Avoiding Burnout

I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout. Because this is primarily a blog about HR, running, and pancakes, I’ve been thinking about burnout specifically in a career and running. Burnout on pancakes? No way! After reading Peak Performance, this only amplified my thoughts around the topic.

If you are new to this blog, don’t know me, or haven’t had a conversation with me, you may not know that I have a goal to run 1000 miles in 2017. And I’m well on my way to crushing that goal. But lately, a little bit of doubt has started to creep in. I’m noticing some aches and pains that are lingering just a bit too long. We are approaching the dog days of summer, and, if you’re in the Midwest, you know all about the heat and humidity. These next couple of  months are packed with work travel and vacations. I’m ahead of where I thought I would be, but there’s temptation all around to take the Asics off the gas pedal.

I have run more per week the past 6 months than I ever have in my running life. I’m approaching the most miles I’ve ever run in a year and it’s only July. In 2013, I ran 683 miles. I’m currently at 640 miles for 2017. While I’m still driven by this goal, I’m starting to feel a little worn down. I have a lingering little knee pain that I’ve never experienced before. On a recent long run, my hip started bothering me. The thoughts started clouding my creative running brain. Am I going to be able to make this goal? Is age really just a number or is Father Time really catching up with me? Why in the hell am I doing this?

To counteract some of these thoughts, I’ve started to make some changes to get me through the next 300+ miles. I’m more conscious of my sleep. My alcohol intake is way down. I’ve switched up my running routines by adding some interval and speed training. Instead of running both Saturday and Sunday, I’m replacing the Sunday run with a long bike ride. I’m trying to get more consistent with my yoga practice on my rest days. I can still maintain my 20 miles per week and blow past my goal. I don’t want to slow down now because I can see the finish line, but burnout is right on my tail.

So how does this relate to career burnout? We glorify the hustle. Success is defined by how much we “work.” Read any Forbes or Inc. article on what all the “successful” people do, and it’s all about minimizing distractions so you can maximize work. Rise and grind, baby.

It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in. Everyone is telling you how to be more efficient so you can work more. But are you happy with the work you are doing? Is your life goal one where you can process FMLA leaves quicker? And who are you doing this for? Employers are so concerned about “employee engagement” and making sure their employees are “all in,” but they fail to spend time helping employees realize why they are there.

Companies are so concerned with making sure they are getting the most out of their people. And that’s what they want. They run a business to make money so they can enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. And every employee is doing the same thing. We just want to do good work, make a decent wage, and be able to provide for ourselves and those close to us.

Trying to squeeze every minute of work and hustle out of your employees is a major recipe for burnout. Even the most engaged employees don’t want to wake up every day and meditate about making your company better. They want to make their life better. A paycheck is one way to help realize those life dreams.

Not every job is going to be glamorous and gratifying. Most people are just working for the weekend. Thank you, Loverboy. But do you know what they your employees do on the weekend? What truly drives them? Find out what that is and you may get a few more points on your engagement survey.

So as your grabbing that coffee and warming up your Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich this morning, really pay attention when Bobby is telling you about his weekend. As you’re going over his deliverables for the week, work with him to see how he can accomplish them so he can enjoy that time on the weekend. Figure out his why and what gets him out of bed every day. Make him more efficient and successful at work so he can work on being a better Bobby.

And when you are telling Maggie Manager about your weekend, think about why you’re there. What is your true “why” or purpose? Figure out why you are reading all of those Success books. Is it to work more or is it to work so you can enjoy life more? Figure that out and you’ll be the engaged employee your HR guy can brag about.


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