Last September a friend asked me if I was ok. I thought about it for a minute and replied, “Not really.” I said I was exhausted and on the way to burnout. He said he wondered why I had been such an insensitive jerk of late (It sounds mean, but he was right). I told him I didn’t have anything left in my tank and that something needed to change quick or I was going to continue to be an unpleasant person to be around.
Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to work remotely from Kansas City, MO during the Kansas City Royals playoff run that next month (October, 2015). This gave me freedom to be with family and friends, enjoy attending baseball games (one of my favorite things to do), and slow down my unhealthy work pace.
I ended up attending every October playoff game in KC, and even got to be at games 4 & 5 of the World Series in NYC to see the Royals win it all — a lifelong dream come true. If not for that month of slowing down and separating myself from harmful work rhythms, I’m not sure I would have lasted another month before burning out and/or quitting my job.
Are You OK?
How about you? Are you overwhelmed? When was the last time you had a true day off? Does it seem like you have a million to-dos and no time to complete any of them?
One of the biggest lessons I learned in my 8+ years as an Executive Assistant was this — if you want to accomplish your goals without burning out, you need help. Trying to do everything yourself won’t get you very far and certainly won’t be enjoyable. Whether it’s a full time Executive Assistant, a part time Virtual Assistant or a Personal Assistant, every leader can benefit greatly by hiring a skilled assistant (check out my post on 7 Characteristics of a Good Assistant for more on what a skilled assistant is).
I’m not saying hiring an assistant guarantees you won’t burnout. Burnout can happen (and has happened) to some of the most successful executives, CEOs, pastors, and entrepreneurs in various industries. No one is immune to burnout, and unfortunately it’s becoming more and more common.
The Burnout Epidemic
Arianna Huffington recently announced she is leaving the Huffington Post to focus on a new project called Thrive Global. Huffington wrote in a memo to her staff, “I’ve become more and more passionate — okay, obsessed — with burnout and stress and how we can reduce their impact on our lives.”
In 2012, the World Health Organization reported workplace stress costs businesses $300 billion each year. It’s clear we need help!
So what now?
I believe the most effective antidote to burnout is to hire and empower an assistant who frees up time and energy for you to do what you want — and love — to do. Many of you already have an assistant, but reminding yourself of the reasons why you need one can be a good way to hit the reset button and improve your current situation.
Here are three reasons why you need an assistant:
1. You Need More Time
As a CEO, pastor, or entrepreneur, you are constantly bombarded with texts, emails, blog comments, meeting requests, employee conflicts, budget reviews, social media pings and more. If you don’t have someone protecting you from the madness that every boss faces, you will spend most of your time reacting to what’s “urgent” and have no time left to proactively work on what’s important. A quality assistant frees up your time so you can do what you love to do — which is probably what you were hired to do in the first place.
Some of you are good at working on tasks like booking travel, scheduling meetings, and other day-to-day tasks. But if you truly want more time, energy, and success, it’s not a matter of how good you are at managing your meeting and travel schedule, building a slide presentation, or writing a project proposal. It’s about honestly and regularly asking yourself the question, “Should I be spending time and energy on this particular project or task?”
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help answer that question…
Is this project or task listed in my job description?
If not, is it absolutely necessary for me to do this task to accomplish what IS on my job description?
If so, would it be more efficient to delegate this to someone else on my team?
What long term plan or goal does this project or task fall under?
Do I enjoy this task or does it drain the life out of me?
What is the root behind me wanting to do this? Is it because it’s crucial to my mission and vision? Or do I simply want to look busy to my boss and coworkers? Is it because I didn’t have the courage to say no?
If this task is completed successfully, will it have a positive impact on my overall goals?
2. You Need More Energy
Are you consistently running on fumes by the time you take a lunch break? Freeing up more time in your week won’t help if you don’t have anything left in your tank. A good assistant can help you plan ahead and make good decisions about what you do with your time — today, next week, and next quarter. In fact, an experienced assistant can help you make decisions on the spot. Why is this so crucial to regaining your energy?
Ever heard of “Decision fatigue?” The idea is that your ability to make informed decisions deteriorates throughout the day as you make more and more decisions — big or small. For example, if you spend 5 minutes in the morning deciding what to eat for breakfast or what shirt to wear, you’re using up crucial decision-making energy. “No matter how rational you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.”
Here are a couple of quick tips for conserving your energy for bigger decisions:
Tip 1: Decide what you’re going to wear and what you’re going to eat for breakfast the night before. Maybe even have your assistant put it on your calendar!
Tip 2: Always have your assistant schedule important meetings — where big decisions have to be made — first thing in the morning.
A good assistant can help you make decisions on the spot, but more importantly, they can help you plan your schedule in a way that you are never making big decisions in the afternoon or evening.
Of course, physical energy is just as important as mental energy. A rock star assistant can learn your daily rhythms so they know when you need to workout, grab a cup of coffee, or when you need to take a quick nap. Having an assistant be a second set of eyes on your calendar — and life — is a great way to make sure you get enough exercise and sleep.
In summary, if you’re running out of energy all the time, hire an assistant!
3. You Need More Success
Do you find yourself constantly missing deadlines, showing up late and/or unprepared at meetings, or falling short of revenue projections? Do you have a project (or two, or three) you can’t seem to finish? If so, you’re probably not succeeding at work or life. You’re simply doing for the sake of being busy.
You need to clarify your goals and define what success is for you. Only then will you be able to empower an assistant to navigate all that’s thrown at you, so you can accomplish your goals, without burning out.
Now that you know you need an assistant, check out this post where I talk about 7 characteristics to look for in an assistant.
Have questions? Want one-on-one help with finding an assistant or developing your assistant? I’d love to help! Learn more about my coaching services here.