Outsmart the pandemic and put burnout in the rear view
Why is the problem burnout? If we flip that thought, the challenge should be how can we take advantage of this rare opportunity. For most of us, when else have we not been in the office, no commutes, and intense time with our household?
We need to maximize this time in our life and rethink everything. We can thrive even more than before.
Productivity and positivity leads to greater success — we know this! Here are 8 aspects where I’ll offer a Classic tip that still works, and a new Game Changer that will elevate us even more.
1. Thriving Morning Routine
One of my absolute favorites — the morning routine! Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to wake up even earlier!
A Classic component of the morning routine is to drink lots of water when you wake up. The body is naturally dehydrated from all those hours of sleep and hence you’re groggy. Before reaching for that cup of coffee, chug a glass or two of water.
“Studies show that even mild dehydration can cause headaches, lower our energy levels, and impair our ability to concentrate. To make staying hydrated easier, try spicing up your water game by adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or strawberry.” — @jenfish23 on @thrive
A new Game Changer twist is to collect several different “go-to, tried and true” morning routines. In other words, as you’re experimenting with your morning routines, make a note of which ones are effective and why.
Here are 3 variants of my morning routine:
- Hydrate, Coffee, Work
- Hydrate, Work for 1 hr (knockout easy tasks), Exercise for 1 hr, Cold Shower, then Coffee and Work resumes (start by identifying top 1–2 priorities)
- Hydrate, Exercise for 1 hr, Meditate, Cold Shower, then Coffee and Work (start by identifying top 1–2 priorities)
Takeaway is that some parts of the morning routine never change, such as hydrating first and identifying the top priorities for the day. What is adjustable is when I exercise and meditate. It depends on a number of factors — is my body tired, do I have deep work that needs to be done, is my afternoon busy and therefore I should exercise while I can?
2. Thriving Empathy
When you’re feeling burnt out, the last thing you have the capacity to do is to take care of others. That’s why so many people give the advice to “take care of yourself first, in order to take care of others.” I never liked that advice because it sounds so selfish. Yet, there is a positive truth in that statement — if you’re burnt out, then chances are you’re gonna be ruthless to those around you!
The Classic advice to increase our empathy for others is, “put yourself into their shoes.” I go one step (pun intended) further and try to imagine all of their life — how were they raised, what are their core values, what are their insecurities, etc. The more we try to empathize, the better off your relationship will be… and that’s one less stress in your life.
The new Game Changer I’m learning recently is a twist on the meditation principle of being present in the moment. Meditation teaches us how to be completely in the present moment, and not to let the mind wander towards the past or future. From Headspace founder, Andy Puddicombe, he states the mind is greedy. The mind is constantly wanting/desiring or pushing away from something.
For example, my mind is looking forward to a Yellowstone trip, anxious about the flight there (first time in over a year!), wondering if I need to buy any new gear (I don’t, but I’d like to!), and worried about the long list of to-do’s to get ready for it.
The technique Puddicombe introduces is to use the word THIS. Simply describe the moment you’re in with the word THIS, and it helps direct your mind into the present moment. By getting the mind into the present moment, the stress falls away and your greedy mind can take a rest… for a bit.
3. Thriving (Digital) Mindset
We know in order to achieve maximum success, it’s not just following what’s already been done. We need to have a strategic mindset to anticipate the future, then guide ourselves (and others) towards that destination.
“They take action, doing things no one else is doing or has done, with no assurance they will succeed.” — @geoffcolvin in @FortuneMagazine 
Yikes, that sounds scary! Let’s acknowledge that it’s scary to put yourself out there all by yourself, where you might fall flat on your face. There are no assurances. Yet, we do it because we’re risk-takers, there’s no reward without risk, and, well, that’s just who we are. #trendsetters.
The Classic advice for strategists is to be competent at both developing and executing a plan. In other words, it’s not enough to just describe a lofty vision. You need to be able to lay out a step-by-step, detailed plan on how to get from point A to point B. Like GPS directions, you’ve got to be able to tell people when to turn left, turn right, or maybe stop and reassess because you’re lost.
My Game Changing tip is to increase your digital savviness. No matter your age or your proficiency on computers, you’ve got to push your limits in knowing what digital tools are out there.
“The pandemic has accelerated a trend that has been unfolding over the last decade. As the world has grown more digital and complex, the range of decisions that leaders need to make has broadened, spanning from big picture strategic thinking to careful execution, to advancing technology roadmaps and upskilling and engaging employees.” — @HarvardBiz 
So, how do you do this? Easy, invest some time learning the most popular apps or websites. Register, download, and just play around in them. Use your current project as a test case or make up one, just to see how it works. The bottomline is by learning new digital tools, you’ll be able to mentally imagine how different workflows could work, converse more readily, and have more great ideas because you’ll be unconsciously cross-pollinating ideas.
Here’s a few to get you started: Slack, Todoist, Scrivener, Mindnode, and Evernote.
4. Thrive By Being Uncomfortable
“…over the past year even as their lives remain stuck in an endless cycle of old routines, exhaustion, and guilt, and misaligned with what matters most. If you feel this way, you’re not alone.” — @StewFriedman @alyssawestring 
People talk about being uncomfortable in order to grow all the time. But let’s be serious, how many of us actively seek out being uncomfortable. I know I didn’t sign up to be a TED Talk speaker nor do I volunteer for crazy hard projects! So, let’s get real with our advice. These are realistic, practical advice that you can and should take advantage of, especially during the tailend of this pandemic while you can.
A Classic advice is to cultivate your hobbies. Not singular, plural. Hobbies expose you to new things, and because you’re inherently interested in them, you’re open to the low-level uncomfortableness.
“A hobby helps you spend time with yourself, which also helps you grow as a person. It is important to set aside time for your hobby to energize yourself and keep the learning going. I love photography, and I’m reading about new advancements. Planting has piqued my curiosity as well, and I see myself spending a lot of time in my small home garden.” — @alexandrafh in @thrive 
My Game Changing tip is to reinvent yourself. The ultimate in being uncomfortable is to be someone new! Let me explain — use your hobbies to springboard yourself into a new, deeper persona. If you like photography, you’re now a professional photographer. If you dabble in blogging, podcasting, or programming, you’re now an auteur in that field!
“If you are a Jack-of-all-trades, you can now expect to be in-demand, so long as you find a niche to apply your different skills and interests.
Instead, broaden your career horizons to expand your self-concept, reimagine your potential in the most wide-ranging and diversified way, and be open to unusual choices.” — @drtcp in @HarvardBiz 
5. Thriving Time Management
One of the “tried and tested” techniques to get more done is time blocking your calendar. Simply block off your own calendar for specific purposes to get that thing done.
For years I’ve been using the Classic advice of time blocking and it’s indispensable. As a practitioner of productivity, I use my work calendar to schedule large chunks of time to get specific tasks done by the due date. In my personal life, I mentally block off time to spend time with people, work on Venture Out, to exercise, group errands together, etc.
The Game Changer tip I want to introduce is to redefine the major domains of your life.
- Typical Domains: Career/work, Family, Friends, and Personal Time (exercise, tv, etc.)
- Redefined Domains: Relationships, Skills, Experiences, and Destressing
Relationships can now be anything related to cultivating a bond. Of course this includes your core family, it extends to your friends and social networks, but not it also includes (and prioritizes) career relationships. Make time to connect with your coworkers, boss, and mentors.
Skills are predominantly going to be what you do to make a living, i.e. your job. If you’re in business, then it’s learning and sharpening your business skills. If you’re an engineer, it’s being a better designer and operator. Or like me, I’m a project manager so I need to devote time to learning the principles of running bigger and bigger projects. This also applies to our hobbies, such as time to be a better artist, photographer, gardener, etc.
Experience is what life’s all about, right?! Traveling, seeing the world, eating culinary delights, and chilling on the beach is what a lot of people seek out of life. So, block off time for it now. Not later in retirement, but now.
Finally, we’re only human and we need to destress. Turning off the mind let’s our brain recover, and just like any other muscle, it’ll be stronger the next time we stress it. For me, that’s a toss up between watching movies or exercising.
How are you going to redefine the major domains of your life?
6. Thriving Workflows
A workflow, to me, is basically a sequence of actions that are automated/streamlined, to achieve something. For example, when I take a shower, the workflow is: turn on the water so it’ll start getting hot, turn on Alexa if in the mood for music, then it’s conditioner, soap, face wash, and apply lotion. I know, that’s super exciting and you’re wondering why are you still reading Venture Out.
With productivity and positivity, what are all the workflows in our life and are they contributing to our life in the optimal way? During this pandemic, burnout has been a theme because everyday has been looking the same (groundhog day!). That’s why I’m flipping that around and asking, why aren’t we absolutely thriving right now? I want you to make the most out of this situation and (re)discover workflows that’ll propel us further.
A Classic workflow that has always worked for me is my evening routine — before bed, picking out what I’m wearing to work the next day, packing my lunch, and getting my gym bag loaded. With the pandemic, that effort is minimized but it’s still useful. If I’m exercising in the morning, I set aside my workout clothes and preload any music, audio book, or training guide. I encourage you to reexamine your evening routine.
“I’ve found that when my projects or team change, I almost always end up changing my productivity system, too — looking for apps that will do a better job.” — @awsamuel in @HarvardBiz 
The Game Changer workflow tip I have for you today is to find a repetitive task you do everyday and assign it the function of centering yourself, forcing yourself to come back to the moment of THIS.
For me, it’s been how I assemble a cup of my cold brew coffee each morning. It starts with assembling the components — blue Miir camp cup, large block of ice, canvas bag to put the ice in, and a small wooden bat to smack the ice with. I find the large, clear ice cubes of unique shapes very satisfying to look at. While pouring my coffee into it, the ice typically cracks and becomes transparent (which is a good sign your water is purified).
What’s a mundane task you do everyday that can be imbued and transformed into a moment of calm and presence?
7. Thriving Spirit of Adventure
If we were playing Family Feud and the questions is, “Name something people miss the most because of the pandemic,” then one of the top answers has to be, “Travel.” (Other acceptable answers would be, “Wearing going out clothes,” and “Hugs.”)
What is it about travel that fills us with so much purpose and excitement? Perhaps it’s the sense of awe and wonder of experiencing something new. Maybe it’s the destination and maybe it’s also the journey to get there. At it’s best, traveling is a method to change ourselves in a profound way. Traveling is our conscious decision to change ourselves.
Think about that for a sec… change ourselves. Yet, the natural human behavior to avoid change and being uncomfortable.
So, if we’re looking for ways to thrive in our life and not merely avoid burnout, then we’ve got to find ways to actively want to change ourselves. And when we say it that way, all I hear is, I want an adventure!
“[During expeditions], sometimes you’re forced to be in a tent for 10 days because it’s storming. And you’re just… stuck. But then you can finally really get into that book, or something else. We call it active resting. My job right now is to rest and not spend too much energy, and to prepare for when things get really good again and the storm lifts and I can do the things I want.” — @jimkchin in Prior Club 
That’s Jimmy Chin, “first to scale Asia’s Karakoram Mountain, to summit India’s Meru Peak via the Shark’s Fin route, and to descend Mount Everest on skis.” He’s also on my list of man-crushes, along with Hugh Jackman and Captain Picard. Classic advice is to make the most of any situation. Stuck at home? Have a themed staycation. Don’t want to fly yet? Roadtrip!
But Jimmy also has a Game Changing adventure tip, train as if you’re about to go on an adventure.
“Certainly part of what I do is about being adaptable. Adapting to the environment, particularly on expeditions, means you come to kind of embrace whatever is served to you and try to live in the moment… One of the biggest challenges for me is training and staying fit [in urban environments], because that’s how I feel good and stay inspired and motivated. So when I’m traveling in cities, I run a lot, or end up doing workouts in my hotel room, using body weight or doing yoga.” — @jimkchin in Prior Club 
Years ago when I was touring through Tibet, I met a fellow German fella in our tour group. He said he had a running list of all the places he wants to go visit, and the time of year that would be ideal. His work didn’t allow him to schedule vacations in advance, so he had to be ready at anytime to go when work allowed it.
Over this past year, I’ve been doing a lot more running and less weight lifting. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been training like I’m about to go on an expedition without even realizing it. But now that I do, you can bet I’ll be training hard for my imaginary summit!
8. Thriving (Post-Pandemic) Conversations
I was inspired by a recent SNL skit to include this topic. In the skit, people are having awkward conversations about the pandemic (which vaccine did you get?) and the new challenges of connecting because we’re so rusty (how do I even know this person?!).
As more and more of us emerge from our WFH cocoons, some of our conversations and interactions are gonna be, well, awkward. That’s why it’s critical to our success both at work, but also in adjusting into a new normal. To me, that’s exciting because a new normal means we get to create or revamp our relationships.
First, a Classic conversational tip to mirror the other person. If they got high energy, match it without being a weirdo. If they’re soft spoken, then you do that too. If they got lots of hand gestures, get ready to play patty cakes.
“Dr. Hasson likens the connection to a kind of wireless bonding of brains. The brain’s mirroring capacity is the basis for this interplay of signals and reactions, and nonverbal cues enhance it. This kind of alignment fosters closeness and trust.” — @WSJ
Now, the Game Changer conversation tip. With so much struggle this past year, our conversation will undoubtedly veer towards it. We’ve had it hard, with kids all over the place, eating the same food everyday, no travel… and maybe much worse. So be kind to yourself that the conversation might be a little rough at first. But then, steer the conversation towards a positive, open-ended question. For example:
“With summer coming and things opening up, what are you most looking forward to doing?”
“Once it’s good to travel again, what is the first place on your list?”
“What’s something that you think you’ll keep doing, even if the world goes back to normal?”
I particularly like the last question, because it acknowledges the world (and maybe our own personal lives) did all go to heck but gets the person to still think of a positive outcome.
And there you have it my friends. Eight aspects of positivity and productivity, eight Classic and Game Changers, and that’s how I suggest we take the current burnout we might be feeling into a full on, thriving life.
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- Thriving in the Age of Hybrid Work by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
- Surmounting 21st Century Business Challenges: How Leading Entrepreneurs are Thriving
- Designing Customer Journeys for the Post-Pandemic World by Gene Cornfield
- 6 Leadership Paradoxes for the Post-Pandemic Era by Paul Leinwand, Mahadeva Matt Mani, and Blair Sheppard
- How the Pandemic Exacerbated Burnout: A Q&A with pioneering researchers Michael Leiter and Christina Maslach. by Dave Lievens
- Navigating Pandemic Fatigue as a Working Parent by Stewart D. Friedman and Alyssa F. Westring
- How to Spring Forward With More Well-being: This season of renewal can be about more than spring cleaning. By Jen Fisher
- The Microsteps That Are Helping Me Manage Stress During COVID: This Accenture Role Model shares the small tips that are helping him destress and connect with his family. By Alexandra Hayes
- How the World’s Greatest Leaders respond to unexpected crises By Geoff Colvin
- Post-pandemic socializing: Why you might need to re-learn small talk by Janet Siroto
- All The Lonely People By Leila Barghouty
- Create a Productivity Workflow That Works for You by Alexandra Samuel
- Jimmy Chin Interview
- Use Mirroring to Connect With Others by Sue Shellenbarger