything. And there are times when you saying no will open up the opportunity for someone else to say yes. Perhaps someone who needs to chance to shine, or perhaps someone who could do it better. It’s okay to say “no”,
And, finally, remember that all good things eventually come to an end, including those phases in our lives. Sometimes burnout happens and we have to acknowledge it and close down a project. I had that experience with two clubs – one I was trying to start and another that I had started but attendance was lagging. I had to admit defeat and close them down. Sometimes you realize that your initial drive has lagged and you have to bow out and let someone else take over. You and the project are heading in different directions. There is no shame in that, it just happens.
Remember to see the signs of burnout -lack of energy and drive, mental fatigue, lack of focus, feeling trapped – and either find a change that re-energizes you in the project, or pull yourself out and try something new. Along the way also be thinking ahead of escape hatches – especially for work – that you can use if needed. Maybe also give yourself timelines and signposts that can help you gauge your energy level while in the project.