Why Burnout Is NOT Inevitable

Burnout Bundle - Logo

Burnout has become rampant in the modern workplace. As the demands on our time, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities increase, this creates a stressor-rich environment that can contribute to burnout.

Even though our professional and personal lives have become increasingly hectic, time-consuming, and stressful, we DON’T have to become victims of this stress by succumbing to burnout.

IMPORTANT: Burning out does NOT mean that you have a maladaptive response to stress! In fact, I’ve found that it is the combination of three factors that create a fertile environment for the onset of burnout. This Burnout Triumvirate is comprised of personality traits, the organizational work environment, and physical symptoms.

Personality Traits. No two people are identical in their response to an external stressor. Therefore, understanding what causes YOU to experience negative stress is the first step in avoiding potential burnout-producing situations.

  • Are you a perfectionist with high standards that exceed what is necessary to get the job done?
  • Are you a people-pleaser who can’t seem to say “no” to the demands and requests of others?

Organizational Environment. Just as no two people are the same, no two work environments will create the same set of stressors that can lead to burnout.

  • How is your relationship with your immediate supervisor or boss? Is it autocratic, laissez-faire, or collegial?
  • What are the unspoken requirements for success in your workplace? Are long hours demanded? Is it necessary to curry political favors in order to get ahead?

Physical Symptoms. Finally, prolonged experiences of negative stress are manifested in a wide variety of physical malaise — both chronic and acute — that contribute to and maintain burnout.

  • Do you have a cold that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Gastrointestinal problems? A general feeling of being unwell?
  • Are you having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep — either failing to fall asleep or continuously waking up during the night?

By understanding your unique burnout triggers, you can not only overcome a current burnout but also take proactive steps to avoid burning out in the future.

Because my mission is to eradicate workplace burnout, I’ve expanded upon my research-based findings in an on-demand eCourse to help stressed out workers achieve greater productivity, work-life balance, and job satisfaction through recognizing, overcoming, and avoiding burnout.  P.S.: You can save $15 by using the coupon code BURNOUT15.

How to Avoid Burnout

Denial is one of the most difficult challenges associated with burnout. This is why it is so important to identify the types of situations or relationships that tend to be most stressful to you AND become crystal clear as to the personality traits that make you more susceptible to burnout.

While it’s always best to prevent burnout from occurring, you also need to have a clear action plan that will enable you to identify your personal warning signs that “routine” stress is moving toward burnout. In addition to sleep problems, you might notice that it is taking you longer to complete projects or that you’ve become cranky with your coworkers and family. You might even notice that you’ve lost your sense of humor!

It’s also important to bring subconscious self-talk to the forefront. In other words, what are you saying to yourself that can increase the likelihood of burnout AND keep you burned out? (HINT: One of the most common self-talk loops that sustains burnout focuses on the belief that “It should have been different.”)

It’s always best to take remedial action before you are in a full-blown burnout — but watch out for burnout’s false cures! These are the tactics used to assuage your stress (such as alcohol consumption or even spending more time at work), but that ultimately end up increasing your stress levels.

When you are on the road to burnout recovery, there is still one additional but powerful obstacle that can undermine your progress: residual burnout. Similar to a boomerang effect, residual burnout can be triggered by any situation that is reminiscent of what contributed to your burnout. While you might not succumb to a full-blown burnout, residual burnout can increase the levels of frustration, anger, and apathy that precipitate burnout.

The good news is that there ARE proven techniques to help you decrease stress and overcome burnout! These include common techniques (such as exercise, therapy, and a support network) to some not-so-common strategies that include embracing the changes that precipitated burnout and shifting your attention (and energy!) to something more positive.

I hope that this article provided you with some ideas to overcome burnout. I’d love to have you join us in my companion eCourse — How to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout.

This 10-lesson eCourse dives into the personality traits, organizational environment, and physical problems that contribute to and maintain burnout. It is mobile-friendly and includes videos, articles, audiopodcasts, workbooks, quick quizzes, and a private community discussion forum to help you manage stress and avoid burnout. Don’t forget to use the special code BURNOUT15 to save $15 when you register!

eCourse registration is on a rolling basis, so you can begin the training whenever it best fits with your calendar. To learn more, please click here or go to https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/28192/about.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.  

Wasting Time on the Urgent…But Forgetting the Important

“Busy-ness” occurs when we react to looming deadlines and crises around us.  The problem is that we often “forget” to take action on the things that are most important to us.  When we procrastinate, important tasks become urgent — leading to unmet goals and burnout.

This 12-minute video explores how procrastination takes us away from our priorities, then provides 4 ways to achieve goals with less stress by focusing on the important and minimizing the urgent.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What Networking Is…and Isn’t (VIDEO)

Networking is all about creating connections — BUT your connections don’t create a viable network unless there is a mutual commitment to helping each other achieve their goals.

The many misconceptions about networking serve to derail attempts to grow and sustain a network.  In this 12-minute video, I’ll dive into common networking mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them — plus you’ll learn my new definition of what it means to network either face-to-face or online.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

The Top 5 Listening Mistakes (What to Do Instead)

Listening - 2 Men ask question

It’s a proven fact:  listening is more than just the physical act of hearing.  So why do we sometimes “zone out” during conversations?  Even though we may be able to hear what is being said, it’s only through aggressive listening that we can really understand what is being said — on both denotative (definitions) and connotative (emotional) levels.

Listening requires concentrated effort.  It requires silencing our “monkey minds” that constantly flit between different visual, auditory, and sensory stimulation.  It requires being present in the moment — and quit worrying about the past or the future.

Maybe it’s our fast-paced world or maybe it’s these constant distractions that pummel us from every direction, but the art of listening has fallen to the wayside.

But without aggressive listening, mistakes are made.  Feelings are hurt.  Important information is overlooked.  And the levels of trust and respect between the communicating partners can be forever damaged.

So, how do you learn how to become an aggressive listener?

To start, here are what I consider to be the Top 5 irritating listening habits — plus some tips on how to overcome them.

  • Irritating Listening Habit #1 Interrupting the speaker.  No one likes to be interrupted!  Interruptions are often interpreted as signs that you are belittling the importance of what the speaker is saying.  Even though you might think that you know what the person is going to say next, take a breath and wait for them to pause before interjecting your thoughts.  And consider asking a question instead of judging what they have been saying!
  • Irritating Listening Habit #2:  Showing interest in something else.  This is a sure sign to the speaker that you aren’t interested in the conversation.  While some unexpected distractions can divert your attention (such as an alarm bell going off), showing interest in something other than the speaker is disrespectful.  Instead focus on understanding the nuances of what the speaker is saying:  how do they really feel about what they are saying?  Are they happy, sad, excited, fearful?  By understanding the emotions underlying their words (the connotative meaning), you can get much more insight into the true meaning and importance of what they are saying.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #3:  Saying “yeah, but…”  While it is not expected that you will necessarily agree with everything that the speaker is saying, responding (or interrupting) with “yeah, but…” indicates that you made your mind up about the topic — probably before you even listened to the speaker.  In other words, your role in the two-way conversation was focused on crafting your own response rather than trying to understand the speaker’s position.  Instead try agreeing (the “yeah” in the “yeah, but”) then following with a separate question focused on gaining clarification.  The key is to come from a place of interest, rather than confrontation or judgment.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #4:  Not responding to the speaker’s requests.  In other words, responding with a “huh” instead of a direct reply.  While it’s true that fatigue can compromise our ability to aggressively listen, most of the time it’s that the listener was not paying attention by focusing on something outside the conversation.  This lack of response can also happen when a speaker stops talking…but the listener doesn’t contribute to the continuation of the conversation.  It’s those awkward pauses.  If you find your mind drifting away from the conversation, try taking a break or adding some type of physical activity (not fidgeting!).  A brief coffee break or suggesting that you take a walk while you’re talking can often bring your focus back to the conversation.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #5:  Not looking at the speaker.  Although hearing might only require functioning ears, aggressive listening requires both auditory and visual cues.  Mehrabian’s 55-38-7 rule advises that 55% of the meaning that we receive during communication is the result of body language (visual cues), 38% from the tone of voice (auditory cues), and only 7% from the actual words spoken.  Be sure to observe the speaker’s movements and body language in order to fully comprehend what they are trying to communicate — don’t just rely on your ears for understanding!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

Taking Control of Your Career: The Fundamental Skill of Career Management

Progress not perfection

I can’t believe that we’re already in the middle of the year!  Looking back over the past six months, it’s time to take stock of where we’ve been — and where we’re going.

While such career self-reflection seems to be a natural part of the December holiday season, it should be a part of our on-going routine.  With half the year gone, it’s a time to take stock of where we’ve been…compared to where we planned to be…and decide NOW where we’re going.

But here’s the problem:  for over-achievers, the quest for perfection often derails our probability for success.  In other words, we can begin right now to quit striving for perfection and instead commit to progress.

Successful career management is NOT a one-time, one-size-fits-all undertaking.  It is more than just resume writing and interviewing.  Managing your career is instead an adaptive journey that YOU have created that will lead you to a constantly evolving destination.

Think about your own career:  what you wanted as a new graduate is often quite different from what you desire as a seasoned professional – so your career map needs to reflect both the tangible and intangible elements of your professional goals.

How to Evaluate Progress in Your Career 

Tip #1: Recognize that “perfection” is an illusion – but “progress” can be planned for.  No two people have the same definition of any word; nowhere is this more apparent than in the definition of a “perfect” career.

The denotative (i.e., “dictionary”) definition of “progress” is simply “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” Notice that there is no time constraint included in the definition. As long as you are moving forward toward your goal, you ARE making progress.

Tip #2: “Progress” is NOT a comparative.  Don’t beat yourself up if your progress to date doesn’t match that of your brother, sister, college roommate, or coworker. Everyone’s path will be different — and that’s a very good thing.

The most effective measurement of your professional progress over time is based on what YOU are capable of.  Your strengths and areas of improvement are unique to you – so the progress that you make will also be uniquely yours.

Tip #3: Determine the “what” BEFORE planning for the “how” of your progress. Said another way, the “how” of your progress (the action plan or steps) can only be designed AFTER the “what” has been identified (your destination or outcome).  This is NOT just trying to find a job when you’ve been downsized or burned out; this IS learning the tools of successful career management.

Set aside time to decide what makes you happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. Find a quiet place and set a timer for 30 minutes. Then write down or record your answers to these questions – don’t be shy about your wants and needs…now is the time to be BOLD!

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • How do you want to be managed?
  • What kind of environment supports your progress?
  • What do you want your legacy to be? (Hint: You’re going to leave a legacy based on the actions that you have taken – in other words, you cannot NOT leave a legacy!)

Tip #4: Objectively describe where you are RIGHT NOW in your career. This can be a difficult process, but be brutally honest with yourself – no one else needs to read what you’ve written. Focus on how you feel before deciding what you need to do next:

  • Unsure of your next career step? Conduct a professional work experience audit in order to develop a step-by-step plan for the next 12 months.
  • In a career that no longer inspires you? Resolve to make the time to clearly identify your “must haves” and “can’t stands” in your job and overall career. Be sure to focus not only on what you want in a career, but also what you are willing to sacrifice in order to finally land your dream job.
  • Intrigued with the idea of being your own boss? Commit to letting go of your fears in order to take the first tenuous steps to writing a business plan and launching your own business – don’t be afraid to ask for help from other entrepreneurs!

Tip #5: Focus on BOTH the tangible and intangible aspects of work.  Being a professional “success” does not necessarily focus exclusively on the tangible results (such as upward mobility, increasing income, or notoriety). These are just the outward trappings of the traditional notion of “success.”

People who are happy with their careers and motivated by their work also focus on the intangible aspects of their jobs. Because these intangibles are key differentiators between one person’s idea of “success” and another’s, don’t compare what you want to the goals or results of other people.

Tip #6: Don’t let the naysayers prevent you from finding your own bliss.  NO ONE can tell you what to do with your life or why you should do it. While career coaches can offer insights and ideas on various career paths, the ultimate decision is yours. Only you know what makes you happy…what drives you crazy…what inspires you…and what demoralizes you.

Want to learn more about saying “no” to dream stealers? Click here for my FREE mini-eCourse, Letting Go of Dream Stealers.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why It’s Time to Put an End to “Busy-ness”

Pet Hamster Holding A Blank  Sign

Is your business life burning you out – or is it the constant “busy-ness” that’s exhausting you? Is there REALLY a difference?!

Simply stated, YES. There is a critical difference that is based on the priorities that you use to determine your daily activities.

While it is noble, worthwhile, and even essential to actively participate in the strategic planning and daily operations of your professional life, don’t let your attempts to meet the demands of your business fall prey to “busy-ness.”

“Busy-ness” is analogous to a hamster constantly running on a wheel – but ultimately not getting any farther ahead. Still stuck on the wheel in its cage, the hamster nonetheless continues to do the same thing regardless of the result.

While the hamster might be enjoying the run, a business professional rarely sees the lack of movement as a good thing. Put another way, busy-ness is frantically treading water just to stay afloat.  

No One Consciously Strives for a Life of Busy-ness 

People generally like to see progress, results, or achievement. If you’re collapsing from exhaustion at night (but feel like your progress or results don’t match your effort), then you are a candidate for energy sapping “busy-ness.”  But why?

A life of busy-ness often results from a lack of priorities or time management. Let me explain.

While we all have worthwhile goals that we generally want to achieve, it is far too common for days, weeks, months, or even years to pass by with little or no progress toward their attainment. Because our priorities determine our actions, our REAL priorities are found in what we spend the most time doing.

This is closely akin to time management – which requires prioritization as the foundation of how we structure our days and lives.

I know what you’re thinking:

“You don’t understand!
I have work responsibilities AND personal responsibilities.
People depend on me – and I’m only one person trying to do it all!” 

This is the definition of crisis management – and crisis management is a contributing factor to burnout. Think of it this way: if you’re burned out, how are you going to have the energy to help anybody else – not even yourself?

But most of us DO have these competing priorities. The challenge is how to manage them.

The Culprits of Busy-ness

We don’t intentionally over-schedule our lives — that is, leaving NO time out between our actions to take of all these competing demands.  But we do have to recognize the insidious culprits that create a life of busy-ness.

#1 – Meetings. While some might be necessary, the purpose of many is just showing up. Does anybody really know what the meeting’s purpose is? Or what the desired outcomes are? Or why we’ve even been invited to attend in the first place? But standing meetings and ad hoc meetings are often time wasters that drain time away from the more important duties and responsibilities. As a result, the busy-ness leads to constantly playing “catch up.”

#2 – The Rush of Activity. Being busy feels good – but only if we are also being productive. Doing “stuff” that is unimportant or mindless can be a respite from an over-scheduled life. But when we have nothing to show for our effort of constant motion and activity, it’s a short skip over to resentment. The unfocused activities inherent in busy-ness are NOT productive action.

#3 – Perfectionism. Perfectionists are notorious for creating additional “must do’s” on their “to do” lists. Coupled with a belief that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” perfectionists tend to subvert their priorities due to the constant struggle to do it all. Perfectionists fundamentally don’t trust other people to do what they say they are going to do OR do it in a way that meets the perfectionist’s high standards. Perfectionists may feel a sense of omnipotence even though their overscheduled calendars prevent them from meeting their true goals due to busy-ness.

#4 – Avoidance and Procrastination. Be honest: do you really want to clean the garage? Or tackle that monstrous report? Or deal with the communication problems in your team? Probably not. But the pervasive Puritan work ethic compels us to do something because we can’t just do nothing! So, we do the easy stuff. The mindless stuff. The stuff that takes time…but isn’t really that important. Then, when we miss the deadline of the avoided behemoth, we can honestly assert that we simply didn’t have the time – we were “too busy” with the other stuff.

#5 – The Absence of Planning. I once saw a cartoon where an employee was sitting quietly at his desk. When his boss asked him what he was doing, he replied that he was thinking – to which the boss replied, “Well quit thinking and get back to work!” In the cultures of many modern workplaces, thinking and planning are the equivalent of day dreaming – but activity of any kind is considered to be working! Unfocused activity that is done simply for the sake of doing something is busy-ness – and investing time in the unimportant is the result of poor planning.

3 Tips to Replace Busy-ness with Focused Action 

Instead of succumbing to action for its own sake, take a moment to decide what is truly important to YOU. What are the things that you need to do in order to create the legacy that you want to leave?  Remember:  you will leave a legacy even if you aren’t intentionally trying to do so.

Next, take stock of your weekly responsibilities in both your professional and personal lives. Estimate the amount of time that you think you need to complete each project – then be sure to include some “wiggle room” for unanticipated glitches or interruptions!

Finally, decide which projects must be completed by only you versus which can be delegated to others.  When delegating, even if they might not be able to do it as “perfectly” as you would like, you need to determine whether this level of perfection is actually required in order to achieve the goal).

Being busy in activities that bring you joy and lead to your desired goals creates the path toward actualizing your legacy. Plus you’ll be more energized and self-actualizing.

In contrast, permitting yourself to be victimized by a life of busy-ness leads only to exhaustion, regret, and resentment.

You DO have the power to give up busy-ness and get back on the track to the business of your life. All it takes is the courage and commitment to live your life by your priorities.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Finding a Job Can Be Scary: How NOT to Be Afraid

Job searches can be scary, but I’ve discovered 10 ways to over come the fears and stay focused and motivated throughout your job campaign.  Learn how in this 7-1/2 minute video.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com