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8 October 2020

Burned out? Don’t go on vacation


Posted by Racquel Harris Mason | 08-Oct-2020

Racquel Harris Mason, Elanco’s Chief Marketing Officer, recently spoke at the Integrating Women Leaders conference about how to diagnose and avoid burnout.

As a marketing executive with 30 years of corporate experience, at least 10 restructures, and over 50 product launches under my belt, and as a wife and the mother of 3 children, I – sadly -  know a lot about burnout. Late nights, early mornings, long weeks with no real weekend are exhausting - being “on” can take a toll. Then add in many womens’ tendencies to be perfectionists and wanting to please others (even at the expense of their own well-being) as well as the need to juggle our non-work responsibilities and you have all of the ingredients for burnout.

Conventional wisdom tells us the cure for burnout is a vacation. 

Vacations are not the answer.

They’re just a time off away from the problem. How many times to do we grab sunglasses and retreat to a beach only to come back to the same mess we left? Taking time off is great, but we need to address the root cause of the issue, not just escape for a few days. 

Let’s talk about how to make sustainable change to live a happier (and healthier life):

1.) Treat your career as a journey, not a set of stairs to climb.  Our lives have peaks and valleys, so should our careers.  Earlier in my career, I turned down a promotion to take a lateral role that would give me more freedom to do some things that I needed to do for my family. People questioned my decision, but I didn’t. In that role, I was able to recharge, think creatively, and ultimately go farther in my career than I would have otherwise. And I was able to take care of some important personal responsibilities that only I could handle. In the end, the move was better for me personally and professionally.  Don’t be afraid to go off of the beaten path!

2.) There’s always a cost. If you’re leaning in to one thing in your life, by definition you’re leaning away from something else. That’s ok.  Just be intentional about the decisions you make, including the compromises. You cannot have it all, all the time.

3.) Leaders say “no.” Women are conditioned to be people pleasers, and that means our default is often “OK, sure.” Good leaders say “yes” to the few things that are important and to the work that they can uniquely add value to, and then they say “no” to everything else.

4.) Set your boundaries and communicate them. Whether it’s stopping work at a specific time each day so you can head to a kids ballgame or our own tennis lessons, or leaving emails to sit over a weekend, decide where your boundaries are and fence them off. Then, make sure they’re understood by those in your life – at work and at home.  Me time is not selfish, it’s critical to recharge so that you can have the energy to handle all of the other roles in your life.

5.) Do your work at work during work hours.  Many of us have developed the bad habit of starting our personal work when the day is over. Instead, organize your calendar and schedule every piece of work you need to do, whether it’s clearing email or writing a business plan. Try to not allow work to fill up all the spaces in your personal time that should be being used for you to relax and recharge.

6.) Drive yourself to be intentional. I check in with myself and the people that are most important in my life once a quarter to see if the actions I’m taking meet the goals I’ve set for myself at the start of the year.  I also ask about how I’m doing in delivering what they need and try to understand where I’m off track (and there will always be something that’s not on track). Then, I make a plan to improve.

None of us do our best work when we’re exhausted, so pushing yourself when you’re feeling burned out is the last thing any company wants, and it’s unfair to yourself and your loved ones. The key is to develop sustainable practices that can work for you in the long-term to run the race ahead, remember, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, and recovery is just as important as the run itself to enable peak performance.

Take good care of yourself.


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