At 86 Tony Bennett is an inspiration. Besides his latest album Viva Duets and just published memoir Life is a Gift , Bennett continues to tour. How does he do all this without getting burnt out? The answer comes in an interview he gave Jacob Richler in Zoomer magazine. He said,
As soon as you get burnt out singing, you go over to painting. As soon as you get burned out painting, you go back to singing – and it feels new again, every time. Maybe if you just did one thing, eventually you’d say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to take a vacation and get away from this.’ I never feel burnt out. To me, I’m on perpetual vacation. I’m very fortunate.
How can we put these wise words into practice in our own lives?
First we need to be aware of the signs of burnout. These include exhaustion, emotional numbness, lack of motivation, hopelessness, depression, and disengagement. Many of us have been there at some time in our working lives. That’s why people opt out of the “rat race” and become self-employed in professions like personal history.
But being self-employed and running a personal history business is no guarantee that we won’t get burnt out. In fact being passionate about our work can unwittingly draw us into bad habits – neglecting exercise, meals grabbed on the run, late nights, no down time, and over commitment.
What Bennett is saying about avoiding burnout is that we need to take a complete break from what we’re doing and focus on something entirely different.
Here’s how to put Bennett’s prescription into practice:
- Make a “joy” list. Write down of all the things you like doing that bring you joy and make you happy. For me it can be as simple as a walk along a beach or a quiet hour reading.
- Schedule “joy”. It may sound strange but if you don’t schedule in your “joyful” activities, it’s too easy to fill your time with more work. Take your list and build some “joyful” moments into your daily and weekly schedule. I always make time in the morning to do thirty minutes of meditation followed by forty minutes of stretching exercises. Now I know that not everyone would consider that joyful!
- Take a vacation. Plan a minimum of a week to get away from your office. Unplug from your wired universe. Leave behind your laptop and avoid checking e-mails on your smart phone. Even if you can’t get away from your home, you can take a “Staycation”. I wrote about this in a previous post, The Secret to a Successful “Staycation”.
- Establish boundaries. Learn to say “No”. Saying “Yes” all the time will erode more and more of your precious downtime. Check out The Power of “No”. for more on how to say “No”.
- Switch tasks. Pablo Picasso avoided burnout by making sure that his studio held an array of different projects. All were in various stages of completion and all within sight. When he got frustrated or bored with a project he could simply turn and pick one of his many others. Like Tony Bennett, variety kept him fresh. You can do the same thing by having a range of appealing tasks that are easily accessible and not time-sensitive. Feeling overwhelmed and tired just switch to something else.
To get you in the mood for a well deserved break, kick off your shoes, settle back, and have a listen to k.d. lang & Tony Bennett and Because of You.
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Photo by Lee Bennett