It’s been several years since I firsthand experienced burnout. But let me tell you, I will never – and I mean never – forget what it felt like for those 13 months leading up to it. To that pivotal moment, that straw breaking night in my office moment, to then the months of recovery afterward. I will never forget what that felt like.
I’ll never forget showing up to work like I was drunk, because I’d only been sleeping four or five hours a night. I’ll never forget that feeling of drowning every day, because I took on more responsibility than was humanly possible. I’ll never forget how anxious I was that maybe something was wrong with me, but how would I know? I hadn’t even gone to the doctor.
Or that fear I felt that at any moment, my husband, Matt, would pack up our kids and leave me, because I was an awful wife, mom, and just human being. So several years later, I’m still talking about burnout because one, I will never forget what it felt like. And most importantly, two, because I know what you are feeling like. And we’ve seen burnout escalate due to circumstances over the past year and a half, almost two years.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking even more about burnout. I shared in an interview that organization’s number one mistake is they’re not taking burnout seriously. I gave one tip for organizations, and then last week I give a tip for leaders. And today, I want to give you, as an individual, one tip that can help you effectively start to mitigate that burnout. And that is simply to start saying no.
Over 45% of people say that saying no is really hard, they have a hard time doing it. Nearly half of people say that. Now, in the workplace, I recognize that. We, you, me, potentially feel like if someone approaches you with a request that you have to say yes, that you have to help out, you’ve got to be a team player. You’ve got to show that you are super human, that you can handle it. You feel, you believe, that by saying yes, it’s showing strength that you can handle it. “I’m going to bust that right now.”
Saying no exhibits power. There is power behind the “no.” When you just blatantly say, “Yes, I’ll take that on. Oh yes, certainly. Oh, you need me to help you? Yes!” I’m not suggesting that’s how you say it, but that’s how it’s potentially perceived. Versus standing strong, acknowledging where you are today, accepting the reality of what your current responsibilities are, and whether or not you have the capacity to say yes to that.
And if you do not have the capacity, you need to exhibit that strength, that power, and say no. Now certainly, there are politically correct ways that you can do that. It could be a, “Thank you for this opportunity, thank you for acknowledging my skill, but let me think about it.” And then you come back, “However, I have these priorities right now, is this something that we could talk about in 90 days?” Or, “Thank you for the opportunity, but actually, one of my team members, as they’re growing through the ranks, I think that might be a good opportunity for them. Let’s go talk to that person about it,” or a, “Thank you for acknowledging it. It’s not the right time, It’s not the right fit. How could I help find somebody else who could take this on?”
You are the one who potentially has gotten yourself in this situation, which means you’ve got the power to get yourself out. I’m not saying that it’s easy. This is not easy, I get it. I’m saying it’s simple. The word “no” is very simple. Practice how you could say it. Grab a friend, a spouse, a trusted colleague, and do some role play about how you could start implementing and saying no to things.
Because for every yes you say to something coming in, in reality you’re saying no to something else. You’re saying yes to this project, so you’re saying no to something else. You’re saying yes to this opportunity, you’re saying no to sleep. You’re saying yes to this meeting, you’re saying no to attending a kid’s function.
There are only a finite number of days, time, minutes, seconds, hours that you have. So every time you say yes, in reality, you’re saying no to something else. Stay grounded. Show your strength and your power by using the word no.