I like drag racing. As a youngster, I had a 78 rpm stereo record of nothing but sounds from a National Hot Rod Association drag-racing event. I would listen for hours to the sound of drag racers screaming down the quarter-mile track from the left side to the right side of the hi-fi.
Dragsters use incredible amounts of energy in a very short amount of time, measured in mere seconds. After an event, an engine may be partially or completely overhauled to repair or replace worn parts from the stress and strain of only a few runs on the strip. Can you imagine a warranty sticker on your new car reading: “Engine may burn out and need overhauled after two miles?”
In our roles as leaders of organizations in the fast-paced, burning-rubber, short-track environment of the 21st century, we experience incredible stress and strain that takes a painful toll on our engines—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To sustain our effectiveness in this environment and prevent burnout, we must get our engines overhauled through proper rest and renewal. Let’s take a quick look at some practical steps we can take to sustain our effectiveness and to prevent burnout.
- Lower the points of tension in your life and work. Identify specific areas of concentrated stress and work on alleviating those pressures.
- Learn how to delegate more effectively. Purposeful detachment and disengagement can prove more productive than wanting to control everything to the smallest detail.
- Learn how to say “no.” Refuse to do so much that your time and emotions go beyond the breaking point.
- Pace yourself. Take life in moderation and seek a balance between work and play, between stress and relaxation.
- Take care of your body. Don’t skip meals or abuse yourself with fad diets. Get plenty of sleep. Fit a mental break into parts of your day’s work.
- Maintain a sense of humor. Don’t take things so seriously. Try to see a bright side through even the darkest clouds. Remember, every crisis is accompanied by opportunity.
- Take regular time off, away from work. Take your days off and your full vacation. Don’t take your work with you.
- Realign your work with your personal values. Replace any existing cynicism with a sense of mission and purpose.
- Seek a work load and a work schedule that are sustainable. Allow for regular times of rest, relaxation, and renewal amid a prioritized but flexible work arrangement.
- Find someone, either a good friend or your spouse, to hold you accountable. Find an accountability partner who will hold you to your new pace and schedule, someone who will nudge you back on track when the symptoms of stress start to show.
Effective leaders will take precautions not to allow stress and burnout to rule the day; they will take the necessary time, as God has designed from the Creation (Ex 20:8-11), for rest and renewal.