How To Avoid Burnout

I work with high achieving people, and it isn’t uncommon for them to feel the symptoms of burnout.  But how do you avoid burnout?

Here’s my simple questionnaire to determine if you’re burning out:

  1. Do you have escape fantasies?                                                                                  Y/N
  2. Do you feel emotionally depleted?                                                                           Y/N
  3. Are you angrier, more irritable, or more emotional than usual?                       Y/N
  4. Do you feel physically and/or mentally unhealthy?                                              Y/N

If you can yes to these symptoms, you may be burning out.  Following is my view of what causes it, and what you can do to avoid it.  Pick a cause that fits you, and choose one idea to make it better this week:

CAUSE: Working with B, C, and D players:

Are you working with people who have bad attitudes and/or don’t pull their weight?  This is a major emotional drag on leaders and a major cause of burnout.

Making it better:

  • Work the Star Chart. Insist that your team have good attitudes and show productivity in their role.  Download your free copy of the Star Chart here:
  • Engage in important conversations about attitude and productivity
  • Change the people or change the people. Working with great people will energize you, and are the main factor to help you avoid burnout.

CAUSE: Not unplugging or taking time to relax:

Are you always available?  Always thinking about work?  We weren’t built to think this way

Making it better:

  • Take a weekly and yearly Sabbath. I don’t (except in rare cases) work on Sunday.  It’s my day to unplug, focus on family, faith and spiritual pursuits.  Shut off your screens.    Exercise.  Recharge.
  • Take mini vacations. This can be a long weekend getaway or simply a planned day away from work.
  • Schedule a yearly vacation.

CAUSE: Saying Yes to everything

You can achieve anything, but you can’t achieve everything.  What really matters to you?

Making it better:

  • Ask yourself what you should resign from or drop out of?
  • List your major life duties. Prioritize them in order.  Do any need to go?  Do you just need to say no to someone?

CAUSE: Doing it all yourself

Do you really think you can (or should) do it all?  If it can’t go on forever, it won’t go on forever.

  • Ask yourself who you can delegate to? Is there someone who shows potential, has capacity, and desires growth?  Because someone out there loves what you loathe.
  • Think constantly about how you can leverage your resources to get more done with less effort (by you).

CAUSE: Holding yourself to impossible quality standards

Especially if you are a Conscientious person (complete my DISC profile for free here if you’re not sure: you’ll be especially susceptible to this one.

  • Recognize the law of diminishing returns. That last 10% takes massive effort and rarely pays back reciprocal dividends.   I understand this sounds like crazy talk to a ‘high C’ but there it is.
  • Cut yourself some slack. You’re only human.  You’re probably doing great.  Let go of perfection; it’s elusive, it doesn’t exist, and the relentless pursuit of it will eventually kill you.

In summary.  To avoid burnout:

  1. Work with great people
  2. Schedule regular time to relax and recharge
  3. Prioritize what’s important and drop the rest
  4. Delegate to the right people
  5. Cut yourself some slack

The hardest person you’ll ever have to manage is yourself.  As Jack Paar once said, “Life is an obstacle course, and I am the main obstacle.”

You will be of no use to anyone if you quit or burn out.  So take control of your life so you can continue to offer your best self to the world,

pic hero trevor

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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