Hello everybody, welcome to episode 32 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today, we’ll be having a little chit chat about personal burnout and inconsistency.
We’ve got a great question sent in regarding the effects that come with loading up our plates too much – the plates of life that is. Not dinner plates. I think we all know those effects.
Without further ado, let’s see what she has to say…
QUESTION: “I am facing a pattern of inconsistency where I have overloaded myself with work, submissions, projects, deadlines, university studies and weekly running goals. I would try as much as I could to do each of these tasks perfectly and I succeed to a great extent, but then I eventually get overwhelmed, I burnout and I fall into this pitfall of hibernation where I can’t move a bit and can’t get out of bed and can’t find the motivation. I try and try but I don’t have the energy to do anything and I still have to keep up with the commitments because I still have deadlines to meet. So can you help me get out of this pattern of inconsistency?”
Pick and Choose Your Battles
Well, I can certainly try my best to help you get out of this pattern of inconsistency.
I can go ahead and spend the next couple of days reading up on the psychology of motivation. I can consult some therapist and psychiatrist friends and get a second opinion. I can create a makeshift schedule for you and send it on over. I can call you and squawk at you each time you’re feeling burnt out and unable to get out of bed.
I can do all of these things and more alongside my other commitments in life, but eventually, I’m going to have to stop right?
Eventually, I’m going to have to pick and choose my battles. Eventually, I’m going to have to decide what the most practical ways are for me to formulate an answer for you and hone in on them, otherwise, time will be taken away other needs in my life and I won’t have the energy to complete all of the tasks I need to complete.
If I don’t stop and focus on the ways of helping you that are the most dense and meaningful, thus saying no to other methods, my energy will run out and everything else in my life will suffer. I have smart listeners; I think everyone sees where I’m going with this.
Less is More
You’re burning out and going into these hibernations because you have to; because your mind, body and soul do not have the infinite energy we might all like to think they do.
Like any muscle, your brain only has a certain amount of capacity, and a certain amount of time in which it’s energy will be used at max efficiency before inevitably dropping off. Your body is telling you to slow down, and I think we both know that.
The answer is not to do more right now; it’s to do less. After all, a large selection of choices can lead to weaker preferences.
Considering the extreme nature of these highs and lows you’re experiencing, do you really expect the success you’ve found to be maintained? Something’s going to have to give. It’s already happening with your energy and, presumably, your happiness.
What’s next? What’s going to be taken away from next? I don’t know, you don’t know, and I don’t want either of us to wait around long enough for the answer. It’s time to start understanding and respecting your limits.
To Combat Inconsistency, Reorganize Your To-Do List
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that you can fight this a little. You might be in a position in which you’re able to just do differently, instead of doing less.
That would be reorganizing the things you do, like, say for example, you have to run 10 miles and read 100 pages on any given day. If you’re currently performing these tasks separately, in complete chunks and are exhausted by that, you might try running 5 miles twice a day and reading 10 pages once every hour for 10 hours. Or vice versa if you’re already taking a fragmented approach. Maybe you switch to stationary bike and read while you’re on that.
Sometimes, the answer is as simple as changing up your approach and finding ways to save time and energy to perform the tasks you need to perform – simply making your achievements more sustainable. And if that’s all it takes for you, then wonderful. Experiment and see if that’s the case.
More often than not, however, the cause of the problem is not so much in HOW we’re doing things, but in the things themselves – the value of those things and the sheer amount of them. So you can shift things around a little bit and retool your systems – and at the same time start asking yourself just why it is that you feel obligated to do all these things. But eventually, the odds are that some thing or things are going to get cut out.
Focus on What's Meaningful
How do you decide which sacrifices have to be made? You lead with meaning. The things in your life you’ll be most happy to keep around and prioritize are the things that mean the most to you.
Living with meaning contributes to positive experiences, and adds up to living a positive life.
Think about how you’ve aged up until this point. How many things have you gotten rid of that no longer meant something to you? Tons, right? Eventually, a time came when you realized that they just didn’t fulfill you anymore, and that it was time to update your priorities.
Seems to me like you’re reaching that point again, and you’re just due for an update. It’s time to hone in which of the things in your life right now are the most meaningful to you and which aren’t. It’s time to stop pretending that you have the time, energy, enthusiasm to do all the things that catch your eye. Which things are the most meaningful to you, and how can you start to focus your finite amount of energy on those things?
Exercise: “Who am I?”
I know this can be a hard question to find the answer to, especially on your own, so to wrap things up I’d like to suggest an exercise for you, and I hope everyone’s still awake out there because this is a useful exercise for anyone. This is called the “Who Am I?” exercise (Science Magazine has a great “Who Am I?” exercise you can follow) and it’s particularly effective in group therapy, but individually it’s just fine, as well. The “Who Am I?” exercise goes as such:
On 8 different pieces of paper, answer the question, “Who am I?”
Each piece of paper should have a different answer on it, all of which alluding to different roles you play in life. For example, some of yours might be: student, runner, daughter, friend, etc. It all depends on what you deem to be the most important pieces of you. Maybe your religion might get in there, your ethnicity, your gender, your political stance, anything.
Once you have the slips of paper filled out, arrange them from nearest to farthest in terms of meaning, so the more it means to you, the closer it will be and the less it means to you, the farther it’ll be. Once they’re properly ordered, starting with the farthest, least important aspect of who you are, sit in silence for a couple of minutes and reflect internally (or externally, really doesn’t matter)…reflect on what it would be like to let that part of you go.
What would you lose in your life and what would you gain? How does your schedule change? How does your fulfillment change? Repeat this step for each piece of paper and maybe put yourself on a timer. Once you’ve taken time to reflect on each answer, reorder the slips of paper if necessary.
An Honest Reflection
What you should have in front of you by the end is a carefully-thought out, honest display of the parts of you that are most important and, in turn, which parts of you are less necessary to prioritize to extent that you currently are.
Once you have this display in front of you, consider what feelings came up during the exercise, what you might have learned about yourself, and the ways in which you can fill the limited amount of time and energy you have starting with that which means the most.
Another book recommendation coming your way, in light of today’s episode – this time by my favoritey favorite author. A great book for what we talked about today is “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a “Fudge” by Mark Manson.
Sorry, I know this is the second profane book title I’ve recommended here on the show, but like the last one, let’s just say that “fudge” is replaced by another word that starts with F. Don’t want to say it here, though. I don’t want my Mom to wash my mouth out with soap. You guys can figure it out for yourselves. So that’s that.
Please don’t hesitate to send in any questions of your own that you’d like answered on the show. You can email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks for stopping in. Can’t wait for next time, and we’ll talk to you then!