If you’re feeling completely spent at the end of the day, unable to focus, and dreading your work (even if it’s work you love), you’re likely feeling daily burnout.
Personally, I know the toll of this type of burnout. I spent a decade experiencing it before it snowballed into an overwhelming full-on burnout that almost cost me everything, including my company and my family. In hindsight, I wish I’d made my energy and well-being a priority before I reached that emotionally exhausted and, at times, dark place.
Unfortunately, I also told myself a lot of stories about how working nonstop and pushing past my limit was the only way to succeed, and rationalized never having time to take care of myself. I hear these stories from many high achievers.
The reality is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to invest in your well-being and emotional fitness if you do it consistently, on a daily basis. It’s like filling up a car: When your gas tank is empty, it takes a while; but if it’s got fuel in it, it takes less time.
Your energy is your fuel. Here are three daily practices to help fuel your energy so you can avoid daily burnout and bring your full, awesome capacity to the work you care about.
Check in with yourself
Studies show that people who are more aware of how they’re feeling have greater well-being. Emotional awareness is powerful because it gives you an opportunity to support yourself when you recognize that you’re feeling down or nearing burnout.
To practice emotional awareness, check in with yourself daily. This is a great practice to do first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.
- Start with an emotional check-in. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?”
- Name your feelings. The more specific you can be with your answers, the better because it will help you figure out what you can do to support yourself.
- Don’t judge your feelings. There isn’t a way you “should” feel. Opt to simply be aware.
- Don’t rush to fix how you’re feeling. If you think of a way you can help yourself feel a little better, great, but don’t force it. Simply naming your difficult feelings helps you to move through them faster and feel them less intensely.
Manage your energy reservoir
You have a limited amount of emotional, mental, and physical energy to spend each day. Think of this as your daily energy reservoir. So you need to manage your energy to make sure you have enough and don’t run out.
There are two parts to this: Doing fewer things to unnecessarily drain your energy and doing something that fuels your energy.
To help you manage your energy reservoir, here are two questions to ask yourself daily:
- What are one to two things, which drain my energy, that I can do less of today? For example, multitasking drains energy and makes you less efficient on every task, so you can choose to focus on one thing at a time.
- What can I do to fuel my energy today? Make this a priority by putting at least 10 to 15 minutes on your calendar for an “energy fuel-up” (make it whatever you want).
This is your time to disconnect from work and do something that fuels your energy. For example, if you’re feeling sluggish, go for a short walk outside, which research shows boosts your mood, energy, and motivation. If you’re feeling frazzled, you might want to meditate, stretch, or just sit with your eyes closed and take some deep breaths.
Recent research by Microsoft shows that taking short breaks between meetings reduces cumulative stress and helps your brain reset. So, if you only have 5 minutes for your fuel-up, don’t skip it.
Ditch harsh self-talk for a kinder tone
Constantly criticizing yourself or talking to yourself in a harsh way isn’t free. Negative self-talk increases stress and reduces motivation, and it drains your energy.
On the flip side, when you treat yourself with compassion—that is, when you recognize that you’re a human being who can’t do everything perfectly, and you adopt a self-attitude of warmth and support aimed to reduce struggle—research shows that this increases motivation and reduces stress.
Here’s a practice to help you shift from harsh to more compassionate self-talk:
- When you notice that you’re talking to yourself in an overly critical way, pause and then imagine you’re talking to someone you care about—a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Then rephrase what you said to yourself as if you’re talking to them.
Most of us find it easier to practice compassion toward others, so this practice helps you shift into practicing compassion toward yourself.
If you’re worried that giving up self-criticism for self-compassion will make you lazy or complacent, don’t be. Self-compassion has nothing to do with covering up mistakes or pretending you don’t need to improve. It’s about supporting yourself through challenging times in a way that reduces struggle and suffering, and gives you more energy to solve problems, learn how to improve, and move forward.
Nataly Kogan, author of The Awesome Human Project: Break Free from Daily Burnout, Struggle Less, and Thrive More in Work and Life, is the founder of Happier Inc.