Focus on How: Navigating Burnout

I wanted to check in on my blog friends/readers as we prepare to enter spring – how are things going?

How are you progressing with the goals you set in January? How have they evolved?

One focus area that has come up frequently is burnout.

Sales professionals battle burnout routinely – this is a result of hustle culture and the ever changing demands of quotas, deal cycles and constant motion. While sales keeps us going and is always inviting us to new challenges – sometimes the grind of ‘hiking to the mountaintop’ just to fall back down and restart after a deal closes can be exhausting.

Burnout has a lot of causes for sales professionals, but I think it is on the rise because we have a heightened aware about what’s going on around us outside of work since COVID. Somehow things that seemed to matter like ‘Circle of Excellence’ and awards – aren’t as important after two years into a pandemic. We realize our priorities have been a little out of whack. Companies are shifting their culture to listen more dynamically with employees through tools (like Qualtrics EX) – but there is a void we are still trying to navigate as individuals.

We are not robots it is hard to turn off the ‘noise’ from the news when we see things that are happening around us. My heart breaks for Ukraine.

How do we balance personal and professional goals while being empathic and engaged to the world around us?

I speculate that a lot of burnout is being driven by the fact we have a different perspective on priorities and recognizing our worth. Working till ten p.m. and missing family activities (or personal time) outside of work to close a deal or race towards a promotion is no longer an expectation we are willing to meet. That is not to say sales professionals don’t want to hustle and be all in – but as humans we are still trying to heal from the pain of the pandemic and beyond.

It is important to set boundaries to recharge – so when you are working you are fully present and not simply going through the motions.

In the past I used to power through burnout and usually came out fine – at first – but six months or a year down the road – it came back. No one could see that I was burned out – most sales professionals learn how to hide it well by throwing ourselves deeper into work, but this past year I realized it is okay to pause.

Burnout is not failure – nor is it fatal as long as you are open to acknowledging it and reflecting on action you can take for healing and focusing on how to move past burnout.

Burnout is our mechanism of warning that we need to change course. And that is okay. The problem is that try to ignore burnout so long that we get into a spot where:

  • We aren’t functioning at our top potential – sometimes it shows, sometimes you can hide it – but it is frustrating and you feel stuck
  • You get bitter and irritated quickly
  • You work harder but are behind on projects
  • You get the ‘blues’ every day and dread going to work

This happens to people who really love their jobs and then guilt kicks in and the voice of shame.

As a Christian I pray through these situations and ask for wisdom (logic) because I know the enemy is up to his tricks – when I hear my thoughts race ‘you are not good at your job,’ or ‘this job is a waste of time.

Balance is key – we need balance – even if we are passionate about our work if we don’t set boundaries burnout will happen and it could be devastating or enact impactful change.

Keys to battling burnout:

  • I recommend reaching out to a therapist and/or coach – just to vent and have the opportunity to speak with an unbiased and friendly voice who can listen to understand what you are going through and help brainstorm an action plan
  • Make a list of what is frustrating you and why. Think about whether or not this frustration is a direct result of being burnt out (you can’t focus because you aren’t getting enough sleep – the focus actually is not because of your job – but the fatigue of burnout) or
    • is the trigger/problem something that has led to burnout (overworked, difficult manager, pay structure, not enjoying projects at work, etc)
    • Figure out what you can control and how you can internally improve the situations leading or resulting from burnout so you feel both empowered and refreshed
      • Employees can become bitter from burnout due to ongoing issues and bottlenecks that aren’t fixed at work. When they don’t feel empowered to do their job properly/enact change they can become disengaged and irritated at minor issues that are easily fixed
        • It is hard to look at the glass half full when you are burnt out but you have to do your best to be objective and take ownership.
        • Be accountable in areas where you can fix things and see the positives in the situation. Jumping to a new position or role won’t solve anything if you haven’t dealt with the roots of the burnout before enacting personal/professional change
  • Sometimes you need to rethink your career goals: It is okay to leave your job if it is a bad fit. No job or situation is worth your mental and physical health – however be sure to have worked to identify if the environment can be changed before you quit. Leaving a job with potential that you have experience at just because of frustration needs to be discerned. Pray on it, speak transparently with your managers/HR and trusted confidants. Sometimes the burnout is a blessing to push you to move forward into a new job and grow personally/spiritually

Quick Tips that have helped me battle burnout in the past:

  • Taking time to pray daily. I am a person of faith and setting thirty minutes a day just to sit and speak with God about my issues and to listen in quiet has helped me. It helps to have quiet time to just meditate on what is working and also thinking through ‘How can I solve this problem’ Prayer helps! Sales Professionals certainly need a miracle or two when it comes to closing deals 🙂 (prayerful humor)
  • Exercise: Even if it is a twenty minute walk around the neighborhood – sitting at our desk all day – especially in the WFH era has led to poor health and more stress. I ended up with pinched nerve from sitting all day. Block off time on your calendar for a walk/exercise – it will do wonders
  • Phone a friend – it is important to have a circle of confidants you can speak with candidly about your day – co-workers, friends, family , counselors. The rule I suggest though is limit the venting – give yourself and your friend each five to ten minutes to ‘vent’ and then look to discuss constructive changes to fix the problem – or better yet don’t talk about work at all
  • Make time for your hobby! I gave up voice and music for many years because it didn’t seem relevant to focus on my passions when I needed to give all my time to hitting quota and promoting up the chain – but actually music was an outlet that kept me grounded. I picked voice lessons up during the pandemic and it helped me to be more engaged at work. Hobbies are important and blocking off time to learn and grow personally and professionally feeds our soul and mind.

Focus on HOW – While this is the sales method I came up with to simplify deal cycles and connect with clients – Focus on HOW extends beyond sales into professional and personal goals.

Focus on HOW means you are constantly examining where you are in the process and how can you improve and move forward. I recommend taking five minutes every morning to quickly reflect on how you feel, how can you overcome any frustrations, what are your goals and how can you tackle them throughout the day.

At night – focus on examining how the day went – releasing your frustrations and celebrating your successes and remembering to encourage yourself (forgive any failures, accept successes and focus on how you can continue to build on what you’ve learned)

Hope this helps!

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