Are that many of us REALLY burned out or on the verge? The simple answer is YES! I am on the edge myself – well, I WAS until this weekend. Even if you are already burned out, you can still find a way out. These are a few steps that anyone can take to stop the burnout madness. It’s the process I’m following.
The first step, for me, in dealing with the burnout issue was determining how I got myself into that position. I volunteer too much. If someone needs help moving, I’m there. If I’m personally asked to serve in a position at church, I tend to accept the invitation. If I think it sounds like fun, I volunteer. This led me to teaching children on Wednesday nights, volunteering every four out of five services in one capacity or another, and in time, bump up against the burnout wall.
I think of the burnout wall as the concrete outside wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (home of the Indy 500). By running a car fast enough, the driver runs the risk of drifting too far outside and bumping up against that wall. For some drivers, it’s only a slight bump, for others, it’s a full slam against the wall and the end of the race. By volunteering (or even over-working in a paid position), I run the risk of hitting that wall.
Last year, I ended my Wednesday evening volunteering. I thought this would help but all it did was give me more energy to volunteer for other opportunities. I found myself volunteering for another ministry that met less often but still required more time and energy. Net change – Zero.
Step Number Two – Just Say No
Over the last few months I made small changes which included saying no to volunteer opportunities and pulling out from non-Sunday volunteer positions. For me, it wasn’t enough. It was a necessary step but not the solution.
Are you one of those who are totally burnout out? Let me guess, you volunteer (or work) nearly every Sunday and rare is the time you can worship by yourself or with your family. That’s where I found myself. I wasn’t quite burned out but I could hear an voice in my head saying “a storms a comin’.” It was an Irish voice – not really sure why.
Step Number Three – MAKE A BIG CHANGE
I play(ed) in a worship band. That meant practices outside of Sunday and weekly practices as well. Thus came the ax. I contacted the pastor and the worship leader and explained the burnout issue and they fully supported me. But ya know sumpin? Even if they would not have been supportive, it still would have been the right change for my life.
Now I’m at a place where my volunteering at church is drastically reduced and I can now sit with my family for a majority of the services, not a minority as before.
Step Four – Get Away
Take a vacation! For me, I went to Las Vegas. Oh, hush now with the judgment. I [used to] work with Fireproof Ministries; xxxchurch.com and heartsupport.com are a few of their ministries. Anyway, they do a lot of ministry work in Vegas and I attended the annual fundraiser. Packing my bag for the short trip, I made one promise to myself – do not do anything related to work while on vacation. This meant no thinking about work, no writing out ideas about work, no reading books or magazines related to work, no – nada – nothing related to work!
The result was waking up after my vacation with a clear head. The brain is like a filing cabinet. At some point, papers don’t get filed, drawers fill up, and it’s completely unorganized. My vacation was a file cabinet cleaning. It was like a wind blowing all the files away – in a good sort of way.
Step Five – Priority List
Today, I started fresh. My first order of business was making a priority list.
The list is everything in which I’m currently volunteering, everything that I work on (work, this site,etc), and everything that is a priority (wife, family, God, etc). I found it best to start with a high-level list. For example, I listed “Church Audio” for my work at church instead of all the to-do stuff I have such as (train so-and-so, fix this-and-that, etc).
Step Six – Cull The List
Cut down the list to the items that really matter. In my case, my list is down to seven items. These include Church Audio, this web site, Family, God and a few others. Family and God are the most important so if you aren’t sure what to cut, look for items that negatively affect those two. Cut items can include volunteer positions so don’t forget to tell the right person that you are no longer available. “Sorry, you didn’t make the list!” This is a great time to pray about any topics in which you aren’t sure.
Step Seven – Free Your Mind
Perform a brain dump. Write down everything in your head. This means everything that you’ve been trying to remember – upcoming birthday, take out trash, buy milk, send so-and-so an email. EVERYTHING. This gets you yet another list and an empty head. Empty head = less stress. With the new list (I’ve been using this method for a while), organize it. Every entry falls under DO, DELEGATE, DUMP. Dump means it’s not necessary and you can forget about it. Delicate means you get someone else to do it (church secretary, one of your kids, a co-worker, etc.) This leaves you with a DO list. Now look for anything that can be done in less that two minutes and DO IT. This is usually phone calls, emails, stuff like that. Finally, you now have a manageable TO-DO list. Add to it throughout the day so you don’t cram your brain with it. The next day, run the list through the DO, DELEGATE, DUMP process.
As a note, I find it best to do anything that takes less than two minutes WHEN it comes up. This stuff never even makes the list.
My dayplanner has the do/delegate/dump list on it along with an “Objective for today.” This “Objective” is a great way tackle one big item from my to-do list each day.
Step Eight – Reflect
At this point, I’m no longer volunteering for everything at church, I have withdrawn from positions which were contributing to the burnout process, I have a priority list, and a working to-do list. Reflecting on the lists, I ask myself if the results are reasonable for my life. I find there can be items on my to-do list that have become so complex / time-demanding; they need to go on the priority list as well. I might discover that the time required by my to-do list impacts my priority list and therefore my priority list might need to change.
Step Nine – Regular Re-Assessment
Every day, I review my to-do list. Every week, I review my priority list. Every day and every week, I’m spending a small amount of time reviewing the demands on my life so I don’t run up hard and fast against the burnout wall.
This is what works for me. There are a variety of books, DVD’s, and training programs on preventing burnout and managing your life. Therefore, I’ll tell you the best move you can make today;
1. Find a window you can open.
2. Open it.
3. Stick out your head.
4. Yell as loud as you can, “I’M STOPPING THE BURNOUT MADNESS!”
5. Do something…ANYTHING…so that each day, your life becomes more and more livable.
QUESTION(S): What’s the first item you will drop from your busy life?