Many years ago, I was working on a big project for a global brand. It was complex and had a lot of moving parts, but it was manageable. It didn’t require me to work a crazy number of hours, and I was maintaining a good work-life balance. After just a few months of starting this project, however, I hit a wall, and ultimately, I discovered I was burnt out.
On a separate occasion, I was overseeing various projects at the same time for the same global brand. I was also working 60+ hours a week and was being pulled in many different directions. There was a lot of pressure as well. Stakes were high, but I was loving it and felt like I could keep going. The work came in waves. I delivered some great results, and I never even came close to burning out.
What was the difference between these two scenarios? Why did I burn out in the former, and not in the latter? It’s because in the former, I was finding it hard to stay committed to the journey, and in the latter, I genuinely loved what I was doing, I was part of a great team, I felt supported and I believed in the company’s mission.
We tend to correlate burnout with working too much for long periods of time. But factors such as personal growth and fulfillment, team chemistry, support and alignment to company values also play a big role in what actually leads to burnout.
By now we all know there is no magic bullet to avoid burnout. But here are four strategies to keep it at bay.
- Take care of the basics.
No strategy or top 5 tips can help you avoid burnout if your people are continuing to work themselves to the ground by putting in 70 hours a week for long periods of time. It’s the same if people don’t like their job, if there is friction between teammates or if people are not aligned to the company’s values. Taking care of and focusing on the fundamentals, such as work-life balance, an inclusive environment and cultural fit, give you a better chance at fighting burnout.
- Celebrate the small wins.
Implementing long-term plans, systems, technologies and products takes months, if not years. Results take time. If we keep working hard, but don’t reflect on the progress we’ve made, eventually, motivation starts to fade. When we don’t celebrate our efforts, the mistakes and failures start to carry more weight. This makes it a lot harder to stay positive and push through tough times.
Make time to take a step back every so often and celebrate the small accomplishments. Celebrate the small milestones or deliverables of your projects. And as long as you made progress or learned something new, celebrate the failures as well.
- Separate yourself from the results.
When we’re really vested in our work, it gets hard to take a step back and view things objectively. When we’re in weeds, we start to associate our personal happiness and, at times, our self-worth with the results of a certain project. This puts us under immense pressure, which affects not only our performance, but also our overall well-being.
All you can control is effort. Therefore, it’s important to work hard, but then take a step back once you and your team have given it all you’ve got. Instead of checking the scoreboard every second, focus on staying consistent and working on the right things. The score will take care of itself.
- Show the promised lands.
Sometimes, uncertainty and turbulent times call for long hours and hard work. Sometimes we have to push through. During these times, show your team that whatever is waiting on the other side of this hard, challenging time is worth a lot more than the pain everyone is going through today. Make sure to showcase the light at the end of the tunnel. Remind your team the “why” behind your mission.