Three Super Easy Checks To Prevent Burnout

Years ago, I was still working as a project manager and consultant, I was slowly coming back from a serious burnout. I was still struggling with finding balance in my life, being sure of only one thing: I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes that had brought me to that very dark place called ‘burnout’!

Over the previous months I had been slowly getting back to work. Gradually I was picking up responsibilities while anxiously guarding the boundaries I had set myself. Boundaries that were there to prevent me from going down the burnout-road again.

When somebody came to me with a request for help or an assignment I did three things:

  1. I checked whether or not the request or assignment actually was part of the responsibilities that came with my job.
  2. I checked if I was just going to be taking care of other people’s problems
  3. I checked my schedule to see whether or not I actually had time to handle whatever was being asked of me

Before my burnout I never really performed these checks. And if I did, even when the answer was a resounding ‘no’ I still took on whatever was being asked of me. After all, somebody had to do it and if they couldn’t, who else was there?!

Almost religiously applying these checks helped me tremendously when I first came back from my burnout.

Through the first check I learned not to take on things that just weren’t part of my responsibilities or for which I didn’t have the required experience. At the very least it made me truly think about taking on such things and their consequences before saying ‘yes’.

The second check was especially helpful. It turned out I had often been taking on other people’s responsibilities and problems, after which they happily left for the weekend and I found myself trying to solve whatever it was they should have been solving in the first place. Not taking on those problems and responsibilities prevented a whole lot of stress. I saved myself from lots of long work days and stressful weekends by learning to say ‘no’.

When coming back from my burnout I started out by strictly adhering to my contractual work hours. Though I started relaxing about this over time, I kept making sure the life balance I needed didn’t get squashed beneath a big load of too many too long work days. My free time was (and still is) very important to me. I need it to recharge my batteries to be able to be my best in all areas of my life and that included work.

These checks didn’t make me worse at my job. If anything they made me better. They made me more focussed on my real job and they helped me maintain my life balance.

It had been a couple of months since I had come back from my burnout when a colleague came up to me and said something to the effect of: “It’s great to have you back, but you’ve really changed. You never really got back to being as you were before, didn’t you?”

She was right! I hadn’t gone back to being as I was before and thankfully so. I didn’t want to go back to being who I was before, because I was a different person then.

Going back to being who I had been before would have meant I hadn’t learned anything from my burnout. I would have been going down that rabbit hole again in no time.

This may sound strange, but I’m thankful for my burnout experience. It taught me much about myself and the things that are important to me. However, it is not an experience I wish to repeat!

Your turn! What do you do to prevent excessive stress or burnout? How do you maintain life balance? 

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Thank you for reading and adding your voice to the conversation.

As always…

Go dare greatly!