Hands up if you, when greeting a friend and the typical question of “how you been?” pops up, have said “oh yeah been pretty busy.”
Makes you sound productive and accomplished right?
But are you being productive? Or are you just being busy?
Are you making the most of your time? Or do you fluff about too often and then complain that the important stuff isn’t getting done?
I believe that one of the major causes for this is that we try to cram in too much. As a culture we feel that being busy makes us important and that all these things we are cramming makes our work and daily tasks valid and of value.
Is everything you’re trying to achieve being achieved with the quality and standards you intended? Or do you feel like you’ve just got a tonne of balls to juggle and praying that one doesn’t hit the deck?
I believe you have only so much to give. The buzz word at the moment is ‘bandwidth’, I don’t know if I like that term or not, but it makes sense. What happens when you overload your computer or try to download a tonne all at once? Everything slows down and not one thing is given 100% focus. You can only fit so much in to your day/week/month before your brain starts to scatter, you can’t focus on anything, you feel as though there is SO MUCH to do but you don’t know what, and your wife starts getting pissed at you for being too busy and forgetting shit.
We tend to add add add, do more do more do more without actively looking to sacrifice, delegate, automate or re-prioritise what we are currently doing. If we continue down this path of adding, a few things ultimately happen.
1/ You start dropping some balls without even noticing. Most notably your diet, your physical health and your relationships… probably the three most important balls hey?
2/ The ‘important’ tasks don’t seem to be getting completed.
Burnout is the real f’ing deal. You don’t know that you’re on the verge of burning out, in the middle of burnout, or well cooked until long after it has happened.
How do I know? I have burnt out before.
I was completely unable to identify my burnout until long long after. Burnout builds up over considerable time, months or even years. But now on reflection I can pinpoint the exact time it hit critical…
4th year of running CrossFit Cranbourne, 4th year of trying to run everything all by myself on the backend, while coaching 20+ classes a week.
The stresses and pressure from my business is building from doing too much for too little for too long, with the uncertainty of positive changes on the horizon.
Home broken into while my wife, daughter and I slept. I was so extremely tired I ignored the noise Court thought she could hear coming from downstairs. My car is stolen, we never feel safe in that house again.
Gym broken into, twice. IPads and petty cash stolen, plus hefty excess insurance fees for repairing a smashed door twice.
One of my best mates weddings, he was my best man at my wedding. I’m a groomsman at his. He passed on the idea of making me his best man because he could tell I had too much on my plate already to do the job right.
We’re invited to join them in Bali after the wedding. Came home for the first time not feeling one ounce relaxed. A very strange feeling.
One of our good coaches leaves once we get home.
Uncover some really foul and damaging toxicity amongst my gym community that I was oblivious to.
All of these events happened in or around August 2016, all except the business stress which was a slow burn. But if put yourself under some slow burning pressure, then get yourself hit with a tonne of hefty shit while under the pump, how are you going to manage?? Not when running the gym alone.
What were my burnout symptoms?
Exhausted – But able to shake it when needed.
Denial – You are fine you can get through it.
Memory Loss – I have always considered myself a person with a great memory, but most of 2015 and 2016 is an absolute blur. That scares the hell out of me.
Snappy and Angry – Struggle to look at yourself as the problem or the cause of problems, only others.
Just Fine – Whilst in the middle of a fun or exciting event (my mates wedding), sometimes nothing seemed to be wrong. Though my focus wasn’t completely there.
Finality – Complete unshakable exhaustion. Inability to focus quality attention on any task, any person or even any simple thoughts. Like the thickest fog you’ve ever driven through, so thick you really shouldn’t be driving. A fog so thick that no task can now be completed without some drastic change.
How do we avoid burnout, clear the head and get shit done effectively and efficiently again?
We do less.
Delegate, automate, re-prioritise and sacrifice. And! Be very honest with yourself, how much you can handle and how much you are potentially holding yourself back by overloading yourself.
Being ‘busy’ isn’t a good thing. It is a stupid thing. The cultural norm that we must fill up 8 hours a day in order to justify our worth at work is idiotic. Our worth in our work should be valued by how efficient, effective and productive we can be in as minimal a time as possible.
Luckily at the time of my burnout I crossed paths with a few people at the right time. These people helped me get honest with what was going well at the gym and what needed drastic change in order for us to run efficiently AND effectively.
Today I am a pretty darn good task delegator and system automator. I have a kick arse team that I am grateful for each and every day. I also have a virtual assistant who is so darn good that I most definitely have a secret-not-secret work style love for her. This team makes the gym 20x the place it was with just me.
But it is hard to let go of things you are in complete control of. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that by doing everything, I was unable to serve in my very best and most effective way. If I was in the trenches doing all of the backend work, cleaning, membership odds and ends, calls, bookings, orders, pays, programming, coaching… there is absolutely no way I could do the quality things I do now to serve our members better… these weekly emails, weekly head staff meetings, coaching development, one on one goals chats, creating valuable content, podcasting, increased fitness, health and nutrition education, have time to myself to think and learn and then share again…
I am currently in the middle of a damn busy time. And that is okay, sometimes we get busy. But just as long as all this ‘busy’ is actually productive, effective and has an endpoint. Because you can’t keep on at this level of ‘busy’ for too long.
So yesterday, Shannon, Kristie and I wrote out all of our weekly tasks and looked into what we can delegate and automate, and what is most important. It was bloody liberating!
This is how we did it…
Write down EVERY single task you do each week. *Asterisk only a few things that are most important. -Dash what you could potentially delegate or automate into an easier system
xCross what is a stupid waste of time
Then… do it again. Then… automate, delegate or remove tasks AND re-prioritise what is most important
Next minute, you’re doing a tonne less and doing it with style!
‘Less is not laziness. Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.’ – Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour work Week.
One last thing to add which I have been working on myself and have been getting Shannon and Kristie to do…
1/ Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
2/ which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?
Those 20% of sources that are causing so much grief and struggle for so little return… cut them, delegate them, automate them.
Those 20% of sources that are doing wonders for you and your returns… do more of them! Find more work like that! Surround yourself with more people like them!
“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” – Bruce Lee