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How to Work Hard Without Burning Out

Find the healthy balance that works for you.

ST. LOUIS — “At times I feel like a gerbil in a cage just spinning on that wheel, working hard and going nowhere,” confessed Marc with a guttural moan and then asked, “What’s the secret of being able to work hard without burning out?”

Marc was addressing a serious challenge that every elite advisor has encountered at one time or another in their career. Most are able to develop some form of a priority management system that enables them to continue to perform at high levels while maintaining a healthy balance in their life. Sadly, there are a small percentage of elite advisors who become so obsessed with their careers that they have no time for anything else—and almost always this eventually becomes toxic and the wheels start falling off.

In working with elite advisors over the past 30 plus years I’ve been able to observe both groups. For the purposes of this article, I’m going focus on those (the majority) who were able to develop a healthy balance and how they did it.

What they all had in common was that their family, personal health and business were all important to them. To that end, your first step is to think in terms of segmenting your life into three buckets; professional, family and personal. The next step is to think in terms of priority management for each bucket. Let me share a simple template of how this can work.

1. Professional Bucket – This requires having already established clear goals that are complete with a specific action plan. With your goal serving as your North Star, now you’re ready to implement priority management.

  • Focus each day on your $1,000/hour activities. Your most important activities that will propel you to your goal. 
  • Delegate the rest—you gain control by giving up control. If this requires hiring someone, consider this an investment in reaching your goal.
  • Reward yourself for completing your $1,000/hour activities. For instance, if you’ve completed your $1,000/hour activities for the week, treat yourself to the movies, take the family out for pizza, and get a nice bottle of wine. The idea is to reward professional priority management.    

2. Family Bucket – Carve out time each day for your family. During this time they are top-top-top priority. This means you’re present in body, mind and spirit. This requires turning off your cellphone, not checking email and making this uninterrupted time. Remember—family time is a priority!

3. Personal Bucket – This is all about you and your health and fitness. You’re not going to be a top-notch advisor or a good parent without good health, mental and physical. Similar to your family bucket, you need to carve out time for daily exercise, make reading a priority, eat healthy and be moderate in your consumption of  alcohol (if you do indulge). And don’t forget to get your sleep! With eight hours being recommended by the medical community, make certain that you get between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Also, because your personal health and fitness is a  priority, keep your cellphone off and don’t check emails!

The common thread that is woven through all of this by the elite advisors I’ve encountered is they thoroughly enjoy themselves in each area of their life. They are passionate about their profession, they love their family and don’t complain about that early morning workout. 

Everyone can create a healthy balance. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a quality more commonly found in high achievers than in the average person. Sure, the details will be different for every individual, but working hard without burning out is doable. Marc’s initial issue, he confessed, was that he hadn’t really committed to serious goals—he had no North Star.      

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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