It’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation to work when you’re burning yourself out. More importantly, it starts to affect the rest of your life and the people in it. Burnout is so much more than just stress and fatigue though—it’s a medical condition, according to the World Health Organization. Simply resting isn’t going to solve it, because unless you address its causes, you’re going to burn yourself out no matter how much you relax. There are factors you experience on a daily basis that cause and exacerbate burnout, and these are five of the most important:
1. Unclear Expectations
This is one of the most important things to focus on, because when we don’t know what to expect or have no predictability, it can be demoralizing and cause horrible days. We use the equation Expectations Minus Reality Equals Conflict all the time, because when your expectations don’t match with reality, you’re left with conflict. If that conflict is left unresolved, it ultimately becomes a crisis, and dealing with crises will burn you out incredibly fast.
Thankfully, it’s something you can take action on immediately. Starting with job descriptions, team members should be welcomed into an environment where they know what to expect and what’s expected of them. Be clear about what each role is and how things work during the day, create systems that make everything predictable, and your team will have clarity. And with that clarity comes power.
2. Lack of Control
When you don’t handle your unclear expectations or establish boundaries, you lose control, and then it’s like you’re just along for the ride, and all you can do is hope that it goes okay. You hope that your patients show up and pay, but when there’s no control, there’s no predictability. That unpredictability means that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to pay your bills or keep your team members, and it puts you into a tailspin that will drain you completely.
3. Lack of a Support System
One of the most important things you need is a system of people you can lean on that provide you with emotional and social support, because without it, you’re just talking to yourself. And like Kirk says, “80% of all self-talk is negative.” The worst person to talk to about business is yourself because you end up spiraling out of control. You need a coach, a study club, or a therapist—someone you can be vulnerable with and trust, because being able to admit to someone that you’re struggling and need help is crucial to escaping the situation.
4. Work-life Imbalance
ACT is built around the concept of a Better Practice and a Better Life, because having a good work-life balance is critical to your health. You didn’t go into this profession to be remembered as a great business owner—you did it so you could have a life. To do so, you need to establish boundaries around work. Kirk often reminds our clients that we spend 30% of our lives at work—why up that to 40%? The great thing about dentistry and being a practice owner is that you’re the one that makes the rules. It’s not the patients that dictate when you come in—it’s you. We teach all of our clients early on that planning your life comes before planning your work, so look through your year and plan your time away before anything else. It’s important to give yourself space to live, so use our Better Life Planner and set aside time to reset.
5. Dysfunctional Workplace Dynamics
This is one of the main reasons why clients come to us, and it’s a culmination of the other factors. So while working on solving those problems will make a difference, it’s also important to focus on creating a great culture. Cultures only happen when you’re deliberate, and that starts with establishing your rules for behavior in the office—your core values.
When you have rules around behavior, you start to get a crucial component to a healthy culture—trust. Trust enables your team to feel safe enough to open up and be vulnerable with one another, and that psychological safety has been found to be the number one thing that exists in all highly functional teams.
Burnout creates so many problems; not just in the present, but also in the future, because there are unintended consequences that happen further down the line if you don’t resolve that burnout. It’s a serious problem, but it’s one you can solve. Take a breath, think about what’s important, and find someone you can talk to for help. Your practice shouldn’t suck all your energy out, so reach out to the ACT team and let us help you give your best energy to the parts of your life that matter most by building a Better Practice and a Better Life!
Jenni Poulos is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental