GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

 

Burnout in the workspace is very common these days that it has become quite alarming. Michael Levitt, the CEO and Founder of Breakfast Leadership, Inc., explains his advocacy in helping individuals and organizations prevent burnout from happening. Many employees are working overtime and are even bringing their works at home, leaving no time for family or themselves. Michael suggests that there should be boundaries that employees and employers should set. In this segment, Michael explains how we can prevent burnout, how we can reduce or recover from stress, and what we can do when we’re in the middle of stressful situations.

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Preventing Burnout with Michael Levitt

I’m excited about this episode. I have Michael Levitt with me. He is the CEO and Founder of BreakfastLeadership.com, Breakfast Leadership, Inc. He works with leaders to reduce stress and prevent burnout so that they can focus on what matters most. He is the host of the Breakfast Leadership podcast, ranked in the top 200 Business and Marketing Podcasts on iTunes. He is also recognized as the Top 20 Global Thought Leader on Culture by Thinkers360. He is the Cofounder of Pre-Emptive Strike Consulting, PreEmptiveStrikeConsulting.com. He is the co-author of Pre-Emptive Strike Leadership, which debuted number one in Canada on Amazon, under the Financial Risk Management category. Welcome to the show, Michael.

It’s great to be on the show.

Thanks for being here. It looks like you have been killing it. You’ve been making a mark, leaving your legacy and helping leaders reduce stress and burnout. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and what you do?

The World Health Organization has recognized burnout as a pretty significant situation across the globe. I see it all the time with leaders of all walks of life, not just CEOs and vice presidents but people on the front line as well. There are a lot of people that are stressed beyond belief, burning out. They’re a mess. I look at this and I go, “Why is this happening?” With my own journey and my own burnout that I had years ago, I know why it’s happening. I know what steps they’re taking to create an environment where burnout can persist. I launched Breakfast Leadership because I don’t want it to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve reinvented myself and now I’m not burned out. I’m more successful, obviously by the bio that you read off. Every time I hear it, I go, “Who is that guy? That’s me.” I’m not tired. I’m doing well. I know how to accomplish a lot and focus on things that are important, without stressing and burning out. My mandate is to help as many organizations and individuals prevent burnout from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, the people I do end up encountering are already in a burnout state. I work with them to get them back to a normal state and ultimately, let’s figure out what led up to the burnout in the first place and make some tweaks in how you approach life so that it never happens again.

In the corporate space, there’s such a demand. You can walk into any corporation and you may see employees that have been there for multiple years and they don’t look happy. They have this look on their face like, “I can’t wait until 4:00 or 5:00 so I can go home.” The problem is they got to come back and do it all over again. You can tell there’s no vibrancy and energy towards what they do every day. It’s because of the demands. Quite frankly, I don’t see the demands getting less at all. There’s going to be more demands. Tell us, how do we prevent burnout?

GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: New York has introduced a legislation to make it more or less illegal to require people to access their emails after their normal work shift.

 

I see it myself in my office. I take the subway into where my office is. In Monday morning, I’m in the subway cars with dozens of zombies. They’re alive and human beings. They’re not true zombies, but they’re looking like it. It’s not because they’re tired. They just look defeated. Every organization is facing this. It’s gotten worse over the last couple of years. I noticed a big spike, shortly after the economic recession a decade or so ago, where organizations that did survive that didn’t bring back the people that they laid off. The people that survived ended up getting more work than before. The organizations are trying to get leaner and leaner. What happens is you end up working way too much. A lot of these people I find are afraid to make a change, to leave an organization and find something that has a better balance for them. There are a lot of circumstances in that. One could be financial, as far as the workload that they have and the income level they’re used to. Those are the only type of roles that they can find. This is a common situation for a lot of people. As soon as they get a raise and start making more money, they adjust their way of living to match that new income level. What happens is, as you find yourself in a job that makes more and more money, it’s harder to find jobs with that compensation range.

A recruiter told me years ago that it takes you one month for every $10,000 you earn. If you’re making $100,000 a year, it may take you ten months to find a new job at that level. If you are living and your expenses are matched to that $100,000 plateau, it’s going to take you almost a year to find something new. In all likelihood, you’re going to end up taking a job that’s going to be about the same of what you’re dealing with now. You’re not getting to the stress. It’s multifaceted. One of the problems I see is there are so many organizations that are trying to do way too many things because they feel that they have to do that in order to keep up with the competition. It’s like, “This company is doing it so we have to do it.”

What happens is companies are spreading themselves too thin and they’re trying to do too much. It puts a lot of pressure on the CEO for performance because their board of directors is pushing for it, which then flows all the way down to the front lines of that organization. Everybody’s stressed, trying to meet the demands to keep up with the competition, instead of focusing on one or two things that your company is good at and do that well. You don’t need to do twenty things. Do one or two things well. Not everybody can be a Walmart or Amazon and have everything available. For all the organizations where I see people burning out left and right, if they have a primary product or service, it’s what they should focus on. Instead of focusing so much on what the competition is doing, focus on what makes your organization better. The second part, as far as employees are concerned, is they need to have conversations with their bosses about like, “My workload is not sustainable.”

One of the biggest challenges that were introduced with the workforce and to how we work is the smartphone. With instant connectivity anywhere you go, there isn’t a disconnection from work and home. There are people checking emails and working after hours and on weekends. It shouldn’t be that way unless that’s when your shift is. I use this analogy a lot. My dad retired from General Motors. He worked for GM for pretty much his whole career. For the most part of it, he worked on the assembly line. When he came home from work, I don’t ever recall seeing him working in our driveway, installing parts in a car or driving a forklift in our driveway to deliver engine blocks to an assembly line. He couldn’t. His was at work. He couldn’t do any work at home because that’s not where the work is.

For most of us, we can work pretty much anywhere. If we’ve got a laptop or a smartphone, we can work anywhere on the planet. While that’s great and gives us flexibility, it can also be problematic if you don’t have a hard boundary saying, “I’m not working after 5:00. I’m not working at night. I’m not working on the weekends.” That has to be a boundary that employees have to set for themselves, and employers should set it too. One of the biggest surprises that came out was the state of New York. We all know how New York operates. It’s a fast-paced get-things-done type of town. The state is as well. They introduced legislation to make it more or less illegal to require people working after hours or accessing their emails after their normal work shift. I would expect that type of legislation to be introduced in California but not in New York.

Instead of focusing so much on what the competition's doing, focus on what makes your organization better. Click To Tweet

If a government has to introduce legislation to say, “Employers cannot force their employees to access email after hours,” it’s a problem. Employers are doing it. Bosses are doing it. Employees are afraid that if they don’t respond to something, it could cost them their job and then that $100,000 income goes away. They can’t make their mortgage payments, car payments or Netflix payments. You name it. It spirals out of control. You’ve got debt, workloads and all of these things going on. That’s why people, when you look around, don’t seem to be very happy. They’re overwhelmed with all the things that are happening to them.

That’s the problem that’s multifaceted. All the things that you talked about: the house, the Netflix and the things that we want to have in life, requires us to have that $100,000 job, just for explanatory purposes. That’s life. That’s what we do to say, “I can be happy if I get those things.” We get those things, but there’s a demand that comes with it, which is the job that requires you to check your email and do all of these things. We get caught up in a cycle. We have it but we’re not happy because, in order to have it, we’ve got to go and keep up with this job that’s going to pay us the money to have it. When we don’t have it, we feel a sense of not having enough or fulfillment. It’s almost like a trap. It’s almost like you can’t win for losing. Either way you look at it, you’re unhappy if you’re on the outside looking at this. What are your thoughts about that?

I know exactly how that feels. I was in the same boat a few years ago when I was in my own burnout. I had the mortgage, car payment, computers, expensive cable TV subscription and big screen TV. You name it. I had all of those things and a work situation that was requiring me to access email all hours, days, nights and weekends. It caught up with me and over a year’s time, I had a heart attack that should’ve killed me. I lost my job during that economic recession. The family vehicle was repossessed because we couldn’t make car payments because I didn’t have a job. Finally, our home was foreclosed. It’s all in a year. For anybody going through an experience like that, it knocked you on your butt.

I had three choices. Number one is I could do nothing and say, “I survived all of that. Here I am. I’m still alive.” Number two is I could have played the victim and blamed everybody under the sun for all those things, the bank, job and all that. The choice that I did go with was, “I had responsibility for all of these things happening. I was unemployed. I couldn’t find a job. The bank took back the house and the vehicle, rightfully so. We had an agreement. I pay them and they let me borrow it until I pay it off. I didn’t meet up to the agreement, so they had the right to take those things back.” I don’t blame them at all. I completely understand it.

The key component of it is, when you go through all of those things and you lose everything, you look at it in the way of, “I still have my health because I survived the cardiac event. I was able to get a new job. I was able to find a place to live. We had another family vehicle so we weren’t without a vehicle.” You take these opportunities and go, “What is important for me?” In this day of social media and seeing what everybody has, and the constant advertising we see when we watch television, billboards, social media, it’s everywhere. It’s almost impossible not to be bombarded with, “You need to have this television or this thing.” You have to scale things back to the very basics, start off with a clean slate and go, “What do I need to live?”

GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: When you don’t take care of yourself first, you are going to open yourself up to stress, burnout, and potential catastrophic losses.

 

Start off with the basics: food, clothing and shelter. You don’t need Netflix, a cable TV, internet or a smartphone. I know people say we have to, but no. There are ways around it. I have a smartphone. I don’t have cable television. I do have Netflix. I also have an antenna that gets all the shows off-air. I don’t watch a lot of television anyway, other than sporting events. If I so deem to watch a sporting event, I can do it through other channels or go out to dinner and watch it because it’s pretty much going to be on any television anywhere anyway. There’s not an issue with that.

People think that they have to keep up with everybody else. They look at Instagram and are like, “They’re going out to that expensive restaurant. I need to go out there.” It’s that feeling you mentioned about, “I feel like I’m missing out on something.” Somebody you follow on Instagram went to eat at Drake’s Restaurant in Toronto, for example. You can too. Prepare for it to cost you some money. Are you prepared for that? Is it in your budget? Does it make sense? “I have to go there to eat. I’ve not been there yet. I’m assuming the food’s truly good.” The food’s really good at other restaurants too. The food can be good too if you go to the grocery store, pick up good ingredients and cook it yourself. Make it an experience. Take the time to create a meal and eat it. Does it take time? It does. Everybody gets 24 hours a day, so schedule it accordingly. There are ways to figure out how to do things.

Society has this pedal to the floor type of mentality where everybody got to go nonstop. Think about the NFL, the biggest sports league in the US for sure by a landslide. Soccer is bigger across the planet, but as far as the US is concerned, the National Football League is the go-to league. It’s intense schedule, practice and all of that stuff. It’s a multibillion-dollar entity. They play it down, blow the whistle and stop. They regroup, get ready to do something and go into it again. Every sport has a break, whether it’s offsides, out of bounds, timeout and things like that. It’s not 60 minutes of no stop and going. You do a play, stop, play and stop. That’s how life is supposed to be. We go through it, play, pause, see how things are going, reflect, do some things and keep going. Going back to the office and work state, you see people working constantly straight hours, sixteen-hour days and something like that. They’re not taking a break. Your productivity is not going to be any good after about four or five hours. Those extra ten or eleven hours you’re putting in the office, you’re not accomplishing anything. If you are doing things, the quality of that work is going to be lousy. It’s not going to be any decent.

We spent a lot of time in our schools, teaching how to perform, how to compete, how to get a good job, but we don’t teach how to recover. That is the missing link here. You look at stress, overwhelm and all those things. I don’t believe that stress, overwhelm and intense situations kill people. I don’t think that’s what it is. What I think it is, is the inability to recover from the overwhelm, the stress and the intense situations. That’s what kills us. I don’t think people know how to recover from that. When you think about challenges and situations, especially health situations or there could be things on the job that are very challenging or complex and it gets very intense, most people want to avoid those things. The reason why they want to avoid them is that they don’t know how they’re going to handle them when they happen. After it’s all done, “What do I do after that? What’s my rebound? What is life like after that situation? Instead of going into that, I’d rather avoid it because I don’t know how this is going to affect me afterward,” which is an indication that you don’t know how to recover. 

After my cardiac event, I had seventeen weeks to recover. I was off of work for seventeen weeks before I went back to a job that I no longer had. I still had seventeen weeks to recover from the heart attack and getting used to the medications that physicians put me on, to changing my diet and everything else and being more active and all of those things. It was hard because I was 40 at the time. Habits are hard to change no matter what age you are. When you’ve been an adult for a while, they’re difficult to change. Whether it’s trying to lose weight, introduce an exercise regimen to your cell or whatever the case may be, habits are challenging to change because we are creatures of habit. I love your take on how we don’t know how to recover from things. Any setback we face in life, whether it’s the end of a relationship, a job loss, a health scare or anything like that, the recovery period is the opportunity for us to heal. In the healing process, there are all types of emotions. It’s mourning the loss of a relationship, mourning the loss of a job or you name it. All these things come up, but we have to give ourselves permission to take the time that we need to recover.

With the smartphone and instant connectivity anywhere you go, there isn't a disconnect from work and home. Click To Tweet

I wish I could say, “You lost your job. You should take a couple of days to recover from that trauma and go back into it.” Two days may not be enough for you. It might take two weeks or a couple of months. It might take a couple of hours if you’re really hating that job and wanting to get out of it anyway. It’s hard to say. It’s the same thing with a relationship. It could have been a short-term relationship or a twenty-year marriage. It’s not something that you can just say, “I’ve got to move on from this,” knowing you need to take time to recover from things. If you don’t, what happens is that the patterns that got you into that situation will continue and come back again. If you haven’t learned your lesson from whatever situation you faced, it will come back. It will be different, but it will still be a similar situation. They keep throwing it at you until you learn how to do it right. Any challenge that I faced in my life that has repeated, I recognize now. I didn’t so much when I was younger. There’s something I need to learn about my approach in dealing with a situation like this. What is it? What do I need to look at?

One of the common characteristics I see with a lot of people that burn out is they tend to be people pleasers. They want the best for people and that’s great. I have no problem with that. That’s noble and I hope that everyone would want that, but they take it to an extreme. They end up shortchanging themselves to help others. When you do that, you’re not taking care of yourself first. When you don’t take care of yourself first, you are going to open yourself up to stress, burnout and potentially catastrophic losses like what happened to me. The last thing I want to see is anybody going through a year like that. It was not a lot of fun. It was traumatic for me and everybody involved. A lot of people look at me like I have three heads when I say it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

It forced me to change how I was approaching life in every aspect, from health, what I ate, how I approach things and stress level. You name it. It gave me the opportunity to give myself permission to recover from whatever challenges you face. Take time to pause and reflect on your days, on your weeks, on your months or on your years, situations of both good and bad. If you had something happen that turned out to be an exciting thing for you, reflect on it. Look at it and go, “What were the ingredients to make this possible?” If you start looking at those things, you can start repeating that type of success, happiness or whatever in everything that you do. Look for those commonalities.

Going back to what you said when you start getting into those patterns because you’re not willing to take the time to recover and heal so you go through this repetitive process, to me, by the very definition, it’s burnout. That’s what happens because people get caught up in that whirlwind of the same old thing. There’s no expectation for anything different. On the flip side, I like to identify the things that fill me up. You reflect on those things. When you realize that they fill you up, you can deliberately do them and make them part of your recovery process. I like to look at life as a cup. A way to prevent burnout in my life is to make sure that I’m full and running over. When I’m full and running over, it gives me my vibrancy and I have a lot of energy. I’m unwilling to take life on. When you’re burnt out, you have nothing. You’re empty. You’re like a car that’s put down the road and doesn’t have any gas. It’s just trying to make it to the next gas station.

The problem is you don’t know what that is. You don’t know when it’s going to come. You don’t have the energy to put into it and get it. When you know what fuels you up, you can practice recovery and recreation. I love the word recreation because it’s more like recreating. People get comfortable with those certain routines. They don’t want to change. When you’re comfortable with that routine, you start getting into these patterns. Those patterns could serve you well for a certain period of time. Over time, you have to recreate. You need the recreation time to discover, “Maybe I like this. Maybe I want something new. Maybe I want to try to change.” The biggest enemy to burnout is change.

GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: If you can either automate or make a standard operating procedure on how you proceed with future negotiations, it could shorten the length it takes to lay on those deals.

 

One of the things too about that is if you know people well enough, you hang out with friends and family or coworkers and get to know them a bit and respect their boundaries. Some people are more private than others and that’s fine. If you get to know them and they start approaching burnout, the signs are there. You can see them. Sometimes it’s a case of they’re not as jovial as they used to be or they start missing a little bit more work. Even from a physical standpoint, maybe they’re putting on weight or they look tired more often than normal. When I was burning out, everybody on the planet knew that I was burned out except me. I was the last person to get the memo. One of the key things that should have been a red flag for me was, at the time, I was a mini-season ticket holder for the Detroit Tigers. I lived down in that region, Detroit to Windsor, Ontario area.

I’d go to a bunch of games. I used to love going to them. It was great when they started winning back in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and went to World Series a couple of times. I’m still ticked off about them not winning, but it’s another story for another day. They deserved to lose. They did not do anything. They were not robbed by any stretch. They got beat by better teams at that point. I’d go to the games, but I wasn’t enjoying myself which should have been trumpets, horns, fireworks, yelling and going, “Something is wrong,” because I love going to sporting events. It’s the energy, the crowd, the play, the competition and all of that stuff. I’ve always loved sports. That should have been a red flag for me going, “I’m not having fun here. I’m away from work. I’m out having a couple of adult beverages with friends. What’s going on? Why am I not enjoying this? Did somebody tick me off? Why? Did I just ignore it?”

Recreation is important. One of the exercises that I have people do when I’m working with them to get their stress and burnout under control is I have them take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On the left side, they list everything that they truly love to do. It could be going to their favorite coffee shop, their favorite restaurant, going to a concert, sporting event or listening to their favorite music. They list everything that they really enjoy doing that get them fulfilled, happy and enjoying life. I tell them, “You can take a couple of days to fill this out because you’re not going to think of everything at once. You’ll get a lot of it. You keep tabs for a couple of days. Once you have the list pretty much complete or as complete as you think it can be, on the right side of every one of those items, write down the last time you did that, listen to that music or went to that restaurant. Every time I tell people this, I get some type of reaction. Oftentimes, it’s a moan, a groan or they close their eyes or put their hands in their face because they’re not doing the things in life that they enjoy to do.

I ask them why. They often say, “I don’t have time.” You do. You’re just choosing not to because you’re allocating your time to something else that is not serving you. I’m not saying you’re going to do all 50 of those things in a day. That’d be overwhelming. You’re going to burn out trying to do all the fun stuff. After they compose themselves after feeling a little defeated about the things, I say, “What I want you to do is go on your calendar, whether it’s a paper calendar or an electronic calendar, pick two or three things on this list and put them on your calendar in the next ten days. Do not cancel or move that appointment. Treat it as if it’s the most important meeting you’ve ever had with your boss. Don’t miss it, even if it’s sitting in your favorite coffee shop for ten minutes. You can do that.

If it’s on the other side of the planet, I get it. You may not be able to fly to Paris and sit in a bistro somewhere and sip in the expensive cup of coffee. I get it, but there’s got to be something on that list that doesn’t cost a lot of money and doesn’t take up a lot of time. Go do it. Start doing two or three of those things on a weekly basis.” Over time, what happens is you’re introducing things back in your life that you enjoy doing. You’d get back to, what I like to call, a harmony of your work and home life. That’s the ultimate thing of what we’re seeing now in society. There’s no harmony between work, home and life. Everything is completely out of balance.

Habits are hard to change no matter what age you are. Click To Tweet

A lot of people say work-life balance. When I hear it, I imagine someone trying to stand up an egg and having that egg stand up on its own. Unless there’s something defective with that egg, it’s going to tip on its side. It’s not going to happen. You’re one person. You need to harmonize your professional duties, tasks, what you do for work and your home life. Harmonize it in a way that works for you, so you feel fulfilled, you’re making a contribution and you’re earning income to be able to do things you want to do without taking such a huge toll on your life.

Maybe that’s the problem. We agree that people don’t know how to recover. Recovering is a part of that harmony. Recreation is a part of that harmony. Resilience is all about recovering in and of itself, and also endurance. There are so many things that go into reducing stress and preventing burnout. We can even start talking about the way you eat, the way you take care of your body and exercise. There’s so much. I love your exercise, but I feel like I want more from you. As a CEO myself, and I know there are CEOs and entrepreneurs that are reading this, it’s bigger than just, “I’m going to go and have that cup of coffee.” People are facing situations where they’re about to lose their marriage. They have to choose between this major multimillion-dollar contract that needs my attention and my wife and kids. There are these types of decisions that are pulling and stressing people out. What are some things that people can do in these types of situations? 

In an ideal world, it’s between that multimillion-dollar contract and spending time with the spouse and the kids. If it’s getting to that point, there’s been a lot of work that’s led up to that point. If it means missing a week or so, or if you’ve got to travel for a week to get that deal done, it’s one thing. If your spouse is saying, “Enough is enough,” it’s been going on for a long time. You need to hit the pause button and reflect on, “What’s going on?” For many executives, and depending on the organization, there are seasons that are busier than others.

A key component is having open and frank communication with your spouse or significant other, letting them know of these seasons. It’s like, “September and October tend to be busy travel time for me. There are a lot of conferences, speaking things and things that tie me up, so I’m not home as much as I would be in the summer months.” You let them know ahead of time so they can prepare. They’re not caught off guard. They’re not going to try to align something up during that time because they’re going to know that you’re not going to be there. I’ve seen executives do this. It’s a little pricier, but it’s a lot cheaper than divorce attorneys.

If you’re going to be traveling a bit, depending on what your spouse does, if they are able to take time off of work, bring them on the trip. Take the kids out of school for a couple of days or maybe even a week. Don’t worry. They’ll still graduate. You coordinate it with the teacher. You get the homework ahead of time. There are ways to do it. While you’re in the boardrooms, trying to hash out this multimillion-dollar deal, they’re spending all of your commission at the mall in that area, wherever you happen to go. Everybody’s happy at the end of it. I say that tongue in cheek, but there’s some validity to it. Think outside of the box a little bit on some things. I’ve seen executives do this too, where they were supposed to go out to dinner with their spouse and something came up. That executive had ordered food to be delivered to the home so that way, the spouse didn’t have to scramble to figure out what to have for dinner. It was like, “Here’s something. We’ll make this up in the next week or so.”

GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: If you’re up above your head in meetings, you’re not going to have the energy or the clarity to be able to focus on things, which then has a ripple effect on your decision-making for everything that goes on.

 

A big component for executives is they’ve got to get on top of their schedule. They have to make sure that they block off time for themselves, for strategic planning, thinking ahead and looking ahead. If you’re constantly just filling up your calendar with things, as a leader, you’re not going to have that time to be able to look back with clarity and see, “What’s going on with the business? What about our divisions that have been struggling for the last couple of quarters? What are some things that we could do to help improve? What’s going on in that department?” If you’re up to here in meetings above your head, you’re not going to have the energy or the clarity to be able to focus on those things, which then has a ripple effect on your decision-making for everything that goes on. You’ve got to build on those buffer times. These are conversations you have with your board, your team and everything else. If you don’t do that, it starts off slowly and innocently, but you’ll eventually burn out because you’re not giving yourself any time to rest, reflect and recover from the work that you’re doing. Also, look at accomplishments.

I see too many organizations where, for example, they land that multimillion-dollar contract. “Let’s celebrate.” They go to the pub, have a couple of pops and go home. There’s never a debrief meeting afterward saying, “What did we do in order to get that contract? What were the steps that we took to get that contract?” If you can either automate that or make it a standard operating procedure in how you proceed with future negotiations, it could shorten the length it takes to land those deals. That multimillion-dollar contract starts happening more often with a lot fewer challenges because you’ve already figured out the templates and some things that you can implement. You personalize it for every customer or client because you want that customer service to come through and make them feel like, “I’m not just giving you a cookie-cutter contract here.” It’s specific to that deal. The backend of the stuff has already been done. Maybe the first time have taken you 60 hours to get this thing done. This one maybe is 40, 30, 20 or 10.

You’re getting that multimillion-dollar deal and you spent ten hours on the contract. The rest of the time is just one-on-one conversations and talking about, “What are we going to do when we start working together?” It snowballs in a positive way. It reduces the amount of stress that you’re putting on your teams and yourself to crank something out because we all know that we have to get that contract to them by 5:00. Here it is at 3:28 and you’re going, “I haven’t had lunch yet.” You’re supposed to go to the movies tonight at the 7:10 showing and you’re like, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” We don’t have to do it that way. If we’re prepared and we know what we need to do and what the deadlines are, we have those elbow room slots in our calendar to prevent from getting ourselves into a pickle.

You may have heard the saying, “Pay yourself first.” When it comes to money, one of the rules of financial management is to pay yourself first. I’m going to adopt even more so now to put in my calendar. I’m going to pay myself first my recovery time and recreation time. I’m going to put that in first. I agree with financial management. When you pay yourself first, you’re able to take care of all the expenses and all of that stuff and you’re making sure that you’re saving and you’re financially sound. When you don’t do that, it’s out of order. We should take the same approach here. We make our recovery time and recreation time our priority. It went into the calendar first. What’s left is our time to work. What we do is we make work the priority. In what’s left, we try to squeeze in recovery and recreation. That doesn’t work.

It doesn’t matter if you use an electronic calendar or a paper calendar. What I highly recommend is when you schedule those appointments, color-code those recovery times and self-care times for you. That way, you can look at your calendar over weeks or months. When you reflect back on how you spent the last week, the last month or even the last quarter, if you’re not seeing enough of that recovery/self-care color in your calendar, you know you are out of balance of what you want to do. That gives you the permission to go through and say, “For this month or this week, I need to add a little bit more on that.” It’s all about your time. A lot of people say, “I’d have to get up at 5:00 AM in order to exercise.” “What time are you getting up now? Is it 6:00? Work with me on this. Get up at 5:30. Work out for twenty minutes. Start off with five minutes, ten minutes or whatever works. Make a slight adjustment. If it becomes a habit, let’s try 5:00.” At 5:00, “Great. There you go.”

At the end of the day, we have to give ourselves permission to take the time that we need to recover. Click To Tweet

With people, gone are the days of, “I’ve got to stay up because I’m going to watch the 11:00 news.” Go online. You can get an update. I don’t care what side of the political fence you’re on. All the news is crap anyway so it doesn’t matter. Save yourself stress and burnout and turn that crap off. Set up a newsfeed on your favorite subject matters. Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it because everybody else is watching. You’re not going to miss anything. Start taking care of yourself. Schedule those appointments with you to take care of the things that are good for you. When you are working on something for someone, whether it’s your employer or client, they’re getting the best version of you because you’re full. You’re rested, recovered, full of energy, eating better and taking better care of yourself physically, spiritually and mentally. They’re getting a better version of you than they would have before. You watch yourself, your career and your client work. Everything starts to improve. Imagine that.

You mentioned having conversations with the spouse and the family about these things. I want to take it further because these are terms that we don’t hear often in corporations. You don’t hear self-care. You don’t hear a lot about recreation, recovery and enjoying the moment. These are terms that we should use more often, recognize and acknowledge more often in corporations. As senior leaders, CEOs and executives, we want to model this and demonstrate what it means to practice self-care. Studies have been done that can demonstrate the increase in productivity, success and overall well-being from incorporating self-care, recovery and recreation into your life. If we start having these conversations at a high level in organizations and we model that, we can expect higher performance and more productivity from our employees and our teams. We should adopt this philosophy in a highly recognizable manner within corporations. 

Those organizations that do follow that mandate are the ones that are crushing. They are the ones riding out recessions and downturns. They’re the ones that continue to have this pretty spectacular growth within their organizations, either by the growth of the number of clients they take on and also the growth of the organization. They’re growing at such an exponential rate that they’re running out of space in their office. They’re renting more offices and hiring more people because they have more work than they know what they can deal with. It reminds me of a story. This goes back several years ago where I worked for a CPA firm. During tax season, all the accountants are pretty much sequestered. They’re working 80, 90-hour weeks because there are a lot of tax returns to do, audits and everything else. One firm that I was close to, one of the things that they would do is the organization, usually once a week, would order carry-out and send it to all of the accountants’ spouses’ homes or the family’s homes. That was expensive, but they said, “We’re sorry that we’re keeping your accountant family member much locked up for the next three or four months. Here’s some proof.”

At the end of the tax season, they’d throw a huge ass event, barbecue or who knows what. They didn’t have to because a lot of firms didn’t do that. They chose to because they wanted to honor the sacrifice that the families were doing. It took the burden off of the accountants as well because they’re like, “I’m not there again for dinner.” The organization took care of dinner for the employee too. They brought in food for the office, but they also had food sent home. Corporations have that opportunity to think again outside of the box and be more humanistic than they are now. Those subtle things, showing that they care, and they want to have a great environment for their employees, is when you start seeing retention, less turnover, improved productivity and a significant reduction in stress and burnout. It’s all connected. You can approach it in different ways. We’re not trying to say, “We have to change everything.” Small tweaks will make a big difference.

How can people reach you if they wanted to learn more about your book or perhaps work with you? I don’t know if you do any coaching or things like that.

GCM 59 | Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: When corporations are more humanistic and show that they care and have a great environment for their employees, that’s when you start seeing retention.

 

I do coaching and I have my own podcast. The best way to find me is at BreakfastLeadership.com. That’s the hub for everything. There’s a contact me page at the bottom of the homepage where they’re going to submit some information on there. If they go to BreakfastLeadership.com/Morning, they can get a free eBook. It’s my Successful Mornings Checklist. I find that a great way to have success in your life and a good life is to have a good start to every day. There are things that I recommend that you do on a daily basis that paid big dividends for me in my transformation from being burned out to a life where I’m not. You’ll be able to get that resource.

I want to confirm and concur with what you said about how you start your day. As a three-time international best-selling author, having a podcast, speaking and still supporting the navy, a lot of people would ask me, “How do you do all of this? How do you keep up with this?” I have a physical challenge that I deal with every day. When I hear that question, it always takes me back to what I do every single day. That’s to workout. When I don’t get to do that, it affects my day. That’s my thing. If I can get up and get my body going and move, it helps me mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It’s getting in a state where I can do what I need to do. I’m not going to say that it’s not a lot. It is a lot that has to be done and keep up with, but I love it. When I can get that workout in every day, it gets me in a groove and in a mental state that allows me to perform. I concur with that.

I encourage the audience. Go to BreakfastLeadership.com. Go check out the checklist for how to start your morning because how you start your day is going to dictate how your day goes, what you’re able to produce and how you’re going to feel. Try it and see for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. Get this checklist and put a routine in place for your day. Michael, I want to say thank you for being on the show. This has been a great conversation. Thank you for all of your knowledge. Thank you for your time and for sharing with us. Are there any final words that you would have for the audience?

It’s been an absolute pleasure to be with you. Thank you for letting me share my story and tips with your audience. One nugget of advice for everybody, take care of yourself first. Make you the best version of you because then your life will be better. What you give and how you serve people will be so much better than what you’re doing right now.

Thank you, Michael.

Thank you.

You have the game-changing message. Thank you for reading. Peace and love.

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About Michael Levitt

GCM 59 | Preventing BurnoutMichael Levitt is the CEO and founder of Breakfast Leadership, Inc (BreakfastLeadership.com), who works with leaders to reduce stress and prevent burnout so that they can focus on what REALLY matters Most. Michael is the host of the Breakfast Leadership Podcast, ranked in the top 200 Business and Marketing Podcasts on iTunes. Michael is also recognized as a top 20 Global Thought Leader on Culture, by Thinkers360, and is the co-founder of Pre-Emptive Strike Consulting (PreEmptiveStrikeConsulting.com), and co-author of Pre-Emptive Strike Leadership, which debuted # 1 in Canada on Amazon.ca under Financial Risk Management category.

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