How to Fend Off Burnout: Advice from Vicki Saunders

As published in the Huffington Post

Most of us behave as if our energy is an inexhaustible resource.

We push ourselves and expect that if we crash and burn, we will rebound again after a little rest.

But what if you were only allocated a certain amount of energy that needed to last for your entire lifetime? Would you be a bit more careful? Would you monitor your efforts a little more closely?

When Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO, was in her 20s, a relative of hers was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. She was determined to be a good steward of her own energy, long before the medical community had acknowledged the health consequences of pushing oneself too hard for too long.

Although she went on to co-found and run four global ventures, was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and has advised governments, universities, and large corporations–she formed a daily habit of assessing how she had spent her energy.

The Energy for Impact Equation.

Vicki determined that in order to preserve her energy, she needed to evaluate the results of her energy expenditures.

Here is what she came up with:

“What is the energy I’m putting in, versus the impact I’m having?”

At the end of each day, Vicki debriefs with her husband to determine where she might be potentially wasting her energy. She then decides what she wants to do differently to address this.

“I’m in a constant state of redesigning,” reflects Vicki.

Part of this process is being careful to avoid using limiting language when trying to change things, such as “I don’t have enough time/money/people.” This mindset often causes us to cling tightly to our usual routines.

Instead, she asks herself what she would do if she had everything that she needed. She then makes her decision based on this assumption of abundance.

“The only thing that is stopping me is me,” is Vicki’s creed.

She also made the decision long ago to only spend time on things that bring her energy. It dawned on her that, “there were people out there that were energized by the things I wasn’t.”

The challenge was then to find people who were wired differently and leverage those complimentary interests and skill sets.

Networking is the key to energy preservation.

Consider for a moment the things that you dread doing: Editing? Design? Creating spreadsheets? Copywriting? Analyzing financial statements?

For any task that sucks your energy, there is someone out there that gets excited by doing that same task. When we deliberately seek out those who think differently and excel in other areas, we liberate ourselves for tasks that energize us.

This is the main goal of networking. You are not just trying to meet people, you are trying to find people that have skills that you can benefit from–and leverage them.

During her workshop at Emerging Women Live 2015, Vicki taught participants three key reasons networks are important:

  • Efficiency: someone else can answer this or do this faster than me.
  • Engagement: when I ask for help, I am actually marketing what I do to others. Their network now becomes aware of what I am doing.
  • Generosity: high performers are givers.

The problem is, many of us struggle with the concept of networking. We’ve all found ourselves at a networking event, standing with a drink in hand, trying to hype ourselves up to meet new people. Or perhaps you’ve found yourself trapped, making painful conversation attempts with someone you don’t really want to talk to.

Vicki has a solution for this.

Overcoming your mental blocks about networking.

Women, in particular, tend to have a hard time asking for help. Vicki speculates that “we are taught from a young age…it is not good to put up your hand and ask [for help].” We therefore practice self-sufficiency and pride ourselves on being able to help others.

Asking is something we need to get better at–something we must practice and a muscle we must build up.

Vicki flips around our natural resistance to asking for help: “By not asking, you are robbing others of their chance to give.”

She suggests there are baby steps we can take towards expanding our networks by using the following scripts:

“Do you know somebody who might know somebody who would be great at X…?” or “If YOU were looking for X, who would you talk to…?”

For most of us, this is much more appealing than plunging blindly into a crowd of strangers to try and meet somebody new.

Vicki also recommends that we practice breaking our existing habits. By going to unusual and different places, we are naturally going to expand our circles.

If you are still filled with dread about forcing yourself to connect with new people, even Vicki admits that she doesn’t love having to put herself out there with strangers at a networking event. By founding SheEo, “I’ve made an organization where people come to me.” Her circles are naturally growing bigger everyday.

So whether you are already in a position of being able to meet new people each day–or are needing to mix up your routines to find new connections–the most important thing to keep in mind is that you are on the lookout for people who are energized by the things that you aren’t. Leverage their energy instead of draining your own.

“The trick is to stay in your mastery and find support for all the rest.”

You can connect with Vicki Saunders on Twitter @vickis and make sure to check out the newly launched website to find out more about her Radical Generosity initiative.

If you are looking for additional resources to move out of survival mode, check our Secondhand Therapy’s free 30 page eBook.

how to fend off burnout