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The “CliffsNotes” to Overcoming Burnout

It’s not news to anyone that we all feel extra burned out right now. We have too much to do. We don’t have enough time. We’re not getting it all done, and so we miss things and then feel bad about ourselves.

I want to help and I’m going to cut right to the chase. This is the CliffsNotes version of my process for getting out of this situation; for being the “hammer,” not the “nail,” in your productivity life (thanks to Reta Clyde, certified trainer at HCA, for that metaphor).

  1. See what’s burning you out. If all the stuff that’s “burning” you right now is sitting in your head as vague feelings, things will never get better. You’ve got to get that stuff out of your head and out in front of your eyes. Short term: take 20 minutes and braindump everything that’s holding your attention onto a piece of paper. Long term: never keep anything in your mind that needs to be done.
  2. Define it. Now that stuff is out of your head, ask yourself two questions about each item: 1) What’s the final outcome of this (what would “done” look like)? 2) What’s the very next action I need to take? Write the answers to those questions out to the side of each item.
  3. Do, decline, renegotiate. Now that you are clear on what‘s burning you out, you need to make some decisions. Accept the fact you CANNOT do all of this stuff. Then decide which items you’ll do, which items you’ll decline (say no to yourself or the person you committed to), and which items you’ll renegotiate (renegotiate with yourself or others on how much you’ll do or by when you’ll do it).
  4. Decline more. I’m just going to guess here, but you probably are still overcommitted. Go back and decline another 20%. I know that might seem a little extreme, but what else are you going to do, keep living like this? You must get focused if you want to actually finish things and not kill yourself in the process.
  5. Organize. After you have declined those items, take the remaining items and organize them onto your calendar (if they are day- or time-specific) or into lists according to context (Errands, @Home, @Work, Calls, etc.).
  6. Get things gone. When it’s time to do stuff, go to your calendar and lists and then make a choice of how to spend your time. And since you have the lists, it’s ok to opt to take a walk, or take a nap, or play with your kids for an hour, or read a little. Why? Because you can now trust your lists. And being truly productive isn’t just about doing more busywork, it’s about being engaged in the right ways with your work AND your personal life (family, rest, health, love, etc.).

Doing these six things will get you into a much better place. The truth is this: you can do anything, just not everything.

Justin

Justin Hale

"You change your life one action at a time. My next tip is your next action.” Justin Hale is a speaker, trainer, and training designer. He plays a key role on VitalSmarts’ product development team and is often the face of VitalSmarts’ award-winning classroom, virtual, and on-demand courses.

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