Navigating Life After Burnout
I spent a decade jet setting for work, racking up coveted frequent flier miles, hitting a different glamorous city every day, and listening to friends and family tell me that they “wanted my life”. I was part of that elusive club in which the members were always too busy, glorifying 16+ hour work days, and burning more than one candle at both ends.
In 2013, I had ignored serious health symptoms for about six months, telling myself repeatedly that I could “work through it”. At the point when I had to resort to lying down under a table on the ground at Candlestick Park during a 49ers game to alleviate what I thought was back pain, I knew I could not continue like I was.
Needless to say, I landed myself a week long vacation in the hospital (ironically it had no cell phone coverage) and was forced to detox from my work life.
As business owners and executives, we know how to listen, but we tend to listen to everything and everyone except our own bodies and ourselves. The glory of working endlessly without sleep is no longer something to strive for. Finding a work-life balance is always at the top of the list when I set my resolutions and goals for the new year. My best tips for incorporating life into work are:
1. Take an extra day on all business trips. Fly in or out a day early. Avoid the flying in and out on the same day trick, unless the flight is around an hour in length. Sending your employees on a business trip? Incorporate the same for them and give them an extra day to explore and catch up on sleep.
2. Take care of your health on the road. Schedule an annual physical and honor the time and the appointment. Don’t keep rescheduling it. Ask questions. Get familiar with online options to connect with doctors.
3. Skip the booze, drink another glass of water. I’ve never been one that takes advantage of the unlimited free booze in first class. On long flights, I might enjoy one glass of wine, but otherwise I make sure to drink at least a liter or two (depending on the length of the flight) of water. Upon landing I appreciate being hydrated and my body feeling good. I will often skip meals during a flight in order to take an uninterrupted nap.
4. Keep your surroundings familiar. I suffer from Insomnia, and have my entire life. Unfamiliar hotel rooms night after night don’t help. I got married to Marriott and United early on in my career, and learned that the same surroundings and processes of a travel brand lend to a feeling of ease on the road (and at night). I don’t have to worry about where I’m staying or who I’m flying with. I don’t have to learn new boarding processes, and the benefits from accruing with one travel brand far outweigh points scattered across many.
5. Enjoy the places that you travel to. I’ve been to New York thirty times. I’ve never seen the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. Now, every time I travel, I make it a point to enjoy and see something that a non-business traveler would see or experience while in that city. Even if it’s just squeezing it in for a few minutes.
6. Keep office hours. It’s okay to turn the computer off for the weekend, and live your life. If you are regularly available on Saturdays and Sundays to your clients and/or staff, set an “out of office” for the weekend and tackle “to do” projects around the house, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy one of your hobbies. When traveling, I usually extend my out of office for an additional day, so that I have a little time to get re-acquainted with what has been going on while I was gone.
7. Travel with your spa treatment. I always have Spa Splurge Collagen Eye Masks in my travel bag. They take up very little space, and you can put them on while you are on the plane, or while you are working in your hotel room, or even driving. They don’t disrupt your makeup, and are the perfect quick pick-me-up while you are on the road.
8. Turn the phone off. At home I don’t sleep with my cell phone in my room. Don’t give yourself permission to sleep with your phone turned on while you are on the road. Give your family and staff the phone number of the hotel you are staying at and if there is an emergency, they can call your room. Using it as your alarm clock? It’s not an excuse. Your room is sure to have an alarm clock, and if not, request a wake up call.
9. Put your walking shoes on at meal time. Don’t rely on room service, and try to venture out of the hotel when it’s time to eat. Find somewhere within a short walking distance, put your tennis shoes on, and explore the neighborhood. If you have Club Lounge access, grab a piece of fruit and a bottle of water to tide you over during the day, and try not to skip meals.
10. Make sleep a priority. My number is 8, yours might be 7.5 or 8.5, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that 4,5, or 6 are doing anything for you. Those numbers are not cool, no matter how cool you think they are. I always look at the time I have to get started the next day, backtrack 8 hours, and know what time I have to be in bed and asleep in order to hit my number. I will never be able to be the person that gets up and goes to bed at the same time, but I am now the person that makes sure to get 8 hours in every night.