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10 Tips to Catch Burnout Before It's Too Late

Dr. Pat Ivey
Mar 2, 2023

In the coaching profession and athletics in general, we all know that burning out is a real thing just like many other professions. Yet, rarely have I seen someone actually do something about it early in the process. I think it takes recognition and honesty to be able to assess where you’re at and where you’re going. If it’s in the middle of the season and you just have to get through it, that's understandable, but we have to develop the mindset that we can always do something to perform better and create longevity in our careers. As a coach or a teacher, it might mean we have to do less.

1. Be Honest With Yourself

Are you doing too much? I will admit for a large part of my career I thought every little thing I did or did not do had a direct impact on the final score. There are times during the year where that may be the case, but there are also a LOT more times throughout the year where we can work to be more efficient/effective at the things that truly matter.

2. Listen

Listen to your body. Listen to your conversations you are having with yourself and listen to others. If a lot of people are saying you need to get away or do less they are probably right. Oftentimes it’s easier for others to notice signs of burnout in us than it is for us to notice them in ourselves.

3. Learn From Others

Look for examples and other people who manage better. This was huge for me. The truth is many of the people who were my assistants went on to do things much better and more efficiently. Let others serve as continuous examples of what to do (and sometimes, what not to do).

4. Improve Systems and Processes

Improve your organization and communication. Try being more proactive and looking ahead to prepare for what’s coming. When you’re not constantly reacting to things happening around you, but instead have a plan for things you know will happen, you’ll make better use of your time. Putting out fires day-in and day-out leads to burnout quickly.

5. Pay Attention to Nutrition and Hydration

Believe it or not, in athletics it’s safe to say we are all athletes. If you use your body to do something active you are an athlete. Try to eat as many fruits and vegetables and lean protein as possible. Try to drink as much water as possible. It’s like computer programming: GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Stop putting garbage in and you’ll be surprised at how much better your body holds up through a busy year.

6. Manage Your Movement

Working out or training. Some coaches love training to the point that it’s too much and they burn themselves out that way. I say this all the time, find hobbies outside of work. On the flip side, some coaches ‘let themselves go for the sake of the job. There is a happy medium where you’re taking care of yourself… So remember, doing too much is just as bad as not doing anything.

7. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.

Be real - there’s no such thing as a one (wo)man department. You can’t do it all. Literally. You can’t. And if you’re in a position where you don’t have any assistants for budgetary reasons, it’s worth your time to develop an intern program or build relationships so someone wants to help you.

8. Stop Desk Guarding

Go home when the work is done and leave work at work as much as possible. Josh Stoner, one of my former assistants, had to be honest with me. He told me that sometimes I need to be the first one to leave to go home which would be a great example for others to follow. It was a weird concept for me because I was always taught it was good to be the last one at work - it showed I was willing to work hard, even as the department head. But he gave me the perspective shift I needed to help me AND my staff take better care of ourselves.

9. Live a Full Life

Get a hobby or get back to that project you want to finish. And lifting weights/ watching film / or coaching is NOT a hobby. It’s an extension of your work.

10. Find Time to Put Yourself First

Do less and learn to politely decline when you need to recharge. Get a nap in the car, storage room, or where you live if that is close by.

I am sure you can come up with many more examples of how to prevent burn out. For many people this is much easier said than done. Some of us are addicted to the workloads we acquire or seek. Take a look in the mirror and look into your eyes and be honest with yourself with what you see. When you look into your eyes this is what other people see when they see you. If you look tired, fatigued, and burned out, that may not send the message you want.

I want to encourage you to honestly assess where you’re at and make plans to improve where you can. If you’re doing pretty well with managing your workload and stress, then help someone else. Some of the habits you may have when you’re young are going to have to change when you start acquiring more years of experience. Take it from a veteran you will have to change eventually. I encourage you to make those adjustments before it’s too late.

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