At the time of writing, COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill. Businessowners now face one of the most unprecedented challenges to navigate in recent memory. With many staff on Furlough, the pressures of doing the day-to-day grow, and Senior professionals find themselves having to pick up the slack. But how much can one person take? I checked in with many business owners at the beginning of the UK Lockdown to see how they were getting on. At the beginning of Lockdown, most people were positive – picking up the extra workload from Furloughed staff and ‘stepping up’. Now a few months into Lockdown, the mood has changed. People are stressed, anxious and on the way to burnout. It’s not sustainable. Or is it? Burnout is a common part of business and life. Now, more than ever, we must take care of ourselves as well as our businesses. In this post, I’m going to give you 6 easy steps on how to avoid burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Prioritise Self Care
We don’t live in the Gordon Gecko world anymore. Those days have long gone. You know, the days when people would brag about not sleeping, not eating and just working like a machine. You know why those days are long gone? Because it was all bullshit! That’s right. I don’t care about how macho or hard you think you are. The science proves that this kind of mindset will send you to an early grave. It’s not weak to take care of yourself. It’s not weak to get up to 8 hours of sleep. It’s not weak to take a lunch break. It’s not weak to take a break and relax on an evening. If you want to avoid burnout, your first step is to change your mindset and decide to take care of yourself.
2. Carve More Time Out In Your Day
The beauty of lockdown is that we don’t have to commute. If you’re working from home, then you’ve been given a golden opportunity. The average person will commute around 30-60 minutes each way to their job. That’s already up to 2 hours of savings per day. But what are you doing with that time? Your diary has changed. Sure, you probably have to be ‘online’ from 0900-1700, but you don’t have the commute time now. Further to this, you don’t have to travel to meetings! You are saving so much time without having to do anything. If you are simply working the standard 0900-1700 hours, then I’d encourage you to start a little bit earlier and finish a little later. You’ll have more time to get stuff done.
3. Get Up Early and Have a Solid Morning Routine
The next step on how to avoid burnout comes from having a solid morning routine. I’m a proud member of the 5 AM Club. In his book, Robin Sharma talks about the importance of getting up early, owning your morning and elevating your life. (See this post for the full review). The morning routine described in this book gets you set up like a beast! The 20/20/20 Formula described in the book is the morning routine. 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of reflection and 20 minutes of self-development. By doing this, you are feeding your body, soul and mind respectively. If you make this part of your morning routine, then you will feel centred, positive and ready to take anything on that the day will throw at you.
4. Get Organised – Plan Your Day
This might sound simple, but now is not the time to be disorganised. You need a plan for each day. If you’ve had more thrown on your to-do list, then doesn’t it make sense to make a plan? As I said in the 5 AM Club section, use that time in the morning, free of distractions to think and plan what you need to do. Early in the morning is the best time to do this, because most people are asleep, your phone is not pinging and you have space to think. That’s rare in this digital world! So, get up early, grab your diary and a cup of coffee and think the day through. Plan.
You need to come to terms with something – you can’t do everything. There’s always going to be more for you to do than can be done. Once you come to terms with this truth, your stress reduces. In his book, ‘Free To Focus’, Michael Hyatt talks about the Big 3 structure which helps people to prioritise things. Rather than trying to do 100 things, ask yourself, “What are the 3 most important things I need to get done today/this week/this month?” Everything is “urgent”, but not everything is important. Prioritise your workload. Look, be honest, some things can wait. You don’t have to get some of those things done today. Some things can wait until tomorrow.
6. Control your Calendar
If you don’t control your calendar, someone else will. You’ve got your plan, you’ve got your Big 3 priorities, now you need to make sure you execute those tasks. The best way I’ve found to do this is to block out my Big 3 in my calendar. I tend to try and get these tasks done in the morning because that’s when I’m most productive (and I’m up at 0500 anyway). If someone requests a meeting during those blocks of time, I usually say, “No.” (Unless it’s absolutely critical). In essence, I’m having a meeting with myself. I don’t like to cancel on myself. It’s my time to get some important stuff done. If you follow this, then what you’ll find is by lunchtime, you’ll have got through your most important tasks. No matter how the afternoon pans out, you can rest easy knowing that at least you got the important things done. That way you’ll reduce your stress and anxiety which, when compounded, leads to burnout.
The above may seem simple, but they’ll only work if you work them. The tragedy is that we only try something once or twice and then give up. I encourage you to try the above for at least a week. From all the Senior Professionals I’ve coached, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll feel less stressed and avoid burnout.