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Returning to work after the Pandemic

How to help innovative and creative people sustain high performance

How do you maintain pace and quality of work, without burning out your staff? It’s a concern expressed by many people we work with in innovative, creative, and high pressured environments.

You’ll recognise the scenario… Intense periods of work followed by periods of low quality output when people are stressed and tired - even resulting in some becoming unwell and needing time off. There’s no doubt, the burnout cycle has a huge cost for organisations, and particularly, individuals.

In this article, we share some of our tips to help leaders and their teams work sustainably as high performers (and no, it’s not about having lots of rest).


We can’t all slow down and switch off

Our lives and work are often fast-paced. It’s no wonder there’s been a deluge of books telling us to slow down, rest and switch off our technology. These are all useful to a point, but the best rhythm of life is unique to each of us.

Much writing on the topic assumes people see work as a necessity - whereas most of the people we work with genuinely love their work for its own sake. They wouldn’t want to stop and, with a few adjustments in mindset and focus, they don’t have to.

So how can you find the right rhythm for you and thrive by working sustainably - while doing what you love?


1) Remind yourself why you’re doing it

It’s all too easy to forget the ‘why’ you are doing something. Connecting back to the reason and purpose for both your work and other areas of your life will provide direction and inspiration. The ‘why’ should be a benefit for you even if it is about others.

For example, if you want to make the world a better place, that’s a very altruistic statement but remember to connect to the ‘why’ for you. Why is that important for you? It could make you feel good that you’ve made a difference - it’s important to recognise that fact to yourself even if it’s not something you’d share with others.


2) Keep a learning mindset and continue to broaden your horizons

Us humans are built for life long learning. By continuing to broaden your mind, trying new things, and challenging yourself you maintain a sustainable rhythm whilst continuing to develop as a person. This is a core burnout prevention strategy.

How you do this can be wide ranging, for some it’s academic learning. For others it could be hobbies, volunteering, or developing existing skills. If your work is really core to who you are (some people are allergic to hobbies!) then doing something that relates to your work has the same effect. The key is to explore breadth rather than depth.

For example, I could learn more and more psychological models and theories, that would be going deep, but this year I plan to take my Pilates teacher training. Whilst the former would be interesting and no doubt gives me more tools I can use in my work, the latter expands my experience into the psychophysical and will help me to understand the mind body connection better.


3) Relationships, relationships, relationships

We cannot stress enough how important healthy relationships of all kinds are as a foundation for working sustainably. Pretty much every piece of research on burnout has good relationships highlighted as either a prevention strategy or a recovery strategy.

An understanding supportive partner, friends, and colleagues you can talk to openly and without fear of criticism are all absolutely key to a healthy life in general, particularly if you also put a lot of yourself into your work. On the other hand, codependencies, game playing, control games are all toxic, and apart from being very difficult emotionally, also drain away much needed energy and focus from what’s important.


4) Invest your time and energy where you can really add value

No-one can be great at everything and people often burn out trying to be all things to all people. Instead, take time to consider where your true gifts or expertise is and where you can add value. This is particularly true of people in fast growing organisations.

When organisations are small many people are required to roll their sleeves up and do many things, but then try to hang onto them when the organisation grows and needs to hire in expertise in certain areas. This is both a recipe for burnout and failure. Instead, focus your energy and effort where it is most valued and where you stand the best chance of achieving success.


In conclusion

While you may not want to slow down the pace of your work and output, a review of why you do what you do, what you are learning and the people around you will help keep your focus on track. As part of this, consider whether you can really do as much as you do. You may enjoy it all but spreading yourself too thinly may impact performance. As high performers tend to make their organisations grow it stands to reason that responsibilities grow with them. Some of the world’s best performers, whether in creative fields, sport or business, are experts because they focus on one thing - and do it very well.


For further information

Burnout can be highly dangerous, particularly if the signs are being ignored or not spotted. People tend to find they are the worst at spotting their own burnout. Which is why we wrote this recent blog.

If you feel that a greater mastery of your time would help you sustain high performance, why not find out how to take greater control of that with our Time Mastery programmes?


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