Hey there, go getter.
I’m talking to you, you organizer, workforce-in-one, volunteer, and general-joiner-of-things. How are you doing these days? Are you daunted by all those things on your To Do list? You know, all those things you’d happily said yes to back in the summer, when things seemed slower and manageable?
Let’s take care of that before you burn out. You know, like this.
First, let’s acknowledge your success. Congratulations! You are so talented and hard working that you’re fielding new opportunities to say yes. You’ve worked hard to hone your skills, and this is the proof of your accomplishments. You might be invited to speak at an event, chair a seminar, manage a project, or organize a committee. The world is a big sparkling ball, filled with people who want you to spend your time and talents with them. Shine on, you crazy diamond. (The first one to place this quote without checking Google gets a prize.)
I want to offer my thoughts on how you get to say yes to the things that sustain you, while saying no to the things that will push you into burn out. Your To Do list is already stuffed. How will you judge the next invitation?
In this post, I’ll help you sort your priorities, consider whether they sustain or drain you, and give you a simple framework for looking at your current workload.
1. What are your top priorities?
What are your top 4-5 priorities? List them out. For example, mine are (i) building a sustainable business; (ii) working in the community; (iii) spending time on creative pursuits; and (iv) home, family and friends.
2. Do your current activities drain or sustain you?
Now consider everything you do. To see the whole picture, include the activities that are non-negotiable, such as parenting and employment, as well as the extracurricular ones, such as leisure and volunteer work. Then categorize your priorities: do they drain you, sustain you, or a bit of both?
3. Why are you considering this opportunity?
The two questions are: does it support your main priorities; and if yes, does it sustain you or drain you?
For a visual example, here’s my list. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve omitted my current tasks and skipped to the why.
4. How are you currently spending your peak times?
Do you normally use the phrase “my free time” ironically? Many people do. I have a friend who is showing all the signs of burn out, partly because he spends most of his peak time catching up with his non-sustaining activities. Put another way, he spends the time he needs to reenergize on activities that drain his resources.
Consider your current list of commitments. Are they:
- Baseline – You are able to accomplish the work in the normal course of your day, and do, without extra effort, and could continue indefinitely;
- Normal – You are able to accomplish the work with some effort and with no more than 10% overtime to your normal day;
- Peak – You can complete the work only if every spare hour is devoted to it, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Will this new opportunity be doable in your baseline, normal, or peak periods? Assuming your peak periods are generally committed, what current commitment will you be scaling down or stopping in order to fit in this new thing?
5. Now decide if it’s right for you
Being invited to take on a new commitment or activity is wonderful. It’s a confirmation of all you’ve worked to do and be, and it feels great to say yes. The question is: is this right for you? Go-getters take their boundless energy and enthusiasm for granted, overlook the activities that sustain them, scoff at burn out, then predictably flame out. Not sure you’re burning out? Here’s a great article from Psychology Today.
What sustains you? How much of that is in your life? Choose to do more of what you love and what sustains you, and you will not burn out. This is self care for high achievers.
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