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Maxie McCoy

Ring in the New, Wring Out the Old! How to Avoid Burnout in 2021

There’s no doubt that this year has created sweeping changes: in how we work, in how we learn, in how we interact, in how we operate. Some of it has been a breath of fresh air (hi less hectic travel & social schedules!), but mostly for me it has been taxing. I’m not one to look at the glass half empty, but I think insisting that it’s half full in a year like 2020 can reduce the weight of our challenges – individual and at scale. Turns out, the glass is half empty and half full. 

As our work lives have become asynchronous – accounting for everyone’s very real and individual changes to childcare, caretaking, partnerships, and health needs – it also became more fluid, at times running over into all the parts of our lives. Zoom is life! Or so it seemed. According to a report released by Harvard Business School’s Organizational Behavior Unit on average the shift in how we work has caused knowledge workers to have more meetings, longer work days, and send more emails. 

The data shows we were doing much more at a time when we have had less to give. It’s no wonder why so many people have felt the waves of burnout. In a recent panel with T-Mobile, I asked four of their leaders about those feelings. Take a look at what Nelly Pitocco, VP of Solution Engineering and Innovation at T-Mobile shared with me, which is one of the most powerful anecdotes I’ve heard this year about the toll this could take on women’s trajectories. 

Whether you get amped about New Year’s goals, resolutions and traditions or not, it’s probably safe to say that most of us would rather not bring these burnout feelings into the new year. If anything, it’d be really nice to start the year feeling exactly what it is: fresh, renewed, and open to possibility. Easier said than done, because obviously a new date on the calendar doesn’t automatically mean a new perspective. But with the weeks that we have left until that date comes, here are a few things you can do to start 2021 feeling even slightly more renewed: 

Honor your limits: 

Women are so strong. And we can still break. As Nelly put it in our conversation, “It’s like a rubber band, and sometimes we need to focus more on work and sometimes more on life. The key is not to break that rubber band.” Knowing your limits means knowing your boundaries. I’ve started taking Nelly’s advice by doing really small things: logging out of social media until I’m ready to specifically engage. Turning my phone on ‘do not disturb’ except for specific contacts who can get through. Saying ‘no’ when readers ask for specific things like, for example, sending me a copy of their book for me to sign and mail back. What people fail to tell you when they say something like “honor your limits” is that…it’s hard. You’ll want to do the thing you’re saying ‘no’ to. But it’s better for your capacities in the long run. Those boundaries can help you have energy for you. 

Unplug for a single day: This seems so trite, but it’s powerful when you try it. If you can put devices mostly away, disconnect from email, shut off the news, and remove yourself from the deluge of information, it’s really beautiful the ways that gratitude, awareness and fulfillment will fill in. If you’re in dire need of a fresh perspective, you have to do something differently in order to achieve that. You can’t stare at your computer 24/7, or follow the same patterns you’ve followed all year, and expect a different result. Try a mini-disconnection period, and I’ll bet you’ll be making time to do it again.

Do something for someone else: “I’m sorta bored with myself?” is something that I’ve been saying frequently, in jest. Because as our lives have become much more insular, it’s been very very easy to stay in our head. When we’re all wound up in our thoughts, it’s easy to lose perspective. Our work problems seem like disasters. Our personal issues feel heavier. Our relationship hiccups feel so much bigger than they are. When you take yourself out of your own day-to-day by giving your talent, skills or time to someone else, it feels good. It reminds you there’s more to this life than what’s in your head. Lately, I’ve been doing “cookie deliveries” – baking cookies (safely) and dropping them off to friends (also, safely) – and writing ‘lockdown letters’ – handmade cards that I mail to unsuspecting friends. It’s been a little way to spread the cheer and make me feel better about what’s ahead.

Dial for dollars: I’m the most zoomed out. Even facetime (which I looooove) can feel like a little too much on some days for non-work things. So, I’ve been straight-up calling my friends instead of trying to plan that “zoom happy hour” that nobody really wants. I joke with my partner that I spend my morning walks “dialing for dollars,” meaning…dialing all my girlfriends until someone picks up haha! It feels good and gives my mind a break from looking at myself in video calls (lol), having to be “on” and aware of my facial expressions, and allows me to be on the go or cleaning up around the house while I chat. A phone call can be the exact conversation you need to give your energy a rest, and get a bump in feel-good relational moments, Importantly, that conversation with someone you love can give you the new idea, perspective, or mindset you needed. Not convinced? Take a look at the PSA for picking up the phone.

There’s no doubt that 2021 will be one of rebuilding. Let’s do that building in our own lives, and as a society, by doing it with energy to give. It’s hard to build anything beautiful when you’re too burnt out to even begin. 

Added:

There’s no doubt that 2021 will be one of rebuilding. Let’s do that building in our own lives, and as a society, by doing it with energy to give. It’s hard to build anything beautiful when you’re too burnt out to even begin. Tweet: It’s hard to build anything beautiful when you’re too burnt out to even begin. https://ctt.ec/J38t2+ @maxiemccoy @tmobile


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