It feels strange. This year has passed so quickly, and if we are honest, we all may feel like jumping up and down and yelling, “YES!” The last couple of years has put the feelings of burnout and overwhelm front and center in our lives. 

There’s hardly anyone who hasn’t felt that way and wondered, “How do I stop feeling this and get back to being productive?”

Most people would agree that the people who have goals are more successful than those who do not have any. It isn’t that we don’t write goals, it is that we’re reluctant to address how emotions impact performance. 

I often talk about leadership and management. Leadership is about doing the right things, while management is about doing things right. Often when we study time management, we study efficiency (doing things right) and assume that we have the effectiveness (leadership) solved.

Brene Brown, Susan Davis, and others have been highlighting the importance of leadership training to include accepting and managing emotions in the workplace. 

Yet the first challenge I have In working with leaders is realizing that only focusing on strategies, tasks, and results sets up a vicious cycle of frustration, high turnover, and burnout, which increases workplace tensions. The end result is decreased productivity, higher cost to innovate and problem solve. Yet, what gets in the way… what impedes progress is how uncomfortable it is to deal with emotions. 

 Ever see on the employee surveys or hear during individual or team meetings… 

  • We want our leaders to remove the barriers to us doing good work.
  • The priorities are constantly changing, and it’s hard to progress the strategy.
  • It’s easier for me to do it the old way instead of using the new system.
  • Workplace bullying issues like hearing comments such as “they’re not a cultural fit, it’s a personality issue” or new hires are leaving faster than expected.

Ever find yourself frustrated and anxious because…

  • You regularly question whether you are good enough, skilled enough, or prepared to lead?
  • As you think back over the year, you realize a lot got done but wonder you met your boss’s expectations. You’re unclear about what was important this year and, as a result, feeling unsure about your annual performance review. 
  • You can see employees struggling with mental health issues, and you don’t know what to do to reduce the stress and fatigue caused by the need to constantly react to changes beyond your control. 
  • People on your team promise to have work for you by a specific date and repeatedly miss the date. Then, chalk it up to miscommunication.

So here’s an idea. While others are writing goals about losing weight, getting a promotion, or completing strategic projects, write up to 3 goals that move you to reduce the feelings of overwhelm and burnout. 

The first step is to use the following 60 Minute Goal Setting Exercise. Draw a line down the middle on a clean sheet of paper. 

  1. On one side, write down “values” and then spend 10 to 15 minutes writing down everything you value. 
  2. On the other side, write down what is getting in the way of you living out what you value. 
  3. At the top of another blank piece of paper, write down “performance outcomes.” This is where you look at your values, what’s getting in the way, and ask “what would reduce the feeling of overwhelm and burnout if I changed my expectations and clarified my boundary?” For example, 
  4. Over the next 90 days, I’ll speak up and ask for clarification on what’s important and urgent when my to-do list exceeds my ability to get it all done at least 50% of the time spent with my boss. 
  5. Over the next 90 days, I’ll make sure I get at least 7 hours of sound sleep 5 out of 7 days a week. 
  6. Over the next 90 days, I’ll learn and apply strategies to ensure that everyone is clear on what decisions were made and who is responsible/accountable for assignments when we leave virtual meetings.
  7. Over the next 90 days, I will employ 1 – 2 tactics that will improve my keeping track of and assessing the work I am doing is both important and urgent. 

This whole exercise will only take an hour. Imagine an hour spent clarifying your goals to save you hundreds of work hours.