A couple of years ago, one of my best friends landed what seemed like the career opportunity of a lifetime. She became the CEO of a small but visionary communications company. She’d already survived an MBA at a top school in Europe and several high-responsibility positions at other firms. For the first three months or so, she seemed to be breezing by. She was having fun, building the business, and enjoying the responsibility. She was working hard, but she was managing to stay on top of that dreaded balancing act of work/life.
Her comfort zone was certainly being stretched, but it didn’t seem to bother her at all – she said that she was taking everything in stride. Her confidence had never been higher. In a nutshell, she loved her new life and her new role. Then – in the middle of January – she suddenly told me without any warning that she was ready to quit.
I was stunned.
As it turned out, she hadn’t found the work/life balance sweet spot at all. She’d been putting on a brave face for all of us. Unbeknownst to us, she had been finding the constant pressure to perform unbearable. She hadn’t been able to hit the “shut-off” point, and was starting to feel stressed, frustrated – and burned out.
CEO Burnout Isn’t So Rare
Unfortunately, my friend’s story is not an unusual one. CEO burnout happens to a lot of people in high-stress executive positions. It’s not just “one of those things” that you can easily get over – often it means taking time off work to readjust. CEO burnout doesn’t mean you need to call it quits, but it does mean you have to reassess where you’re going wrong.
After all, you simply cannot achieve the results you want if you’re not performing at your optimum. Burnout at the highest level of business happens; the people in charge, who call the shots and always seem so confident and ‘together’ are often as stressed and insecure as their more junior colleagues.
Aside from taking a time-out from your job, there are ways to prevent executive burnout from even happening in the first place. Let’s take a look.
Take Advantage Of All The Fantastic Apps Out There
If there is something in your life that is eating up a lot of your time, the chances are that there is an app that will take care of it. Let’s say cooking dinner each evening is beginning to wear you down. After work, the last thing you want to do is to prepare a meal (probably burning yourself because your focus has already been weakened by the stresses of the day). But on the other hand, you don’t want to gorge on unhealthy TV dinners.
Why not enlist the aid of a food delivery app? You can select a healthy local restaurant, order and wait for the food to be delivered right to your door.
Or, let’s say there is something even more important than food that is weighing you down (I know, heresy! How can there be anything more important than food??). Perhaps you’re finding it hard to manage all your projects and keep on top of tasks. So why not download a project management app, such as Trello, that will help you to manage your schedule?
You could also order a massage, someone to walk your dog, or even a virtual assistant to book and manage your personal appointments. The possibilities to outsource are almost endless.
Have Days Where You Do Nothing
The business world is super competitive, and seems built on a cultural need to keep up with everyone and everything. As such, we’re all scared of doing nothing just in case we fall behind with the pack, and with our work.
However, having days where you do absolutely nothing except chill and unwind is key if you want to avoid burnout. Without these days, you won’t get a chance to refresh, recharge, and reflect. You’re not giving your ideas the chance to incubate. You aren’t giving your brain the chance to breathe.
Take Good Care of Yourself
One of the problems my friend had always had (even before starting her job) was taking care of herself. Her diet had never been fantastic, and she had always had a problem with saying “no” to people. As such, her health really suffered in her high-powered, high-stress job. She was eating poorly, not getting any exercise, and saying “yes” to everyone, which meant she had no time to herself at all.
When you embark on a high-level job, you absolutely have to put yourself first. Set firm boundaries and make sure that you keep them in place. People will understand if you say “no”. You’re busy. Make this special time all about you.
CEOs need to work out to stay on top their game and maintain high performance levels. Exercise can be a big part of this. Working out will keep you feeling positive while ensuring oxygen gets transported around your body efficiently (and make you more productive).
Lastly, you should also get as much sleep as you can. It’s the best way to stay alert and on top of things. If you follow these simple suggestions, you’ll be able to avoid the dreaded CEO burnout. Do you have any other suggestions?
This post is written by Gretchen Shaw. Gretchen is an author, blogger and entrepreneur with a penchant for baking. She is passionate about communication, continued learning and connecting people. You can follow her on Twitter: @shawgret