Does this sound familiar?
“I pride myself on being efficient, but for some reason things that used to take 5 minutes are now taking 45 minutes to finish. Sure I’m working long hours, but I feel as though I’m slipping...falling behind my peers.”
Have you caught yourself feeling like this the past few months? You are not alone.
Burnout: the sense of exhaustion that doesn’t go away with a good night's rest.
He wasn’t just exhausted, he was overwhelmed and confused . Burnout can happen to anyone. The banking associate who works 100 hour weeks all the way to the founder and CEO who thinks he's mastered resilience, or that he doesn’t require as much sleep as those other people.
Burnout can happen to anyone - but it doesn’t have to. It’s not inevitable.
Most of the high achieving executives I work with at some time or another complain that they feel so emotionally and physically drained that they just don’t have enough left in the tank to give the energy they need to their job. Their home life dried up to a husk long ago.
This can often lead to a slew of symptoms - forgetfulness, depression, weakened immune systems, and often, in more instances then I wish, substance abuse.
As a result they are way less efficient and start to make mistakes they wouldn’t have dreamt of a year before. If they could only get some sleep, some rest, a reset, but there’s no time for that. No matter how much harder they grind they fall further behind, instead of getting ahead.
My clients think of themselves as invincible. They are doers and they feel that their stamina is unlimited. They can never admit that they are overworked. That’s the work lifestyle they signed up for. They know what they need to do. It hasn’t been a problem before.
Now they feel like giving up. How can that be? It hurts to the core of their existence, because it questions their identity.
Part of this is working from home. They are always in their office and never disconnected. Even if they move out of their office to the living room they are always connected digitally and there is never a break.
There are also job insecurities that start to creep in as they feel as though they are being left behind by their peers. This can create a downward spiral of wanting to double down and wanting to work more hours and put in more time which then leads to more fatigue.
Believe it or not, the solution to burnout may not be less work.
Here are a few tips:
Focus on the small strides
What we really need to feel is daily progress. For our energy to remain strong and positive, we need to see the needle move, the tides change, some proof that we aren’t stuck. Focusing less on the major wins and more on the dozens of small seemingly insignificant accomplishments instead can make all the difference.
Had a great interview? Open the nice bottle of wine, and toast to showing up as your best self rather than focusing on if you got this particular job.
Get a meeting with the CEO of the tech company you’ve had your eye on? Give yourself the night off of hard things, and celebrate by having a nice night in with your partner.
Small meaningful celebrations, and focusing on the little wins are the easiest ways for you to feel as though you are gaining control over your work and life, while also keeping your energy positive.
When we feel like we are making progress every day, no matter how small the baby steps, we start to will feel more confident - even just a little - which can then lead to feeling more energized instead of exhausted
And who loves being on a team with the perpetually exhausted guy?
You got to this Partner role because you worked hard, were singularly focused on moving things forward no matter how many hours you worked or vacations you missed. That’s what got you the promotion, an invite to be in the club. But what got you here wont get you there.
You are in a new role with even more accountability and pressure to produce. You’ve stayed up late doing the spreadsheets yourself because no one can make them as tight as you. But that’s not where you should be spending your time anymore. You have associates to delegate those tasks too. You need to move more of the workload to your team so that you can continue to focus on the bigger picture. You need to learn how to reallocate your time to set the firm up for success. By parsing out the tasks you used to take pride in, the more time you’ll have to make big strides and not wear yourself out with all the blocking and tackling of the menial work that got you here.
Find a trusted Advisor
Have you ever felt sure that something was unjust, wrong, unfair, you had been hard done by, not given your share? Then when you talk it out with someone who you trust, and who also cares enough about you to tell you the truth, you realize that maybe it wasn’t as unjust as you originally thought?
Of course you have. We all have. Because we are humans. We have feelings, and emotions, and past experiences that dictate how we may respond to different circumstances. When you are living a big, interesting, life, having an outside perspective is absolutely necessary. It’s why a chief of staff is the most important job in any administration, because they are the person who lays the whole picture out, the facts, the behind the scenes information, so a decision and way forward can be made. And it can be made with all the information.
Do you have a trusted advisor? 20 years ago we were all mentored under someone’s wing. That’s not the way the industry works anymore. If you are lucky enough to have someone in your corner, allowing you to process, hold on tightly.
And if not. Go find one. Everyone who’s at the top has a team, a coach, a person who walks through it with them. Find yours.