No matter how much you love the business you own or the company you work for, one thing is inevitable: burnout. Job burnout is universal among all industries, occupations, and career stages. The number one cause of burnout is over commitment, a direct result of our drive to succeed without properly managing expectations.
I want to be clear about something first. While burnout can be a warning sign to you that you may need to switch jobs or careers, it’s more likely the result of overextending ourselves. Today, I want to give you 4 tips to help you avoid over commitment, manage pushback, and avoid burnout.
Learn to say no tactfully
As a successful midlevel leader, you’ve gotten to where you are today by the sacrifices you made in years gone by. That’s why it can feel particularly hard to say no to others when they ask you to take something else on. This is especially true if the potential assignment can further your career.
Don’t be surprised if you receive some pushback in this scenario. Some of it may be in the form of those who can’t understand why you’re suddenly saying no, while others (especially a well-intentioned boss) may not understand why you’re not as excited about the opportunity as they thought you would be.
In either case, tactfully saying no by explaining your reasoning in a non-confrontational way can actually elevate you in their eyes. For example one of my clients at a large global 500 company with over 25 direct reports was feeling extremely overwhelmed, exhausted and barely treading above water. When we started working, one of the first questions I asked her was “what are you saying yes to that you could potentially say no to?” This question prompted her to rethink her habit of accepting commitments that were not worth her time.
Instead she honed in on the following scape hatch:
“I’d love to help, but I’m already at capacity. If I take on anything else, my other responsibilities will suffer. I’m happy to see who in my team can attend instead.”
What I liked about this particular approach is that it’s simple, straight to the point, and leaves the door open to help down the road. Moreover, by her offering to volunteer someone in her team she also is communicating that she is willing to lend a resource, and thus showing up as a team player, which leads me to the next point.
One of the biggest hurdles that I see in a lot of mid to senior level managers is their poor delegation mindset and as a result skills. I call this the IC (individual contributor) to Leader mindset shift. To clarify, I’m not stating to delegate everything but to have the confidence and trust to delegate the tasks that are not worthy of your time. There is always someone in the team who is ready and hungry to rise up to the challenge. Position the ask as an opportunity to learn and advance, and you will see that it becomes a win win scenario because now you will have a motivated direct report who feels that they are growing in their career.
Adopt a time management strategy
Time management and prioritization is a learned skill. Yet, it’s something that becomes more challenging as you climb the ladder because now you have to work with teams and moreover you have to set priorities for your team while managing expectations upwards (more to come on that.)
Whatever your preferred method, find a system that works for you. Here is a list of some of the most popular methodologies.
Some of my clients like to use time blocking or pomodoro technique as effective ways to manage their day to day. For some of my more technical leaning clients, adapting techniques such as Agile coupled with a project management app, works wonders, and the best part: You do not have to be in tech to adopt these frameworks.
Take the case of my client at an international media agency. After one of our chats, he began using the Agile Project Management framework for his team to encourage time management and project completion. By breakout deliverables into weekly sprints, he has been able to increase team output while decreasing burnout. Moreover, this has helped him showcase the team’s accomplishments to upper management and now, his team has become an example that other departments are following.
Set boundaries while managing expectations
The more you take on, and the better you are at your job, the more others will assume you’re able to take on even more work. Managing expectations is a two-way process for executives like yourself.
First, be sure to manage expectations from those who report to you. Let them know that you understand your own limits. In this way, you’re leading by example and demonstrating to them that you’re prepared to take proactive steps to avoid over commitment and eventual burnout.
Next, clear communication with your boss will help them understand you’re not uncommitted to the company’s success. Rather, the opposite is true. You want everything to be completed with excellence, and to accomplish that, there’s only so much you can take on before quality will start to suffer in your output.
Over commitment and burnout go hand in hand
Practically speaking, we’ll all face burnout at some point in our careers. I hope that with these five tips you’re able to avoid it becoming a regular occurrence in your career. Saying no, tactfully, is the first step. When we’re overcommitted, taking on more is simply the worst idea imaginable. Better time management can help you stay focused while recharging via time off; it is necessary for long-term burnout avoidance.
In the end, always be sure to set boundaries. There will be times that we all need to pitch in and help. Just don’t let yourself become the universal landing place for everyone else’s overflow.
Managing a team comes with a lot of responsibilities as well as risks, which is why I’d love to sit down and chat with you about how I can help you avoid over commitment. Contact me to schedule a time to chat by visiting my website and filling out my short form HERE.