Do you pride yourself on being a hard worker? Do you try to do your best at every task you take on every day?

Being a hard worker is an honorable trait and it’s a necessary part of achieving goals and advancing your career. But every strength has a downside when it’s taken to extremes.

Hard workers with high standards can’t help pushing themselves to produce excellent results. But eventually it’s very possible you’ll hit a limit and experience burnout. After all, you’re human… and even machines need a break!

Burning yourself out is all too easy to do when you’re dedicated, driven, determined and demanding.

The problem is that it hurts your health, your relationships and your career.

3 Steps to Avoid Burnout

If you’re feeling burned out or like you’re on your way there, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can take steps to avoid or get yourself out from exhaustion and overwhelm. Consider the following three steps.

1. Recognize Your Patterns

I’ve found that certain patterns of thinking and behavior are more likely to lead to burnout, which is why some of us (raising my hand here) are more likely to burnout than others.

Do any of these thoughts and beliefs ring true for you?

  • Hard work pays off, no matter what you’re working on
  • Success requires intense effort
  • Have a sense of urgency
  • Do your very best work on every task
  • Get it to 100% no matter how long it takes
  • If you want it done properly, do it yourself
  • Keep improving it
  • Keep working until you finish

The thing about beliefs like these is that they have probably served you incredibly well for much of your life and career. They’re how you’ve gotten ahead, achieved goals, closed deals, and gained wins, promotions and recognition.

But at some point, the approach of redoubling your efforts and bearing down on problems until you wrestle them to the ground may stop working for you. And it can even come close to being your downfall.

So now is a good time to get in touch with what your patterns and tendencies are and see which ones might get you in trouble if you take them to extremes.

2. Pay Attention to Wake-Up Calls

Once you get in touch with your patterns and tendencies, you’ll find it easier to notice the early signs that point to future burnout.

In my experience, they usually show up in your health (mental and physical), feeling of well-being (or lack of it) and relationships. Think of these as “wake-up calls”.

They tend to start as “whispers” so you might not recognize them for what they are, like having trouble sleeping or constantly replaying things in your mind.

But then they get progressively louder – it’s your body looking out for you – until at some point, it becomes impossible for you to continue in the same old way you’ve always done things.

Often, it takes a serious wake-up call to acknowledge that you might be working too hard and about to burn yourself out. It could be something like an accident that happens because you were tired and distracted, a panic attack over a seemingly simple thing or becoming paranoid that everyone’s out to get you.

The best thing for you, your career and the people around you is to heed those early “whispers” because you’ll stay on track and have a better life.

The second-best thing is to pay attention to whatever wake-up call you’re getting right now and use it to motivate yourself to make a change.

3. Change Your Approach

It can be challenging to make a change, especially a fundamental one like changing your beliefs and the way you approach work.

Even if it’s obvious you need to make a change, you’ll probably be tempted to adopt a temporary fix. Like rest for a couple hours (or even a day) but then dive right back in as soon as you feel better.

But band-aids like this only put off the fundamental shift you need to make to transform your future possibilities from burnout to a better life.

So don’t wait. The sooner you transform your approach, the more enjoyable and successful your life and career will be.

Recently, I was faced with a wake-up call – fortunately the “whisper” kind. Given my past experience (a longer story for another day), I figured I had better take it seriously and not rely on a quick fix.

So I committed to changing my approach to work with the goal of finding a healthier, more sustainable way forward. It’s the only way I can achieve my vision for my business while honoring my relationships and personal well-being.

Here’s what I did to make the transformation from the burnout route to a sustainable one. Could it work for you too?

Old Way, New Way

I sat down and made two lists. On the left side of the page, I wrote down my “Old Way” of doing things and on the right side, the “New Way” I’ll replace it with. You could also call them “Old Beliefs” and “New Beliefs” if you prefer.

Both sides of the ledger are important. On the left side, you’re acknowledging the way you’re currently approaching work and life. That’s the first step to any change.

On the right side, you’re identifying the new approach you want to take so you know what to do and say to yourself when your old patterns crop up. And they will.

Making the linkage from the Old Way to the New Way is key to the transformation you want to make.

My Transformation

My “Old Way” of thinking and behaving was essentially my set of patterns and tendencies. My “New Way” is how I am retraining myself to think and what I want to value.

Old Way: Hard work pays off, no matter what you’re working on.
New Way: Focus on what’s essential, don’t worry about the rest.

Old Way: Success requires intense effort.
New Way: Find the ease in what you do.

Old Way: Have a sense of urgency.
New Way: Everything in its time and place.

Old Way: Do my very best work on every task.
New Way: Identify what’s “good enough” for each task.

Old Way: Get it to 100% no matter how long it takes.
New Way: Do my 80% quickly – stay away from the point of diminishing returns.

Old Way: If you want it done properly, do it yourself.
New Way: Put together a good brief, create a template, allow others to display their genius.

Old Way: Keep improving it.
New Way: Get to done and move on.

Old Way: Keep working until you finish.
New Way: Take breaks, step away at impasses, share with others, come back refreshed.

What changes do you need to make to avoid burnout?

So how about you? Are there any “wake-up calls” you need to listen to? Is it time to make a change in your approach to work and life?

Remember that “what got you here won’t get you there”.

And when it’s time to make a change, pull out a clean sheet of paper (or the digital equivalent) and write down your Old Way or Old Belief and the new one you’re going to replace it with.

Keep this list close to you – where you can see it every day and remind yourself.

When you can keep morphing yourself to do what’s needed at the next level, that’s the real success formula.

What’s the Old Way you most want to change in order to get to the next level of your greatness, and what’s the New Way you can replace it with?

Leave me a comment and let me know.