You’re not a car…but you burnout like one. You’re like Paul Walker, hitting the nitrous button on your life to get that extra push through the finish line. But once you make it through that, there’s another one ahead, and now you’re out of N20 and scramming to figure out how to beat burnout and win your next race.
Have you ever seen a car burnout? The car remains stationary while the wheels spin vigorously, creating an obnoxious noise and erupting in clouds of smoke. The reason for all this craziness—the resistance that’s being exerted on the car through its brakes—is causing the tires to spin out uncontrollably. The car is basically working against itself.
Now picture yourself as a car (pick a car, any car). You are the car’s body. All the things on your to-do list are the wheels. And the overbearing noise and fuming smoke is the result of your daily tasks stacking up higher and faster than your little car self can handle—BOOM! You’re burnt out.
Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, office-worker, business owner, professional athlete, babysitter, dog-walker, teacher, stripper, or stay-at-home mom…you’ve probably experienced burnout (maybe more times than one).
You’ve been in a situation where you were all gung-ho about a new idea, so you stomp your foot hard on the gas pedal and Tokyo drift your way towards the finish line.
As you speed along, you think of another idea, so you pull over and pick it up. Then you remember all the housework you need to do, so you pick that up too. Then it’s the work stuff, the family stuff, the friend stuff…you grab them all.
All of a sudden, you’ve got a car full of things that start to weigh you down, but your heavy foot is still firm on the gas. So your wheels keep spinning, your brain spins faster, and all this over productivity suddenly causes a mental, physical, and emotional override.
Now your car won’t move. You won’t move. And all of those things on your to-do list are still there (and still growing), but you’re making no progress in checking them off.
You, my friend, have come face to face with the almighty burnout.
And the first thing to getting your wheels spinning again, is to accept it.
Any perfectionists reading this?
Well, there’s a perfectionist writing it (that’s me!).
Whenever I take on something new (and that is like, everyday), I put all my energy into the fine details. I organize, plan, prioritize, edit, and grind my way towards achieving the ‘best’ possible result. That persistent effort towards the end goal usually ends up grinding me down to the floor (sometimes literally curled up in a fetal position).
Perfectionists tend to be results-driven. We pride ourselves on taking on a multitude of tasks—and accomplishing them—with valor and excellence. We keep working towards that end goal and don’t let anything get in our way (even our own exhaustion).
Everything has got to go our way. Things must align up to our plan. And that end point that we’ve fantasized in our heads (down to every last detail) needs to happen just the way our brains envisioned it.
But what happens when we’re so damn anal about accomplishing that goal just the way we planned, is that we lose sight of all of the (warning) signs being sent to us along the way. We resist anything brought to our attention that doesn’t align with the story in our minds. We keep (perfectly) going until life begins to resist back—and then we burnout.
“When an activity is about result rather than process, you will inevitably become burned out”.
We’ve all heard the term “progress over perfection”.
It means taking small actionable steps to move the needle forward towards your goal. It means focusing on consistent movement instead of hitting the brakes every two seconds to try and make sure each thing is perfected. It means slow, persistent improvement is better than jumping to a radical, end-goal idea of perfection.
All of this progress is the process.
Process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. A lot of times when we take on new tasks/ideas/projects, we get laser focused on that particular end goal.
Sometimes this is necessary, to keep us moving forward at all costs. Other times (most times) this tunnel-vision causes us to race through the process without learning anything from it. We ignore the huge warning signs all around us (and within us) as we speed through the tunnel towards the finish line.
Right as we’re about to complete the task and claim our ‘pride prize’, our body or mind hits the e-brake and we freeze in time (while our wheels keep spinning).
Now we are tired, exhausted, unmotivated, pissed off at our dogs, hangry, and feel like binging an entire Netflix series (accompanied by 10 bags of popcorn) instead of finishing that task or hitting that goal.
Because we were so obsessed with what we were trying to achieve (the result), we didn’t pay attention to how we were achieving it (the process).
If instead, we took perfectionism out of the driver’s seat, invited process to take the wheel, and threw result in the trunk—we’d be rollin’ smooth without clouds of smoke coming off our tires (or out of our ears).
A lot of people think the cure to burnout is to stop doing so much. While this may be true for some, an alternative remedy (especially for my go-getters) is to focus on how you’re doing things.
Focus on the process.
Are you prioritizing your tasks? Are you using some kind of system to keep yourself organized (planner, Asana, Google Calendar, color-coded sticky notes all over your house)? Are you checking in at different steps? Are you stopping to rest and reflect on what you’ve accomplished? Are you checking in on your damn self?!
All of these things are a necessary part of the process, and when given the proper attention, will get you to an even better end result—without burnout (holllaaaa!).
Listening to yourself—your mind, body, and soul—is key to kicking burnout to the curb like that bum ex from high school.
When you’re burning out that car of yours trying to get to the finish line, that loud screech from the tires is going to block you from hearing anything your Self is trying to tell you.
You’re not going to hear your mind telling you it needs a break, so your body is going to crank up the energy to try and compensate. Once that reserve tank is down to the last drop, that’s when you drop too (back to a fetal position if you’re like me).
However, if you take the time during the process of getting there (to slow TF down and check in) your Self is going to speak up loud and clear.
You will hear the exhausted pleads from your perfectionist, fixated brain. You will feel the tension in your shoulders, neck, back, and boobs. You will know that if you want to accomplish what you’ve set out to accomplish—it’s time to hit the brakes (before they lock up on you!).
Nascar drivers don’t drive an entire race without stopping to get some work done—and you shouldn’t either.
When it comes to burnout—which you are going to face at some point in your life (if you haven’t already)—I want you to remember these 3 things.
Burnout isn’t about doing less. It’s about being mindful and strategic about everything you are doing. It’s about connecting to your ‘why’ for everything on that to-do list that’s growing longer than Santa’s naughty list everyday. It’s about enjoying and learning from the (sometimes bumpy) road to the finish line of your overly-ambitious goals.
Grow with the flow,