So I have a confession to make.
Every few months I have what I call a quarterly breakdown. Now it's not as dramatic as it may seem. I just get extremely stressed out, overwhelmed and just want to quit the whole adulting thing cold turkey.
I have irrational thoughts like, “Well, I guess I'll just spend the rest of my life watching Netflix since I'm giving up.” While I've never acted on this thought, it is enough to get me down for about a week, and I am not as productive at anything I'm doing.
When you reach a point where you just feel burned out, and you have no idea how to get yourself out of a rut, I have a simple exercise for you.
While there is no exact name for this practice, it is something I have used for myself time and time again and have given advice to friends before. Follow these steps to get out of a rut you are currently in.
The Reason You are Burned Out
Before you can solve the problem, you have to know what the problem is. My main reasons for burnout are the following:
- I'm doing too much
- I am doing too much and trying to make it perfect
When it feels like life is speeding by without a moment for you to think through your next steps, this is a good indicator that it may be time to take a breathe and reflect. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the task or tasks I am stressing about even necessary?
- Is the task or tasks I am stressing about even worth the stress?
- Will my stress make this task better?
If you answered no to any of the questions above, you are probably in need of this exercise we are about to do. Take a deep breath and calm yourself; because this next step is easy.
Step 1: Find one element in your life to commit to doing exceptionally well.
When I say element I mean one goal in a particular category. When you are spreading yourself too thin, it often results in inadequate progress across all of the elements in your life. If you want to be a perfectionist in something, choose one thing to perfect.
For example, this could mean making sure you get that project done at work perfectly. Or it could mean focusing on losing those extra few pounds you've wanted to lose. Perhaps, it could be making sure you get to bed at a decent hour every night. Whatever it is you choose to commit to, pick only 1!
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Now remember that you will be doing this goal EXCEPTIONALLY well. So write out a plan for it.
If your goal is to get to bed at a certain hour, make a sleep schedule for yourself, set many alarms for yourself to go to bed, get comfy sleepwear, take a melatonin an hour before bed. And then grab some herbal tea and a good book 30 minutes before bed.
GO ALL OUT!
Dedicate yourself entirely to achieving that goal. You want to accomplish it, and it will require focus and commitment. Do not be afraid to go above and beyond here.
Step 2: Do the bare minimum for all the rest
Now I am not saying you should slack off everywhere else. Not at all. But rather do the bare minimum. You should still do good work, but don't kill yourself trying to make it perfect.
Let's get back to the sleep example. You want to get more sleep, but it is not your primary focus right now. Instead of doing all the things I listed above, just try to get in bed by a certain time each night. That's it.
Step 3: Once you get a handle on the item you perfected, move on to another element in your life and perfect it.
They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Once that goal is habitual, meaning you do it now automatically without thinking about it, then you can move on to the next goal to perfect. But the concept is simple when you really work on focusing on your goals one at a time, you have the ability to actually achieve them. And once you achieve one, you move on to the others.
Now, if you are thinking, “I don't have time to focus on one goal at a time! I have many deadlines coming up, and I have to hit several goals at once.” There is an answer for you too!
Well here is the thing, when you focus on one goal at a time with everything you've got, it will benefit other parts of your life at the same time. Going back to our sleep example. Let's say you started getting more sleep every night as a result of it being your goal to focus on for 21 days.
Here are a few of the possible benefits of that:
- You'd have more energy to get more work done during the day.
- You'd be more focused during the day and could do better quality work.
- If you are getting to bed earlier, you are probably getting up earlier, making your day longer so you can get more things done in a given day.
- You'd be happier, and want to do more things with your friends and family, etc.,
But you get the point. When you practice focusing on one thing at a time, it will make you a better person overall. And just because you choose to focus on one thing at a time, does not mean you are a slacker in other areas of your life. It just means you need time to build healthy habits and make all the skills you want to develop, more habitual.
Everyone has their methods to cope with stress and this one works well for me. Remember that as much as we'd all love to be superwoman, we are all human and do have the power to achieve everything we want in life. Just not all at the same time.
If you want more information on developing good habits, a great book I read on the matter is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. If you are working to achieving more in your day to day life, this book will help :D.
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