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How to avoid burnout?

One thing I’m constantly struggling with is burnout, and how to avoid it.

I’ve heard time and time again that the #1 thing that destroys businesses is founder burnout

and I’ve had many moments that has left me feeling burnt out.

It may have something to do with trying to keep an audience of 225k+ people engaged, while running a 25+ finance & accounting consulting team 😅

But I’ve come across some really good content recently on how to avoid burnout…

The 4 Energy Quadrants

The 4 Energy quadrants is a concept that was popularized by Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, and author of the amazing book The Power of Full Engagement.

The 4 Energy quadrants - How to avoid burnout

The concept here is that we all want to spend our time under peak performance

we all want to perform like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates…the greats who seem to defy time with their insane productivity.

But with performance, comes a debt that must be repaid.

much like an athlete that requires sleep in order to recover from physical labor, we require time spent in the low energy quadrants (the bottom half) in order to perform.

See… I used to think that performance was something I could just force…

As long as I lock myself in a room for 10 hours, I can accomplish anything.

I’m now realizing that energy is much like our sleep cycles.

Rather than going straight to REM sleep, the ideal sleep state…our bodies go through “phases”…with peaks and troughs.

The same holds true with our energy…and it must be guarded closely if we want to be in control of our output

Peak Performance

This is what we’re all trying to get to.

Peak Performance - How to avoid burnout

This where you feel on top of the world…

your output is amazing…

it’s only a matter of time till you are ruler of the world 😅

But the key thing here is that you simply can’t spend all day and all night in this zone

it’s just not possible.

and much like a battery, with great output comes the need for great charging

Fight or Flight

OK, now let’s focus on the left side of the quadrant where our mood can shift from positive to negative.

Fight or Flight - How to avoid burnout

​In this quadrant, you unlock a “fight or flight” reflex, where your energy is high, but your mood is negative.

In this state, your judgement is clouded, and your mind shuts out everything other than the threat in front of you

This can be helpful if you are out in the wild and being attacked by a predator…

but in the context of business, you usually want to be firing on all 4 cylinders…

without any lapse in judgement.

There are a number of things that put me in this quadrant…specifically

  • When my staff miss deadlines and don’t communicate in advance

  • When someone is rude to me

  • When I’m working on a deadline, and time is running low

  • When I get an angry email from a client


If you spend too much time in the Fight or Flight quadrant…you’ll end up burnt out.

Burnout - How to avoid burnout

When I fall into this quadrant, I often times feel depressed…and fearful of the future.

But this quadrant (or rather, all quadrants), isn’t inherently bad.

Think of this quadrant as forced recovery.

Sometimes, we need to spend time in this quadrant…specifically if we are grieving.

At the same time…given that your mood will be negative in this quadrant…

it’s far better to spend your time in the next and final quadrant - recovery.

Recovery - the last step to avoid burnout

OK…here’s the secret to how you can get back to the Peak Performance quadrant while still enjoying your life.

Recovery  - How to avoid burnout

​Here, your mood is still positive, but your energy is low…allowing you to recover, and eventually move back into peak performance.

What exactly can you do to spend time in this quadrant?

Well…it all depends on the person.

For me, here are a few things that I’ve come to realize allow me to recover and spend time in this quadrant:

  • Eating a nice meal

  • Spending time with a loved one

  • Thinking of content ideas

  • Hiking, or spending time in nature

  • Have a deep meaningful conversation with someone

But those are just my items…ask yourself - what exactly do you enjoy doing, that doesn’t require a high mental energy?

For some it’s meditation…for others it’s exercise…it can be anything.

The key with these quadrants is to recognize that your energy is not infinite

and for every unit of output, there needs to be some unit of recovery.

It can be tough to recognize when you are expending too much energy and need to spend time recovering…

unlike your sleep, where you know a specific amount of hours you must sleep in order to feel energized…

here you need to instead listen to your mind & body and how you are feeling…

and don’t see time spent away from peak performance as slacking off!

Instead, you are recharging your batteries so that you can accomplish your maximum output.


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