Overcoming Overwhelm And Beating Burnout (Time Management)

Photo: AdobeStock/gorosi

We espouse the importance of Work Family Climate. Of work/life “balance.” Of living a life we can be proud of. And yet a sense of overwhelm undermines and erodes many lives as well as workplaces.

Burnout results from incessant overwhelm. Overwhelm is often the result of experiencing too much work to be done in too little time.

There’s a million reasons we give as to how we get here, here as in: cramming, rushing, shoehorning, squeezing in, speeding, and short shrifting sleep and relationships. Here as in anxiety, impatience, pressure and exhaustion.

Yet the number one reason is we choose it. Really. We create and perpetuate this experience for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.

I have an incredible respect for time. We spend an average of 2000 hours of our lives at work each year. And I challenge each of us – “What are you going to do with your 2000 hours?” Spend them in life-draining overwhelm?

I just spent this past weekend transforming my relationship with time. Yes, I’m a nerd. And an overwhelm-abyss-creating time optimist. And had to question and evaluate, why am I choosing this experience?

I did an initial search for insights – within, from friends and online experts. And here’s a short list of real reasons as to why we choose to be overwhelmed (please feel free to add to the list!):

  • Enjoy the adrenaline
  • Self-abuse (especially if one is constantly late)
  • Time becomes the scapegoat for choices (this one offered a major mirror moment for me)
  • Proof of being needed, wanted, valued, important
  • Please others
  • Feel like we’re doing enough (veiled driver of feeling good enough)

Possible mirror: Perhaps you transfer the scapegoat piece onto your boss – that his/her expectations drive your chosen insanity. I’m not buying it. We create our own crazy-making and time limitation or expansion. We are neither the victim of time, nor of our bosses.

And regardless of whether you’re a manager or on the frontlines, if your organization claims that Work-Family Climate or Work/Life Balance is important, be respectfully bold and be the change you want to see. And then make your 2000 hours shine.

Albeit uncomfortably, I’m trying to hold the space of time scarcity (as this moment passes and will not return) and slow present gratitude.

So here’s a few things I’m taking on, that if you’re sitting in the boat I was sitting in on Friday (3 weeks of self-created ridiculous time-pressured insanity), feel free to join me in these mindset shifts as well as time management best practices:

Mindset Shift:

  1. Stop pretending time rules my life. I rule my life. If I “don’t have time” for something, I’m really saying I’m choosing something different to do with that time. And verbally express the choice being made and own it.
  2. Change my language around time. Stop using “I’m a victim of time” pressured statements. They are false.
  3. Focus on being in time/enjoying the present (rather than managing it.)
  4. Goooo sloooower sooometiiimes. (Especially when driving – remembering that when I choose to speed I’m recklessly choosing to endanger both my life and those of others.)
  5. Remember – I’m not in a race.
  6. Ask – “How is my heart doing in this very moment, at this breath?” Omid Safi
  7. Manage my mood.
  8. Actively notice new things to be more mindful. Brilliant simple concept from Ellen Langer – http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness/6332
  9. Know that I can create as much, if not more, in less time when my mind is well-rested, focused and clear.
  10. Choose to be a person of increase.

Best Practices:

  • Sunday plan the whole week – focus on my core competencies and what makes me happy
  • Define my top 3 goals the night before each work day
  • For each hour of face to face meeting time, set aside one hour of prep/follow-up time
  • Have a morning ritual that gets me closer to my long term goals
  • Calendar strategic thinking time
  • Schedule meetings for 50 minutes – and end on time
  • Give myself buffer time (especially when driving)
  • Block out time for 15 minute afternoon cat naps
  • Protect sacred accomplishment time in the morning (pick your best productivity/ “flow” time)
  • Microloan my time for non-client support (awesome concept courtesy of Adam Grant)
  • Don’t check email in the morning
  • Before I try to do it faster, ask if it should be done at all
  • Focus is nothing more than eliminating distractions
  • One touch on e-mails and texts (don’t read when I can’t take the time to respond)
  • Set 3-5 anchor events for the weekend
  • Plan something fun for Sunday night

For more great juicy info on evaluating how to strategically spend your time to be a person of increase and not burnout, check out Culture Works. Also available on Amazon.


Kris Boesch is the CEO and Founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom-line. She is a nationally renowned speaker and workplace culture expert.  Boesch is also the author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace and developer of the Choose People 360° Culture Audit. Kris is also a proud mother, dancing diva and dog lover.

Kris Boesch is the CEO and Founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom-line. She is a nationally renowned speaker and workplace culture expert. Kris is also a proud mother, dancing diva and dog lover. Check out Kris's book "Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace" at https://www.CultureWorksBook.com, for more fabulous leadership tips and tools. Learn more about Kris's company at https://www.ChoosePeople.com or book Kris to speak at your next event at https://www.KrisBoesch.com!