The Key Ingredient to Avoid Burnout


Are you a member of the “work hard / play hard” club? I used to be a member, and yet, I found that this philosophy is flawed.

Many advocates of the work hard / play hard mentality are extremely driven and passionate individuals who want to milk the essence from life.

But the challenge with this approach is that if you approach play in the same way that you approach work, it can cause burn out. The “play hard” department is the key place where you need to recharge.

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss that productivity is driven by managing energy not time. The authors state that we are either spending energy or renewing energy: “We’re not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Science tells us we’re at our best when we move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy.”

I am not against fun, passionate play. But I saw some of my coaching clients playing in the same way they were working. Quite frankly, they created little time for renewal and they were burning out. Burn out puts an intense tax on the core systems of the body and can have long-term consequences.

One of my favorite stories is that of the lumberjacks (from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). In the story, the lumberjack who could cut down the most trees in one day would win the competition. Each lumberjack had the same type of saw and started at the same time.

One of the lumberjacks continued to leave and return. His competitors witnessed him coming and going and believed they would win the contest. At the end of the day, they counted the wood and the lumberjack who had left won by quite a margin.

The losers blurted out, “How can this be? You left several times throughout the day and we worked harder and longer than you. Clearly one of us should have won!”

The winner smiled and explained that each time he left he did so to sharpen his saw.

If you are a member of the work hard / play hard club I invite you to consider how often you allot time to rest, renew, and rejuvenate as part of your play.

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