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The Sunday Session:

'A one minute read to set you up for the week ahead'

Is Your Engine Warning Light On?: Part 2

The Antidote to Burnout

Read Time : 1 minute


Akin to the most profound ideas and systems, ‘The Antidote to Burnout’ is simple in nature, but the difficulty lies in its implementation in a world of external demands, pressures, and self-perceived obligations.


Although we have some real obligations and responsibilities – raising our children, caring for a loved one, providing for our family – which cannot nor should not be abdicated, the majority of the ‘obligations’ in our lives are self-perceived and self-imposed. 


We know we are neither morally nor legally bound to do them but tend to continue with them long after they have stopped serving us.


Stories of the disgruntled teacher who stayed in the job too long, the angry coach who would much prefer to be out playing golf or the frustrated parent who spends every evening taxiing children from activity to activity are all too common.


The solution is simple: Play your ACES




Self-awareness is the key to ensuring we are living a meaningful and fulfilling life - without it we are merely ambling along the road provided by fate or worse yet, the road paved by the capricious agendas of others.


We must take time weekly to evaluate the activities and roles we are partaking in and their net-impact on our lives. Those activities that have a positive net-impact are certainly worth further consideration, while those which have a negative net-impact do not merit further contemplation.


Cost: Benefit Ratio


Every role or activity comes at the cost of time, energy, and money yet the personal benefit of each activity varies based on personal perception.


As a result, the tasks, and activities that we can undertake are finite. For this very reason we should not indiscriminately nor impulsively undertake all activities that provide us with a net-positive impact. 


Taking a local football team, for example, will undoubtedly add to your community, improve your coaching capabilities and add to your leadership skills but none of this is worthwhile if it comes at the cost of things you value more. 


For this very reason we should carefully select those activities which provide us with the greatest cost: benefit ratio. This will allow for the pursuit of a focused and directed life of meaning with time and energy left for rest, relaxation, and recuperation.




            ‘The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of the non-essentials.’


                                                                                                Lin Yutang


If a task or activity has a negative net-impact or the cost: benefit ratio is too high, ruthless elimination is the only answer. The easiest way is 'The Plaster Method', where we quickly and unmercifully remove the activity in one swoop like a sticking plaster. 


Although, this may mean reneging on previous commitments, talking a step back from a situation you are familiar with, or some difficult conversations with people, the sense of freedom and opportunity from this new free time will be well worth it. 


For those hesitant to take a step back for fear that the system, team, or community will fall apart in your absence – we need a reality and ego check. Successful systems, by design, do not rely on one person – they create an environment where everyone is replaceable, and the system will continue to function even in the absence of team members.


- If a doctor decides to leave the NHS, service would likely continue with minimal impact.

- If a sales assistant leaves a shop, service levels will likely continue as normal. 

- If a teacher leaves a school, attainment levels will likely continue as expected.


For those activities that we cannot immediately leave behind, a career change for example, we must employ a method known as Minimum Effective Dose – the minimum amount of work required to meet the standards required by the job – and use the surplus time and energy to engineer a path to our new career.


Although it runs counter to the people pleasing nature of the human race, we do not always have to go the extra mile. McKeown states this perfectly suggesting:


            ‘Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential.’


Say No


            ‘If it’s not a hell yes it’s a no’




Life is full of mediocre opportunities and by saying yes to these we risk saying no, by virtue of not being available, to those opportunities that will really add meaning and fulfillment to our lives. 


Saying no is something which people struggle with, they stutter and stammer, making up clumsy excuses in a bid to appease the person they are ‘letting down'. James Altucher bluntly solves this problem stating that ‘the world doesn’t need your explanation on saying no’ - simply decline the opportunity politely and move on.


To paraphrase a previous newsletter, in a world of infinite possibilities, playing our ACES certainly narrows our focus but they do not limit us. Instead, they consciously define our reality, our vision and our purpose and as a result we happily forfeit the trivalitites that exist outside of that vision for excellence in our chosen domain.


The solution is simple;


           ‘Weniger aber besser’

Question I am reflecting on:

Are the cost: benefit ratio of any of my activities too high?

What do I need to eliminate?

Have a great week,

David O’Hanlon

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