Something I’ve realised over the last few years is that life only demands from you the strength that you possess. It’s really important to know yourself and to be realistic about your limits. Yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard the sayings, “nothing is out of reach” and “you have unlimited potential”, and they are true… but the saying we most often forget to implement in life is that you can’t run before you can walk. Your abilities and limits grow in small increments. It’s therefore so important to pace yourself if you want to work toward a long-term goal or dream, because if you throw yourself into the deep end of life, and you don’t even know how to swim, you will soon drown.
Welcome to burnout town, where you will run on empty, feel fatigued, foggy, irritable, anxious, overwhelmed and generally shit. It’s not a good place to be. This is the place you will end up if you don’t have the resources to meet the demand you are placing on yourself.
Let me get one thing straight here: your dreams are so worth any struggle, and without struggle, you will not move forward in life. It’s great to have ambition, to push past the fear and to reach for the stars, but it’s also important to be realistic about how much you can handle. The recipe for keeping everything in balance in life has to be just right. If the scales tip out ever so slightly, other areas of your life will be neglected, and more likely than not it will be your mental health that goes first. So, if you’re planning to take on more work, be aware of how much extra self-care you have to add to the mix to find the right balance again. Remember, you can’t pour into all the areas of your life if your own cup is empty.
What’s the difference between burnout, procrastination and perfectionism?
I think the fundamental difference between burnout and procrastination/perfectionism is fear. Procrastination and perfectionism are fuelled by fear, which can be paralysing, whereas burnout is a consequence of pushing yourself way too hard. Procrastination and burnout are both forms of self-oppression, however burnout is on the extreme opposite end of the scale to procrastination. When you’re burnt out, you have literally used up all of your energy and resources and you have nothing left to give; you’ve exhausted yourself either mentally, physically or both. You feel stuck and it’s not because you’re lazy or scared, it’s because you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and you have nothing left in your tank.
Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism.
Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism involves addressing your fears: fear of failure, fear of things not being perfect, fear of missing the mark or fear of fear. It can also involve having to convince yourself not to give up what you want most in the long term for what you want right now. Working toward long-term goals therefore involves delayed gratification. Choosing your own aims in life can help to create a sense of motivation, but so too can creating SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Write your goals down and regularly review them. The top one per cent of successful people in the world do this, and it actually works… so do it. Overcoming procrastination involves FIGHTING for yourself to FREE yourself from fear… believe me, three months from now you will thank yourself. Freedom is on the other side of fear… social freedom, emotional freedom, creative freedom, financial freedom, time freedom and spiritual freedom. Sitting and worrying about whether something is going to turn out perfectly is quite frankly a complete waste of precious time, energy and resources.
When I was writing my masters thesis I lived by this motto: first drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be written. This same motto can be applied to life generally: life doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be lived. Do you want to look back on your life and remember all the years and years of “thinking” about taking action, but not feeling ready, or do you want to look back and remember a rich, meaningful life full of intention and purpose, even if there were a few mistakes along the way? I think I know which option I want to take. The only things in life that can derail our efforts are fear and oppression. So stop making excuses for yourself and just start. Clear away all the distractions and make room for taking action!
How do you find the balance?
Overcoming burnout involves listening to yourself and your body and responding effectively. Hard-working minds and bodies need rest so build a regular self-care practice into your daily routine. Use mindfulness to pay attention to your energy levels and to check in with yourself on a regular basis. It’s better to notice and intervene early than to let yourself crash. Use tools to manage your time effectively and to ensure that you have a good balance in the life domains of health, wellbeing, social, work, family, relationships and spiritual life. All of those life domains are equally important, so don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours if you cut back on one area in order to make more time for another! The scales will tip out and believe me, you will notice. Be strict about how much work you take on. Learn to prioritise effectively and to say no to things that are not going to serve your long-term goals. You have limited time/resources/energy and you can’t do everything, so be aware of that and don’t overload yourself. Time is the currency of life and how you spend yours is YOUR choice, so take your power back and use your time effectively. If you’re spending too much time on something that isn’t serving your long-term goals, then stop. For me, it was my personal social media use, so this week I decided to scale back on it. Just like that, I created an abundance of time to use toward other endeavours, such as my writing, exercise, self-care and business planning. If you are willing to be honest with yourself and evaluate how you spend your time, you will be surprised by how easy it can be to create more balance in your life and to avoid burnout.