Burned Out But Don’t Know Why? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am fairly new to managing a large team in the property management industry. I was a team member for a long time. One of the reasons I was promoted was because I was a work horse. I have a lot of energy and was used to putting in ten- and twelve-hour days on a regular basis. I raced around in my truck going from task to task at different properties, helping people solve problems.

I really like the challenge of being a manager—but something has begun to worry me. I start at 7 a.m. and by 2 p.m. I am exhausted, even though I work from home most days. I’m on the phone in endless meetings dealing with strategy, budget, and gnarly personnel issues—and by the middle of the afternoon I’ve got nothing left.

What is happening to me? I am worried that my boss is going to think I am a slacker. Maybe I am not cut out for management? Help!

Out of Battery Power

Dear Out of Battery Power,

Okay, let’s review. You had a job that had constant variety, allowed you some nice mental breaks while driving around, and let you win several times a day because you knew what you were doing and got to interact with nice people who were grateful you showed up. Now you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk at home by yourself, engage in creative visualization of an uncertain future, crunch massive amounts of numbers and translate reality from them, and ponder and try to solve problems regarding the most complicated thing there is: people. What could possibly be wrong?

Your brain is tired, as well it should be. In your old job you got breaks, you spent time with people, and you got to solve solvable problems—which was fun! Now you probably get no breaks at all, you spend time alone, and you have to try to solve unsolvable problems. Also, you are new in the job so the learning curve feels brutal.

Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a little time to get your head around the job. And try these strategies to take better care of yourself and your brain.

  • Get some exercise before you start for the day. You used to be in constant motion, which was clearly energizing for you. Even a walk around the block will improve the blood flow to your brain and increase your creative problem solving.
  • Get a good headset so you can pace while on conference calls. You used to be on your feet a lot. Now you are an extension of your desk chair and it’s killing you slowly.
  • Remember to eat breakfast and lunch. People who work from home seem to either eat constantly or forget to eat.
  • Remember to stay hydrated. Research shows that dehydration can cause lightheadedness and confusion.
  • Get out of the house during your workday. Going to a nearby park would be ideal, but at least sit on your front step. When you do this, don’t look at a screen—look at faraway things; a horizon line if at all possible. Gazing at a horizon releases a very specific kind of endorphin which increases our feelings of well-being. Try to have lunch with a friend or colleague at least twice a week. You will have to resist thinking about work, but it will make you more effective in the long run. Can you work from the office a couple of days a week? Do it if you can.
  • Take tiny mental breaks throughout the day. You may not realize how many breaks were built into your day in your old job—moments when you were operating on auto pilot and your brain was essentially at rest. If you are in constant meetings from 7:00 to 2:00 with no breaks built in, your brain goes on tilt.
  • If possible, do your more difficult tasks before 2 p.m. and leave everything that’s easy to deal with until later in the day. I once heard a senior executive say out loud that she didn’t schedule anything hard after 2 p.m. and I was impressed with her self-awareness and honesty. Her afternoons were reserved for reading, responding to email, and administrative tasks that she could do in her sleep.

I have yet to work with a manager or leader who gets the amount of “white space” they need to just think about everything that needs thinking about. Welcome to management! You may be fried by 2 p.m., but I would bet a paycheck that you never, ever stop thinking about your job now. Before, when you finished your shift, you were done for the day. Now your job is 24/7—so you need to learn how to pace yourself and settle in for the long haul.

Until you get actual feedback from your boss about your performance, stop wasting valuable mental energy judging yourself. Devote that energy to taking better care of yourself and I’m certain you’ll notice an increase in your mental stamina.

Give yourself a break—literally.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

One thought on “Burned Out But Don’t Know Why? Ask Madeleine

  1. Struck with how crucial self-awareness of one’s energy, focus, and productivity is as each workday progresses.

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