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Act on the Important. Don’t React to the Urgent!


“Stop putting out fires because it’s burning you out!”

The term “burnout” was coined in the ’70s by Herbert Freudenberger. He was a psychologist working with rehabilitating drug addicts in Manhattan for 13 hours a day. Getting to know a new person all of the time, staying alert to hear them out, tending to their grievances – he cared deeply about his job but found himself with an exhaustion he couldn’t describe. There had to be a way to have this job and not live in a perpetually reactive environment. He practiced self-analysis and wrote a book: “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He defines it as “a demand that an individual may make upon themselves in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive; a response to stress and frustration.” We want to perform our work extraordinarily and efficiently, but once we reach the point of total exhaustion, we can’t prevent our minds and bodies from quitting. But we can avoid it happening in the first place! It all comes down to how we respond to our work, new and old, every day.

Lack of direction, not a lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days. Time is inflexible. It is most important to tend to our long-term commitments first, to remain available for urgencies later. Planning around deadlines and appointments every day means you are bound to fall behind schedule. A procrastinator has a habit of managing problems. This creates a list of never-ending last-minute duties from the start, inevitably causing us to burn out on our halfway finished pile of checklists.

Instead, assign x amount of time to each task to be done. A prioritizer puts the quality of their work before it’s too late. Setting aside time to plan and prepare our prime responsibilities on a regular basis makes our work so much more efficient because it becomes our regular basis! This makes spontaneous tasks ten times more manageable. Focused clarity of our visions builds confidence. Confidence builds momentum. Momentum gets results.

Do not fall into a trap of losing what you want most because of what you think you need now. Take control of your interruptions. Write down your minor tasks and distractions for later.  You can’t stop them from happening but you can check your response. Begin your day with a vision of what needs to be done and eliminate any odd jobs that deviate from these goals. Delegate tasks that are better suited for others. Acknowledge priorities that conflict, and yes this includes the enabled push notifications on your mobile apps that are definitely clashing with your work ;)

Action expresses priorities. Your efforts and behavior show those around you what takes precedence in your mind. Take a step back and be honest with what you consider a priority and what you are actually putting into action. Invest time in this relief and you’ll be amazed to find that more productivity will result from it!

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”