Habits That Cause Burnout in Force Multipliers

As Force Multipliers (Executive Assistants, Chiefs of Staff), we live in a culture of hustle and bustle! The line between dedication and depletion can oftentimes blur together without us even realizing it. It’s important not to overlook the warning signs of burnout when they are staring us right in the face. 

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. According to a recent article on Entrepreneur.com, there are 8 Bad Work Habits that Can Lead to Burnout. As I was mentally checking off the ones I was guilty of, I realized how many of these habits seem particularly relevant to Force Multipliers as a whole, given the nature of the role. Give the list below a scan and give yourself a score based on how many of these apply to you…

Work Habits That Lead to Burnout

  1. Neglecting Self-Care: Neglecting your needs for your job results in harm to your physical, emotional and mental well-being. This leads to chronic stress, exhaustion, and inevitably, burnout. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Take a walk at lunch, eat well, sleep well, and carve out time for things that you enjoy. 
  2. Negative Thinking: Negative thinking can take many forms and we all might fall victim to it from time to time. It can include catastrophizing, pessimism, and self-doubt. I know for me, I catastrophize (imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event) often. To combat this, it’s important to practice mindfulness and positive self-talk. When you find yourself spiraling, I encourage you to bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on your strengths and accomplishments rather than on your perceived shortcomings. 
  3. Lack of Boundaries: This one hits a little too close to home. It’s something we talked about in a recent blog post about work/life balance—when you fail to establish clear boundaries between work and your personal life, you might easily find yourself in a situation where you don’t feel like you can ever turn work off. I suggest setting boundaries early, and if needed, remind yourself and your Founder of them often. 
  4. Multitasking: I used to think multitasking was a good thing—something positive and productive—but recent studies have shown that multitasking is actually a detrimental myth. Now, I think it’s better to be committed to calendar blocking and scheduling your priorities. Multitasking, by nature, requires you to constantly be switching your attention between tasks, which can cause mental exhaustion. Pick your focus and get it done; then move on to the next. 
  5. Perfectionism: Perfectionism is a common habit for many Force Multipliers—it drives many of us to set high standards for ourselves and produce high-quality work. That being said, it can lead to excessive self-criticism, which in turn leads to burnout. Remember that “good enough” is often better than perfect and doesn’t make you a failure—it makes you better at prioritizing. But if you still feel like a failure for a less than perfect job, remind yourself that failing forward is a good thing. We all make mistakes. It is how we grow from that that paves the way for our future. 
  6. Overcommitment: Overcommitment can go hand in hand with a lack of boundaries (or having boundaries that aren’t clear enough to yourself and others). It can also be caused by people-pleasing tendencies and the fear of missing out on an opportunity, amongst other things! It’s okay to check your availability before giving an automatic “yes” to a request. And even if you do have the time, does the request align with your values and priorities? Take it from a chronic “yes” girl, saying “no” is healthy and often more necessary than you think. 
  7. Individualism: Individualism as it relates here, is the fear of asking for help when we really need it, or when we just prefer to handle everything on our own. In both of these situations, you end up taking on more responsibilities than you can handle on your own and it leads to you feeling stressed, exhausted, and alone. Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure—it makes you a team player, a great delegator, and a human being. Ask for help and let people help you when they offer. Collaboration and delegation are powerful tools to have in your toolbox!
  8. Poor time management: Effective time management is crucial to prioritizing your workload and avoiding overwhelm. This article provides many helpful strategies to try, like creating to-do lists, breaking tasks down into small chunks, automating data-processing tasks, delegating when appropriate, and using technology as a tool! Some of my favorite tools are listed in this past blog post.

How did you score? Were only a few of them applicable? Are you guilty of all 8? Either way, I encourage you to take a look at those habits. How can you create healthier ones in their place? Don’t wait until you’re at a breaking point to address your burnout. Don’t let your passion for work evaporate into a sense of obligation before you decide to do something about how you are feeling. It’s important as Force Multipliers to challenge the culture of overwork and redefine success to include both professional achievements and personal well-being!

Our Founders can play a huge role in creating and fostering a work environment that promotes work-life balance, open communication, and support for mental health issues. Please make sure your principal is meeting your needs too. This kind of partnership is a two way street. If your cup is empty and about to tip off the table, there is no way you can fill theirs.

If you are currently feeling the effects of burnout, know you are not alone. Your struggles are valid. There is hope ahead of you. Reach out for help, whether that be from your principal or your support network at work or at home. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. You are doing great. 🙂

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