Recently I took a whole week of vacation.  (OK, staycation, but doing fun things and *not* working.  Well, not much.)


Like many people, especially people who run their own businesses, I usually take my work with me on vacation.  This time I only checked email at night and only addressed one issue that I thought couldn't wait or couldn't be handled by someone else (instead of running meetings remotely, running minutes, monitoring email, handling issues, etc.).  This was pretty unusual for me, but I did it for one big reason - I was burned out.  Dragging.  Tired all the time.


It was a good lesson for me.  I do practice what I preach with time management and generally with delegation, but I knew the burnout was coming and didn't take steps to combat it.  Steps like taking a day off here and there and not checking mail.  Steps like finding some new and interesting challenge. 


We see burnout all the time in our teams - but usually when it's really too late to head it off.  When someone has reached their limit, they often look to recover in a new job -  and we lose a team member.  Sometimes the lack of motivation that comes with burnout becomes contagious and we have to try to get a whole team moving again.


It's worth watching for warning signs, both in yourself and in your team members:


  • Nothing seems interesting
  • Dragging  into meetings
  • Late starts and early finishes to the work day
  • An interest in talking about anything *but* the project   
  • Mistakes that seem sloppy
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of interest in job assignments
  • Missed deadlines


If you see these in yourself, take some steps.  Take a few days off  visit the spa or go for a hike or see a museum - whatever is fun - if you can't take a real vacation.  Realize that it's going to be hard even to get motivated to schedule something, but the world will look better as soon as the plan is in place.  Be sure you have a backup for your critical tasks so you can hand them over when you go and know that things are under control.  Learn something new you've always wanted to do, either a work skill or something totally outside of work.


If you see any of these warning signs in your team members, talk to them about it.  Give them a safe place to say they're feeling burned out.  If you can get them some time off, do it - approach their management if necessary.  At the very least, give them some interesting assignment to chew on.  You can also practice the motivational skills I've talked about elsewhere - know what motivates them and provide it. 


If you're seeing this with more than one of your team members, it might be time for an offsite team building activity or a day off for the entire team (so no one is going to be calling them while they're out).


Whatever it takes, it's going to be less expensive than dealing with burnout.


Now go out there and enjoy!