Last week I talked about an easy way to avoid burnout before it happens. The secret is in identifying which activities energize you and which ones deplete you. For more on how to do that quickly, head over there, then come on back.
When it Has to be You
In addressing your burnout problem areas, chances are there are some things left over that you don’t really enjoy but that have to be you.
For example, you might hate being on camera. But as the face of the company, it better be you on screen.
What do you do with those activities?
Even worse, what do you do when the activities that used to energize you now deplete you?
Maybe you once loved being on camera, but now you can’t bring yourself to turn on the lights.
This, by the way, is a tell-tale sign of burnout.
You could quit your business and move to a remote island.
That’s the solution I found in most of the research I did. Cures for burnout almost always involved at least an extended leave of absence — the kind that would shutter your business if you are on your own.
When it has to be you yet you’ve reached a point where quitting seems the only solution, you may go for Plan B: Suck it up and push on anyway.
It wasn’t so long ago when I reached this stage in my business. Like so many small business owners, I was exhausted. But I wasn’t ready to close. Nor was I set up for an extended trip. So, it was off to Plan B(urnout).
Today, I’m going to share with you why Plan B doesn’t work as well as your tired brain thinks it will.
The good news: I found another option.
Why Plan B Promotes Burnout
When you’re tired, Plan B seems to make sense.
You’re exhausted but you can’t quit. You’ve made too much progress to give up now.
You have clients counting on you. Passing them off to a colleague will cause big upsets in their progress.
And it’s important to keep that momentum going. So you keep taking on the clients your former clients have referred.
Even if your business has been successful, you may not have funds set aside for a long break and eventual restart. Most small businesses don’t have this.
So you make the only decision left. You do the work, forcing yourself through the motions day after day. You try as hard as you can to make progress.
Here’s what happens when you attempt this route:
You lose your joy.
Waking up in the morning becomes a chore. You drag yourself to the closet and force yourself to get dressed.
Everything you do feels 10x more difficult, as if you’re always dragging a 10-pound weight behind you. Your arms are heavy and resist doing your chores, even if it just means fingers to keyboard.
With everything shut down but work, you still snap back to attention after who-knows-how-many-hours you’ve been staring blankly at the wall.
At the end of the day, you expect to feel encouraged by your progress. Instead, you are appalled at how little you got done.
What you hoped would inspire you to a better start tomorrow becomes another beat-down. This makes it hard to get to sleep.
Tomorrow starts the same way today did.
Did you pick up on the end result?
You’re not happy. You’re dragging through your days. You’re putting 10x the effort into your work, and you’re not even getting half of your projects done for the day!
Even worse, that lack of passion and dedication shows through and your clients are not served.
Trying to force yourself through burnout only slows you down until you literally stop. Either you simply can’t go anymore or all your clients leave unhappy.
Plan C: What to Do Instead
If you can’t leave and you can’t push through, you’ll be happy to know I’ve found a more effective approach to beating burnout.
Just to recap, Plan A is not to get into burnout to begin with.
Plan B, which actually promotes burnout, is to keep on keeping on, hoping doing more of the same will somehow eventually snap you out of the funk.
Plan C seems counterintuitive, but it works.
Give in to your inner child.
What does that mean?
Chances are there has been a voice in the back of your skull screaming like a spoiled three-year-old.
You know that voice.
It’s the one screaming I-DON’T-WANNA! whenever you sit down at your desk.
It’s throwing a tantrum on the floor instead of making your next sales call.
And it’s sneaky enough to coax you into online games when you’re supposed to be doing paperwork.
For too long, I told that inner voice to grow up. It was never time for play. We had work to do.
Slowly but surely, I lost the all-important sense of joy in my work.
Burnout wasn’t far behind.
I couldn’t even remember what fun was anymore.
See Plan B above for my first attempt to address this problem.
No, it wasn’t pretty. No, I did not do my best work. And no, no one was thrilled about that.
Things were looking bad until I listened to my inner child.
Turned out, she had the answers all along. I needed to allow her more freedom.
The first thing she told me was things were too heavy.
That’s when I realized I’d forgotten to take the steps outlined last week to reduce activities that didn’t excite me.
Fully trapped in the failed Plan B mindset, I hadn’t even thought to assess my situation to see what could be let go.
With the tasks left on my slate, I asked my inner child how we could make those tasks fun.
The answers she came up with surprised me.
Rather than trying to avoid the work, she jumped in with both feet to create games, challenges, puzzles, and other ways to turn my tasks into fun.
And she found friends among my connections to play along.
Once I was having more fun with my projects, they got done faster. That encouraged me at the end of each day. And the next day became even better.
Making real progress and ‘winning’ the games, it was easier to get to sleep at night.
My sleep was more restful. I felt better when I woke up in the morning.
Even better, instead of a list of tasks to work on as soon as I woke up, I had games lined up to start playing.
At a fundamental level, I was still doing the same set of basic activities. But because I was doing them in a more unique and fun way, they felt completely different.
Turned out, I was always just a mindshift away from having a joyful day.
Of course, finding new ways to keep things fun is a challenge of its own. So I’m curious, how do you bring more fun into your workplace?
Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook group how you bring fun into some of your least favorite activities.
If you’re struggling, let us know the basics and see if the group can help you come up with some solutions.