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3 Key Behaviours to Avoid Burnout

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I make my living showing leaders the importance of keeping their priorities straight in both their business and their lives, so I was shocked recently to recognize how far I had allowed a current project to take over both my life and my business and cause me to lose sight of my own priorities.

As I sat reflecting on what had caused this dramatic fall from grace in my own life, I realized that the lessons I needed to remind myself of were the same challenges I see with organizations – large and small – who get caught in survival mode by focusing on dealing with immediate crises instead of cultivating the habits and mindsets they need to thrive.

Doing vs. Planning

One of the key causes of my self-inflicted crisis was jumping prematurely into work mode. My partner, Boyan, insists that 50 percent of the time on a project should be spent on research and planning. The part of my personality that drives is always impatient to get started with what I consider real work, yet time and again I have had to recognize that Boyan’s strategy tends to result in faster and higher quality results.

The act of writing this post is a simple example of this process. I spent two frustrating days trying to crank it out before I finally surrendered to some brainstorming and planning with pencil and paper to focus my concept.

In the end, the article took an hour to plan and forty-five minutes to write. How much time do you spend planning and strategizing in your business before you jump into action? Most organizations spend far too little. What’s worse, they spend even less time revisiting, following and updating their plans and research – a critical element for staying on track in larger projects.

Tangible vs. Intangibles

The next trap I had fallen into on the project I am working on was placing more importance on the tangibles than the intangibles. On impulse I decided to spend two days helping create a video on the organization’s vision that wasn’t part of the quote. Even though my inner voice said this wasn’t the best use of my time, it took me less than an hour to understand that this detour would positively impact both the speed of developing the remainder of the program and its quality.

Small businesses tend to make similar mistakes in their time allocation by focusing too much on systems creation and revenue generation and not enough on the intangibles of building a high performance team, fostering values alignment, creating opportunities for the team to interact socially, and inspiring passion and purpose in their people. These intangibles are important activities that, if not attended to, result in a constant state of struggle.

Have to vs. Want to

One of the things I did do properly that prevented the project from becoming overwhelming was to identify the talents of both my internal and external teams. This allowed me to stay focused on my strengths, delegate tasks effectively to others who could contribute their expertise, and access resources quickly and efficiently.

Entrepreneurs often lead themselves to burnout trying to assume every role in the organization. They mistakenly believe there are things they “have to” do in their business. While I agree that managing finances is a necessary role, the person who manages them doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Forcing yourself, or others on your team, to do things that are not their strengths is likely draining more resources from your team than it would cost to hire an expert to perform those tasks.

What are you doing in-house that might be a better return on investment if it was outsourced? Where are you resisting investing time and or financial resources that is dragging the energy and morale of yourself or your team down by forcing them to take on unwanted tasks or duties that are outside of their expertise?

Small and large organizations alike fall prey to the above survival thinking modes on a regular basis. And as I have discovered, knowing what you should be doing is not the same as doing it. It takes constant vigilance to remember what it takes to thrive and to resist the crisis-oriented thinking that can get you caught in a downward spiral of struggle.


Want to be a better leader? Kyosei can help.

Image by Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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