Burnout results from focusing too much on process and not enough on outcomes. Burnout is getting lost in minutiae. Burnout is focusing on just what is being thrown in your face instead of taking what is thrown and evaluating it through the lens of what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish.
The cure to burnout is focusing on where you want to end up.
Once there is a shift to focus on results, you might be working just as hard and just as long, but you won’t suffer from fatigue or exhaustion, and you will experience more motivation and satisfaction from your efforts.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It takes some practice. The simplest steps to implement this shift are (1) determine your desired outcome, and (2) when you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, how do these demands get me closer to my desired outcome?
Here are some pro tips:
- When defining a desired outcome, think in terms of the conditions of life or work that you want to achieve, rather than any specific number or goal. Specific, numeric goals have their place, but in trying to claw your way out of burnout, taking a more general and broader view is a more comfortable and manageable way of evaluating your activity.
- Asking yourself how all the various demands coming at you get closer to your desired outcomes does not have a right answer. It only has an answer that you can determine yourself. It can change if circumstances change, you can even have some uncertainty about the answer. Doesn’t matter. The act of asking yourself and exploring the answer does more to alleviate burnout than just blindly staying on that horrible hamster wheel.
- This exercise can be as advanced as a committed time to sort it out in a journal entry for 30 minutes, or – and this is what I personally recommend – it can be as simple as a 30 second thought exercise. Ask yourself, come up with an answer that feels right in the moment, and move on.
Remember, this takes some practice. Give yourself a time out, review your desired outcome, and think about whether and how all the demands you face that promote your burnout are linked to that desired outcome. It can be an empowering experience.