5 contractor tips to keep burnout at bay in 2023

Burnout isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s something that creeps up on you over time.

A recent client reached out to me when they started to see signs of burnout and they were keen to make sure it didn’t get worse, writes life coach Shwezin Win, founder of Win at life.

The client enjoyed being a contractor, they loved the flexibility to pick and choose roles; the variety, new challenges, and the financial benefits.

However recently, they had found themselves easily frustrated, irritable, exhausted, demotivated and questioning their decisions.

A familiar story?

With a little coaching from me, they were able to clearly articulate and pinpoint the situations which were specific stressors. We got to unpack the implications of the onset of burnout and how it was impacting not just work, but their personal life too.

Finding themselves coming home and not being able to shake off the frustration, my contractor-client was understandably keen to address the strain which their burnout was now having on relationships in the home.

So if you’re seeing the early signs of burnout, here’s five top tips to help you:

1. Be self-aware and non-dismssive of the signs

Understand and acknowledge the signs of the mental, physical and/or psychological exhaustion from stress. Don’t just brush them aside or make excuses as to why you’re feeling the initial signs of burnout.

2. Reserve some self-care time in your diary

Consider what you’re doing for yourself, to genuinely look after yourself – to boost your physical and/or mental health.

Sometimes what we think we ‘want,’ we may actually ‘need.’

Try to do something that helps you recharge and renews your energy. Whether it’s a walk, some other form of exercise, reading a book or just watching something funny or listening to something relaxing. Whatever you need to recharge, put the time in your day to make it happen.

3. Check your boundaries

Consider whether you’ve got the right boundaries in place. Are you saying “Yes” to the right things, or are there times when you need to say “No” a bit more often?

Understand the implications on your mental and emotional stress that certain situations (or people) create. And then, how could you reduce them?

If certain situations are beyond your control, like a stakeholder or client meeting, consider how you might deal with it differently.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you need to have a different mindset for these upcoming stressors?
  • Should you reframe the situation so you can see the positive elements?
  • Might you be better off managing your expectations, so the outcome has less likelihood of leaving you feeling frustrated?

4. Strike a better work-life balance

One of the many causes of burnout is the lack of balance in your life. 

Start by taking one small action to spend time doing something non-work related. Try reducing the time you spend on screens, put “Do Not Disturb” on your phone and consider whether you’re taking proper downtime -- for holidays, family, your leisure pursuits. And by ‘proper,’ I mean totally switching off when you are on what your full-time colleagues would consider as ‘annual leave.’

Alternatively, think about the amount of time you’re spending on doing things that you love, or that bring you joy? Is that time sufficient, proportionate, or filling you up enough?

5. Reach out

We all need help from time to time and it’s not a sign of failure, but a sign of strength to know when you need support.

To find the time to reach out, think about the people around you; what do you absolutely need to do right now, and what could you delegate? 

Even once you’ve reached out, ask yourself, ‘Who else has the skills to support me, in the areas that are causing me stress?’ Then consider just one or two actions in answer to that, which can turn down the overwhelm.

Here's an update on my once burnt-out contractor...

Not every one of the above steps will necessarily work for you, so take only the steps that are relevant to your lifestyle and sound able to change-up things for the better.

We’re all different, but these five certainly helped my client. A bit more about them, if I may (with their permission of course!).

The client had let their personal training sessions slip. Once we had a session, I could see these exercise sessions filled them up -- even just conversationally, so they went straight back into the diary!

They then took just a little time off work. Looking back, we discovered they had gone from one contracting opportunity to another, without a break. There was “never a good time” to take a full holiday. Actually, the client realised they hadn’t been on a “proper break” for a year.

They also managed their own expectations differently and those of some stakeholders in the client organisation, with some quite subtle moves we came up with. Day-to-day, the client tried different techniques to manage workload, even resulting in an unexpected ally or two which lent extra help and support. 

Remember, you can’t banish the ‘b-word’ but you can keep it at bay

Finally contractors, just be under no illusions with the ‘b-word.’ Burnout impacts everyone. Contractors are massively vulnerable to it, but last week even New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern resigned because of burnout, admitting she had “no fuel left”. The support she has received for ‘telling it like it is’? Totally refreshing and entirely appropriate.

My advice if your January feels like it’s got to be late February already is this -- act. Don’t ignore early signs of burnout. It’s your body telling you to take action. Try these five tips, and if you still struggle after a good attempt or two, remember; help from me is just a message away if you truly want to get serious about keeping burnout at bay!

Read more about life coaching services from Win at Life and get in touch here

Monday 23rd Jan 2023
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Written by Shwezin Win

Shwezin Win is a fully qualified and experienced Personal Performance Coach. She has worked for over 20 years in small and major businesses within retail and marketing. She has held senior positions, managed large teams and worked for many years within IT/transformational projects, which is how she has had the experience of working with so many contractors. She set up Win at life to help as many people as possible to thrive rather than survive.

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