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8 Lessons from High Performers

In 2023 we assessed over 1,000 people on their ways of working & burnout risk. We learned that most people were struggling with:

  • Switching off at the end of the workday

  • Blurred boundaries between work and home

  • Feeling overloaded

However, about 5% of the people we assessed had very low burnout risk. Why? This year I've been interviewing them to find out. These 'positive deviants’ ranged from CEO’s to supervisors.

Here are the 8 things I learned that they have in common (nb - these are individual factors. In the next post I'll talk about org level factors):

1.    When they are at work, they work very hard

  • They are not lazy

  • They are driven

  • They are high-performers

2.    They’ve reflected on the best/worst ways to work (and live)

  • Nearly all used to work in unhealthy ways and suffered as a result

  • They stepped back, examined their approach and made key decisions about how to work in a sustainable way

  • They are disciplined about sticking to their new approach

3.    They made peace with not getting everything done

  • Early in their careers they prided themselves on completing everything each day

  • As they got into bigger jobs they learned they had to let that go

  • Now they prioritise in the morning, do all they can, and leave what's incomplete for tomorrow

4.    All have a ritual to switch from work to personal mode

  • Activity: Mike reads a book on his bus ride home (never looks at his phone)

  • Mantra: Mary runs through a checklist before saying ‘shutdown complete’

  • Visualisation: Tony mentally hangs his work uniform on a lamppost in front of his house

5.    They have clear boundaries between work and home

In the past, nearly all had blurred boundaries and suffered

  • They are now vigilant not to think about or do work at home

  • “I don’t work at home. I wait until the workplace to think about work”

  • “My spouse and I agreed not to talk about work at the weekends”

6.    They grew into multifaceted people

  • Most used to be one-dimensional career people, but saw the downsides

  • They now have many identities, interests, and 'opposite worlds' that absorb and recharge them e.g. Dancing, running, quilting, volunteering

  • “You (Nick) talked about people needing a hobby. I have too many hobbies.”

7.    They have a ‘phone strategy’

They observed the negative impact that phones had on their well-being. They became 'digital minimalists'

  • They're very disciplined about their phone use at home 

  • Nearly all put their phone out of site and don’t check it till morning

“I no longer feel drained. I'm far more effective at work and home”

8. They keep work in perspective

  • They watched absolutely dedicated people get laid off and how it shattered their identity

  • They see the impermanence of jobs

  • They now work hard but do not fuse their identity to a role

"My boss told me I should be dating the company, not married to it."

Download the 8 patterns worksheet here


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