How to Prevent Burnout as a Leader
Beatriz Boavida •
Jan 16, 2024 •
3 min read
You have to inspire your team, have 1:1s, do regular check-ins, answer your emails, have meetings, achieve your goals, be productive, boost your team performance, take care of urgent matters… YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALL!
Urgh, if there is a word that could sum up today’s fast-paced business culture, it is overwhelm. If one experiences this regularly, one becomes exhausted. And at the corner of overwhelm and exhaustion lies burnout.
It is so easy, as a leader or manager, to be in this place where the pressures of work slowly burn you out. But there is good news: burnout can be prevented. So, this does not have to become your reality.
Why are leaders more prone to burnout?
It almost comes down to that saying “If your team wins, it is on them. If your team loses, it is on you”. In reality, every issue your team might face is on you. Whether you are facilitating processes, supporting their work, or navigating ambiguity with clear goals and tasks, it is your job to be there for your team. And if you are a middle manager, you will get the pressures both from above and below.
These pressures lead to an increase in stress. When stress is experienced systematically it becomes something chronical, and there you have burnout. Contrary to what many believe, stress and burnout do not come from a high workload. Instead, they are the result of a feeling of being unable to control things.
Thus, burnout should be seen as an indicator that there are actions you can take that you are not taking. To help you unstuck, we have compiled four habits you can include in your work routine to make you feel calmer even under pressure.
The step-by-step solution to prevent burnout:
Behaviours influence the mind, and the opposite is also true. The more pressure you feel from all the demands and urgent matters that need your constant attention, the higher your stress level and the higher the impact on your performance. If you are constantly interrupting your work (either by meetings, calls, or notifications), you are setting the ground for an increasingly agitated mind.
So, if you are feeling you are getting closer to burnout or have already been surprised by it, here is what you can start doing now to experience a calmer state of mind:
- Erase all the meetings you can – seriously make them vanish. Most issues that are sorted in sync meet-ups can be worked through other alternatives. We (humans) are not meant to spend the whole working day in meetings – that is just not feasible both regarding productivity and our attention span. Instead, try:
- Replacing check-in meetings with async updates;
- Placing boundaries on meetings – e.g. you can implement a mandatory 2-6 page long memo, a clear ask of each attendant, and a minimum 48-hour notification;
- Having meeting free days.
- Have focus-time slots in your calendar. These periods allow you to do great uninterrupted work, as well as to strategically think ahead.
- Work in well-defined cycles. If teams can change directions on a whim, you will find yourself increasingly stressed and with an “always on” mindset. To prevent this, work in cycles (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly):
- In each of these start by planning out the work – this phase should take about 10-20% of the whole cycle;
- Once you reach an agreement, enter the implementation phase. Here, no projects can be added, but some can be removed if you run out of time.
- Make check-ins async. With all work pre-planned, there will be fewer surprises – which means following up does not have to be sync or take much time.
Stress has become part of our everyday lives and burnout is becoming more common. But it is in your hands to create work routines that help you build healthy everyday work habits.
Here are our recommendations:
- Eliminate all the meetings you can;
- Create focus-time slots;
- Work in well-defined cycles;
- Make check-in async.