Less work. More done. The No. 1 question you can ask to prevent burnout.

If you’re feeling burnt out, apathetic or exhausted, you’re not alone. In varying ways, we are all navigating the pandemic flux, this latest wave of worldwide uncertainty. This state of mind is defined by the Washington Post as “blunted emotions, spikes in anxiety and depression and a desire to drastically change something about our lives.”

This makes showing up for work so freaking hard. We show up, day after day, to provide for ourselves, and our families, and hopefully find some fulfillment along the way. For some of us, we’re serving a greater purpose at work and the community might even rely on us. We’re forced to keep going.

And if you’re feeling like I’m feeling these days, some of us just don’t have that much to give.


Working with teams across the Tampa Bay area in 2021, the No. 1 complaint I hear is that we are doing too much. Shockingly, even executive teams and senior leaders who make decisions about workload say they are in too many meetings to get their actual work done. And sure, this was a problem before the pandemic. Now we have even fewer people, energy and emotional capacity.

The people who lead us are just like you and me. We’re still human and we want to feel needed. For many of us, work provides this sense of purpose and meaning. During the pandemic, it’s often the only thing that provides a sense of control. The No. 1 shame trigger at work is the fear of irrelevance. So how do we ensure we’re not irrelevant? Our default is the need to constantly move, we persistently pump out more and more work. Have more than two or three priorities? Spoiler alert: You’re doing too much. You know it (and your customers do, too).

The most successful (and happy!) teams put simple, repeatable systems in place to make hard decisions easier. For example:

• Dedicate roles, such as facilitator and scribe, to ensure meetings stay on topic and on time.

• Keep daily meetings to 15 minutes or less to conserve energy and discuss only necessary information.

• Visualize work using a kanban board to reduce decision fatigue and promote transparency.


The only way to reduce, or avoid, burnout is to be accountable for what we say “yes” to. Accountability can feel “wishy-washy” until we put actionable steps in place. Incorporating simple questions, born of genuine curiosity, results in safeguards for our teams and provides straightforward ways for open discussion, and meaningful conversations, about priorities and workload.

When a new initiative, project or event gets proposed at a team check-in, or meeting, ask this one question: “Do we have the capacity for this?”

Capacity can mean anything from time in our day, energy or physical resources. Asking this question creates space for healthy discussion about what our priorities are and how this new work fits in.

If you have a team that says “yes” to everything, take the discussion deeper with this question: “If this is now a priority, which thing we’re currently working on is no longer a priority?” or ask “Who’s going to own this?”

Use these simple questions to hold yourself, and others, accountable. Work can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, you were hired to bring value. Right now, that value might be to just. slow. down.

Tip: Write these questions on the actual agenda so you don’t forget. Don’t have an agenda? That’s a whole ’nother article.

Kim Linton is the owner of 1Light Daring Leadership & Facilitation. She works with individuals and teams who want to make work modern, courageous and intentional. She is a certified Dare to Lead facilitator. Reach her at kim@weare1light.com.

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