Three questions to determine if you’re in burnout mode

What do you do when you’re exhausted, tired and stressed, and you worry that burnout is right around the corner?

Many people experience this; people I coach, or who come up to me after a keynote and say, “I really want to be able to implement the things that you talk about, but I just don’t have anything left to give.” I get it. I’ve been there. You’re prioritizing too many things, for example, juggling kids, work, and volunteering. You are juggling so many things you’re making circus performers jealous! (In fact, I recently interviewed my speaker colleague Christine Laperriere who just released a book about burnout). You are doing the best you possibly can, and yet when you look at your life, tired at the end of a busy day, you worry it’s still not enough.

It is enough.

I was speaking with someone last week who was totally and utterly burnt out. And she knew it. She was getting up at 5:00am to get a jump on emails, leaving the house with her child in tow by 6:30am and at work by 7:30am. She worked through her lunches, attended meetings and crisis responding all day, only to come back to her office by 4:00pm to try to wrap things up and still leaving later than planned. She’d shoulder all the responsibilities of raising her child, then back to handling email with her laptop in bed. Too tired to even have a glass of wine (so it was serious). She woke up feeling defeated and went to bed feeling worse.

Can you relate?

So how do you get back to a place where you can be recharged enough to believe it again?

Well, to start off, I have a few free resources that will help:

  1. 10 Tips to Prioritize What’s Important in Work and Life
  2. Compassion Satisfaction to Compassion Fatigue Chart

You can find them here for download on my website. With these tools, you will have greater clarity. But what next? What more can you do?

Here’s five essential questions you can ask yourself to help you re-calibrate. These solution-focused questions enable you to get back to a resourceful place, feel hope, and take small steps forward.

  1. What do I most want?

What is the most important priority? Is it time for fitness? Getting more leisure in? Going back to school to switch careers? Getting enough sleep every night? Having more family time? Getting off the screen? Write down everything you want, asking yourself “what else, what else” until you are out of ideas. Then circle the three MOST important things you want.

  1. What is possible?

Under the three most important things you want, ask yourself what is possible? What could you do? Get up a half hour earlier? Go to bed sooner? Take a class or two? Read a book a week? Meditate every morning when you wake up? Make Friday nights family night? Walk at lunchtime? Keep asking “what else, what else” to consider every possibility, no matter how wacky!

  1. What is my next step?

Of all the possibilities, what is one step closer toward it? What are all the possible next steps? Which are easy to implement? What are going to have the most impact? What do you enjoy? What could you get help and support for? Of all the options, which is the ONE next step you chose? Remember, if you’re overwhelmed, more than one next step may be too much. Just pick one, and celebrate it before moving on.

Let’s look at how this works in action.

Let’s say you want to exercise more. But you have no more time in the day and you feel overwhelmed just trying to figure out how to make it work. Could you set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and just walk around the block? Could you get a headset and walk around your office while you’re on the phone? Could you walk to the mailbox rather than drive? Could you go to the gym at work before you go home? Could you go to yoga on weekends rather than try to fit it in during the week?

In other words, what will give you some momentum?

It’s essential to start with what you most want, and then when you know what you most want, get creative about what’s possible. If you hate the gym, don’t make it part of your plan! If the weekdays are already too packed, look at weekends! There is always a way that doesn’t have to make you feel guilty, pressured or more stressed.

What we may do instead is say, ” I want to lose 50 pounds” but that goal is so long-term it’s unmotivating. It may not even feel possible. Instead, consider the root of what you want and build possibilities from there.

If there’s one thing you take from this today, please know, if you’re tired and exhausted, perhaps frustrated, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with you. It’s because you’re amazing and you’re trying to do so many things because you’re capable, in demand, and needed.

You don’t have to deplete yourself to still be amazing. In fact, the least selfish thing you can do is to make some of those choices, put some intention towards prioritizing what’s most important, so you can be the best version of yourself, for your family, your community, and in your career.

For more on burnout, check out that interview with Christine Laperriere on Work-Life Wisdom! And enjoy any of the resources we mentioned here and many others at

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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