Are you still with me on this mission to prevent burnout and perform without crashing and burning? How are you and your team doing with step one: taking a break? Well, here is a break right now, sit back, breathe, relax and enjoy your read!
Step two of our burnout-free performance mission is about listening to yourself. “What’s that?” I can hear you ask. Now in French, we have an expression that says “Do not listen to yourself!” where in fact we mean “just stop complaining already!”. I suppose you could draw a parallel with the British stiff upper lip! Keep going, no matter what. So of course, on either side of the Channel, we may not be very familiar with this concept of listening in to what is happening inside. But it is never too late to learn.
What I mean by this is: get to know yourself. Know your needs limits, your limits, your rhythms. Do you know how much sleep you need and at what time? Do you know when you work at your best?
We are usually told, especially in the corporate world, that we have to adapt to new situations, that it is progress, normal, that if we cannot work harder, longer and better, we are not “normal”. To adapt… but what happens when you reach the limit of your adaptability? We have already seen that working harder and longer is neither normal nor better in terms of performance.
Listening to what is really happening inside, letting go and relaxing is not about being weak. It is about truly knowing yourself, being astute and clever and putting that knowledge to the best use. That is a definite strength. For instance, we tend to like that feeling of excitement produced by a rush of adrenaline and want to feel it over and over. But after a while it is just masking what we are really feeling, draining us instead of energising us, having us pretend, even to ourselves, that we are fine, thank you very much.
If you listen to your body, get to know your limits and natural rhythms, you will know when you are at your best. Knowing your boundaries, your limits is essential. Learn to say no, don’t accept more. People will respect you for that. Often, it is easier for a team to work within well-known frameworks and limits. Providing this can in fact be quite reassuring.
So how do you do this exactly? Well, you could start by taking time to listen to how are feeling as often as possible during the day. And when I say take time, it will not take any time at all as it is not about stopping what you are doing but about noticing. So notice how you feel when waking up, eating, driving, working, cooking. Pay attention to how you feel when walking outside, when walking inside, when arriving at work… at any point during the day really.
And then act accordingly. Of course, if you notice you would ideally need to sleep until 10 am that may not be very compatible with your office hours but maybe you could catch up on that sleep at the weekend? And often, it is about just tweaking things a little to make a big difference on our body and state of mind. Maybe for you it is about what you eat and at what time (and maybe with whom!), maybe it is about having that cup of tea at 3pm. Whatever it is that works for you, find it, do it!