Are you exhausted, burned out, and hoping that a vacation or sabbatical will fix your issue? You are likely mistaken. If you want to live a full, healthy, and rested life, you are going to have to address the root issue of the burnout. Fail to do this, and you will simply find yourself right back where you started after your time away.
Seth Godin says
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
The real issue for an exhausted person is not about getting a vacation but creating a life where you will not end up run into the ground. How can you create a life where your work makes an impact but where you are also creating space for rest? Here are five suggestions for setting up a life you don’t need to escape from:
1 Create a Plan to Guide Your Decisions
For many years now, I have annually written out and implemented a Life Plan. Over the past decade, I have lived it out, taught it, and coached scores of leaders through Life Planning. Writing and living out a life plan is one of the best investments you can make. Assessing your life and planning where you want to go will yield tremendous results. Once you have written a Life Plan, commit to reading it weekly and planning accordingly.
2 Put in Place a Fixed Work Week
A common thread among burned out leaders is a lack of an intentional and planned week. Consider your top few priorities, and build a week where you prioritize each. I schedule intentional time weekly to invest in those whom I lead, plan and block intentional times to write, and have a regular set schedule where I coach a few key leaders. In the book, The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The authors contend that discipline is not the key to prioritization. Discipline is only necessary for a short amount of time until you build a habit. Discipline yourself to create an ideal work week and stick to it for a few weeks until you have created a new habit.
3 Establish Boundaries
Have you established boundaries? What time will you finish working every day? Are evenings and weekends different than workdays? How will you deal with texts and work emails after hours? How many evenings will you commit to being at home weekly? For 23 years now, I have spent at least five evenings per week with my family. That’s one of the boundaries that I have set and lived out. What are your boundaries? Where will you draw the line?
4 Be OK with Saying “No.”
If you are going to create a life that you don’t need to escape from you are going to need to get comfortable saying no.
When we consider whether to say, “Yes” or “No,” one helpful question to ask is, “What are the true costs of saying, ‘No’?” I have found that often there are no real costs. In reality, you can say “No” much more than you currently do and experience no consequences for doing so. How can I make better decisions on when to say “No?” Consider the following questions:
1. If I say, “No” will I damage a valuable relationship?
2. Will saying, “No” cost me financially?
3. Will saying, “No” jeopardize my employment?
4. What other opportunities will saying, “No” allow me to pursue?
If you say yes to everything, you are likely to head toward burnout.
5 Consider Implementing Rhythms of Rest
A starting point for considering rhythms of rest may be:
- Four hours off every day
- One day off every week
- Two-Three days off every month (a long weekend)
- One week off per quarter
In many cases, you can take mini vacations every day and every week. Spend a few hours a day completely away from your work. Take a 24 hour day off once per week and stay away from everything that has to do with your work. Don’t check email or respond to work texts. If possible, put your cell phone away and spend time in person with friends or family. A long weekend once per month away from work has the potential to leave you rested and ready to make an impact in your work. And if you can pull it off, vacation three or four times per year rather than just in the summer. Saving all of your vacation until you are about to die in July may not be the best strategy for rest. Knowing that you are only three months away from a week away will likely give you the endurance to press through a difficult work season.
You aren’t helping yourself or anyone else if you burn out in a few years. Instead, create a life where you can make a long-term impact.
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