Our Co-Founder, Georgina, talks about pushing ourselves too far, lack of sleep and the global workplace issue that is burnout.
Okay, time for some real talk. You’ve probably heard of burnout before, or hey, maybe you’ve even experienced it yourself. Which is quite likely, considering over half a million people in the UK reported to have suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18 – and that’s just the people who actually spoke up about it. Basically, as the name suggests, burnout is when we burn the candle at both ends, with a blowtorch and the heat of a thousand suns. It makes you feel physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, to the point where your body can no longer keep up. Burnout is our body’s natural reaction to continuous stress over a long period of time – often caused by taking on too much, lack of sleep and in general, putting work before everything else, which we (my Co-Founder Emma and I, and perhaps even you, reading this right now) have done more than once throughout our careers.
No points for guessing how much impact burnout has on a personal level, but it also has a massive impact on businesses – in fact, 15.4 million working days in the UK were lost due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2017/2018 (which comes from the same report above). It’s a pretty serious thing that we should all try to bodyswerve, so here are some tips on how to spot it and how to avoid it…
How to Spot Burnout 101
Every day is a
shit bad day.
Do you ever have those days when everything is just going wrong? Now, do you ever have those days roll into weeks, or even months? If you spend each night staring at the ceiling, dreading the thought of having do anything the next day, something’s gotta change and pronto.
I remember getting to a point where my response to every “how are you?” was “yeah good, just tired” except, what I really meant was “what did you just say before this, because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with my eyes open?”. If you’ve pushed your brain beyond the limit, you feel like the walking dead and even the simplest tasks feel like an effort, you’re likely in the throws of burnout.
Lack of motivation
That feeling when you can’t remember the last time you felt excited about anything to do with work (or in general). Your goals feel completely unattainable and yeah, you simply can’t be bothered.
Your brain is foggy
When we don’t sleep, it reduces our cognitive function by up to 50%, which means hello brain fog, our old friend. Typically, it’s hard to focus, it takes you ages to complete tasks or come up with ideas and your short-term memory has left the building.
You have less patience
Normally, you’re a pretty patient person, right? But with burnout, even the slightest sound of someone crunching crisps from the other side of the office could be enough to tip you over the edge. Especially in a work environment, this can damage relationships and shift the energy in a business for the worse, which can take a while to recover.
How to Avoid Burnout 101
Okay, you might expect this answer from an ex-PA but trust me, it helps. Being organised with your calendars and tasks gives you a full overview of what’s coming up and if, in reality, it’s too much. This is a lot harder to do when it’s all tucked away in your brain somewhere. Also, there’s nothing worse than an unexpected deadline you completely forgot about. Add this to an already busy workload and lifestyle, you’ve got the perfect recipe for burnout. If you don’t even have time to organise, you can hire a PA or a Virtual PA to do it for you.
Saying ‘yes’ to everything, even though you know there’s not enough time to make it happen – I’ve been so guilty of this in the past. My biggest tips are a) know that it’s okay to say ‘no’ sometimes and b) give yourself a time buffer. We all start to know (roughly) how long things take, but if you book up every single hour, you allow no time for change. If something shifts, it’s like a dominoes effect and your hourly plan descends into utter chaos. Having that extra time gives you some wriggle room.
Outsource. Outsource. Outsource
What if you could take the stuff that takes up loads of your time and give it to someone else to do? Well, you can. People often have misconceptions about outsourcing (in fact, we rounded up a few reads to help with that) but when you outsource to someone with experience, it can be a sure-fire way to avoid burnout. A good PA should be able to save you up to 2-3 hours a day, giving you more time to do what you enjoy and what will move your business (or lifestyle) forward. Emma and I started ibLE to give people that option, without necessarily needing to hire a full-time PA if they only need help for a certain amount of time. Our Virtual PAs are all ex-full-time PAs, so they know what they’re doing. They can help with business related tasks or even personal day-to-day errands like organising a holiday, planning in some time to relax or even order your shopping. All of this adds up to give you more time.
Get some sleep
Can’t sleep because you’re stressed. Get stressed because you can’t sleep. Sound familiar? Lack of sleep is probably the biggest contributor to burnout as it has a scientifically proven effect on our physical and mental health. If you can do anything to avoid burnout, make sure to prioritise sleep.
In my experience, I’ve been on both sides of burnout. When I was a PA, my job was to do everything I could do to help my boss avoid burnout (but then burning out myself). And now, as a business owner, I’m trying to avoid burnout while I do everything I can do to run our business and also make sure our team isn’t experiencing burnout as well. It’s something that Emma and I talk about all the time – it’s so important to be aware of burnout in yourself, but also to keep an eye out for others around you. A healthy, happy team is what makes a business work and sometimes, it’s good to reassess how your business runs (and even the traditional ways of working) to avoid burnout on a much wider scale.
What are your thoughts on burnout? Tweet me @ibLE_it