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Tips to Beat Executive Burnout

13 November 2015

Overworked corporate leaders are at high risk of burnout. Recent figures show that it contributes to a $20 billion "stress bill" that Australian businesses foot each year – and this doesn’t take into account the added cost for healthcare, relationships and families. 

Considering the above, it is not surprising that performing at a high level is becoming increasingly challenging for Executives. So how do you go about beating Executive Burnout? Prior to discussing the latest advanced techniques, let’s take a minute to look at the basic principles to avoid burnout:

  • Focus on important tasks rather than those deemed to be urgent.

  • Manage your diary proactively and make clear choices about what you are going to spend your time on, allowing some time to deal with unexpected or unplanned tasks.

  • Avoid procrastinating by having clear strategies to manage what you don’t like doing or find difficult.

  • Keep communication channels open in all directions so that your support network is accessible.

  • Have clear time away from work, and away from your electronic devices.

The good news is that new scientific research has led to the development of a more advanced range of techniques proven to reduce executive burnout and to increase performance. For this article, I have selected strategies from Mbraining (Multiple Braining, using mBIT- Multiple Brain Integration Techniques by Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka) and the iOpener Institute’s research into The Science of Happiness at work.

Using any one or more of these techniques will increase your resilience, your capacity to cope with stress and change, and contribute to peak performance:

Work With Your Energy Not Against It  

To work effectively with your energy, you need to be aware of what drains your energy and what elevates your energy or strengthens you. Choose to put the majority of your effort into your strengths as this will result in you being far more productive and will enable you to get into the flow  of peak performance. After identifying what drains your energy, take steps to mitigate these areas by adding resources to these tasks such as systems, processes and also calling in an expert with those strengths if required. (Happiness at Work and mBraining)

Build Up Resilience

Simply acknowledging your strengths and your capabilities will help you feel more resilient and increase your belief that you are capable. Do this regularly as it will support your confidence and your ability to cope with the challenges of your executive role and life. (Happiness at Work)

Acknowledge Personal Growth

Acknowledge personal growth as well as results. Results are clearly important but building your own capability is vital for keeping you at peak performance, ready for future demands. If you grow your own capability, you are supporting your potential for flow states and peak performance. Why shouldn’t things be easy? (mBraining)

Be On Purpose

Are you living your purpose? If you are doing a job that you dislike, don’t enjoy or isn’t true to your passions and values, then it will ultimately drain your energy leaving you exhausted and burned out. Ensure that you align your career path to your purpose. If making a difference is an important value to you – do you feel that you are achieving this in your career? What steps can you take to achieve greater alignment here? (Happiness at Work and mBraining)

Create Internal Congruence For Yourself

Aim to work with your values, not against them. The iOpener research highlighted that stress and burnout are often caused by a simple misalignment of your personal values, to those of your organisation or team. Take time to work out key values and you will be able to make empowered choices about what is important to you.

Live In The Moment, Be Mindful And Present

Aim to live in the present moment, focussing your attention on only one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking. Try not to let your mind worry about the past or ‘what may happen’ as this will only lead to more stress and overwhelm. If you are having a conversation, be present and focus your complete attention on the other person rather than allowing your mind to run away with all the other things you need to do. When you make a good choice on how to spend your time, with focused attention, you will reach that peak performance zone.  

Be Grateful

Take a few minutes each day to appreciate the good stuff and remind yourself of the positives in your life. By doing this, you can move your emotional state to a more positive one.

Operating Above The Line

Take responsibility for your own mindset and focus on what you can do – rather than what you can’t do. When you are in stressful situations, it is easy to become a victim of circumstances. Aim for a positive mindset and take empowered action rather than just ‘allowing things to happen to you’. Always remember you are in control of how you respond to every situation and person. Take a proactive rather than reactive approach as this will promote the feeling of being in control, which is essential to achieving your potential.

Have Courageous Conversations

If you allow issues to fester in your mind and body, this will quickly drain you of your energy, inhibit your capacity to make good decisions and your ability to take courageous action. Rather than dwelling on issues, choose to speak up, be forthright, assertive and look for a positive outcome. (mBraining)

Stay Connected

Research conducted by the iOpener Institute showed that people with nurtured active networks are more resilient and increasingly likely to achieve their potential. Make sure you keep your networks active inside and outside of work. In doing so, you will reap valuable benefits such as increased access to resources, information, opinions and moral support.

Manage Your Mind/Body Balance

Creating balance in your internal world will create an opportunity to get yourself in the peak performance zone. A simple technique is to practice ‘Balanced breathing’. You can do this at any time by using a balanced inhale/exhale breathing cycle- simply inhaling for 6 seconds and then exhaling for 6 seconds. If you do this regularly it will help to bring your nervous system into balance. It will also assist in better decision making as you will be using the full range of resources  available within your head, heart and gut brains. (mBraining).  

Learning to tap into your intuition has been proven to be a great resource for a leader. It takes practise but try to tune into your heart and gut and listen to what your body is telling you. If it doesn’t feel good – the chances are that it is not a good decision nor is it good for you. However, if it feels good then go for it!

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