I met the fisherman again this past weekend and I learned more about his life. He retired at 43 years old from the service because his father was very ill. I asked him what he did after his father passed away and he replied that he went fishing around the world. He has fished in 49 states (hasn’t made it to Arizona yet) and 38 countries (none in Europe). He and his fishing buddy are very happy gentlemen and told me that they give away about 1300 fish a year. They don’t keep any for themselves but donate most to parishioners in their church.
I reflected on what he told me and thought about how so many people right now are so unhappy and on the brink of burnout. From our conversation, I comprised a list of ideas to help prevent burnout:
- The fisherman mentioned that he does not have any electronics except a throwaway cell phone for emergencies. When you go on vacation, what do you bring with you besides clothes? Laptop? Blackberry? Etc.? Many do but a smarter way to handle work issues when you are away is to entrust someone to monitor all your calls and emails and only if it is a true emergency, you should be contacted. In other words, get back to basics and turn all electronics off! In addition, when you are in the office, schedule time to review emails and return calls. By working smarter, you will feel better.
- Passion is key to preventing burnout too. It may be difficult at times to drum up that passion and be enthusiastic about this idea but it may help. If you have a project that you don’t want to do, identify the parts that are more interesting than others. For the less interesting sections, assign a reward for each section. Once you complete that section, make sure you reward yourself. It can be something as simple as taking a walk around the block or getting an ice cream. For the more interesting parts, try to be more creative and take it to another level than you have ever done before.
- Stay away from “office pollutants”. Not only does this cause an environment to be toxic but also wastes time by focusing on energy drainers and not energy enhancers. By constantly being involved in water cooler talk, etc. it can make you a more negative person which is actually harmful to your health. When someone tries to engage you in gossip, smile politely and tell them you have a conference call or a meeting starting soon and move away as quickly as possible.
- Delegate if possible. None of us our experts at everything and we all have areas we prefer to work on and others we detest. Business owners and new managers fall into this trap; they have to do everything themselves because either they don’t have the resources or they feel they need to prove something to others, including their subordinates. Try this – write down all your tasks and determine which ones could be delegated to someone else and also calculate your per hour rate. If your rate is $100/hour and it takes you six hours to do your monthly bookkeeping but it would take a bookkeeper 2 hours at $50/hour, you are actually losing $500 a month! Also determine if some of these tasks can be done by college or high school students. With the economy the way it is, students are eager to get work experience and some may work for free or maybe for gas to get to work, etc.
By implementing these ideas, burnout will hopefully be prevented. It takes time to really utilize these suggestions so do them incrementally and don’t get overwhelmed. By devoting our time and energy to those areas of greater importance, the work environment, our coworkers, and we ourselves will be healthier and more engaged.