6 Signs You (or Your Staff) Are Burning Out – – And How to Fix It!

By Kristina Schneider, Practice Success Coach

attorney stress in the office

Burnout is real and it’s affecting businesses all over the world.  Whether you’re an estate planning professional who owns your own practice or not or perhaps you’re a support staff (employee), it is important that you are aware of the signs of burnout and do what you can right now to make necessary corrections to resolve the issue. If you don’t, your own physical and mental health will be dramatically affected and possibly your business (or employment), which will then impact your personal life as well.

What Is Burnout?

Before I get into the signs that you (or your staff) are burning out, it would be helpful for you to understand what I’m talking about.  Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that is caused by both excessive and prolonged stress.  It comes from constantly feeling overwhelmed, unable to meet demands or expectations, and constantly living in a state of chaos and fire drills.  While these things can typically be managed on occasion, when these things incur continuously, regularly and incessantly, they begin to take a toll on a person.  Individuals begin to lose interest and motivation.  The desire to come into work wanes and they begin to checkout.

It is helpful if you can know and catch the signs of burnout and make course corrections to avoid burning out before it begins to really start to negatively affect you and/or your business.

Before I get into this list of signs of burnout (and how to get better), it is important to say that I am not a medical professional by any means and if you are not like your normal self, it is advisable to see a doctor and rule out any other health concerns or issues.  Having battled thyroid disorder now for over 10 years, I know how much our hormones and body processes can impact daily life.

BURNOUT SIGN #1: You are getting sick often.

One of the very first signs of burnout can come in the form of its impact on your physical health.  Long-term stress impacts your immune system and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.  If you find yourself getting sick often (or have an employee that’s starting to have a lot of absences due to illness), it could be a sign of burnout.  And with the COVID-19 virus and variants around us, having a strong immune system is more important than ever!

BURNOUT SIGN #2: You dread going into the office.

Would you rather catch your pinky toe on the corner of your bed than go to the office?  Does getting up in the morning feel like a constant struggle and you’re already dreading the day ahead of you?  As you head into the office, are you already tensing up and finding yourself down a path of negativity?  This can be a sign that you’re burning out!

BURNOUT SIGN #3: You are making a lot of (silly) mistakes.

Have you (or one of your employees) making a lot of silly mistakes lately?  Typos, forgetting important details, missing deadlines, and other things that seem “atypical” of you (or your employee) can be a sign of burnout!

BURNOUT SIGN #4: You are tired all of the time.

Another clear, telltale sign of burnout is physical exhaustion.  Regardless of how much you’ve slept or if you’ve just woken up from a nap, you’re barely making it through the day without collapsing.  These things can be a sign of burnout, because your body is processing all of the thoughts, anxiety, worry, feelings of overwhelm and stress on a constant, non-stop loop and that begins to wear on the body (another reason why the immune system suffers and more frequent illness occurs).  If no amount of sleep each night seems to still leave you feeling like you’re running on empty, you might be experiencing burnout!

BURNOUT SIGN #5: You are constantly working later and more than you expected.

Not taking your lunch break?  Coming into the office before everyone else gets in?  Staying at the office late or taking work home with you?  Or perhaps you do what I used to do, which is give up one of my weekend days and work then, when I felt like I could get more stuff done without anyone there.  Sometimes there is a staff shortage and you really do need to work more than the standard 40 hours per week, but if this continues long-term and the result is that you are not able to get the necessary mental and physical breaks that you need, it will lead to burnout.

BURNOUT SIGN #6: You are “checking out”.

Have you ever driven somewhere and have no idea how you even got there?  Or perhaps you get to the end of the day and you really cannot account for anything productive that you accomplished or did?  Or maybe you mindlessly spend hours on your mobile device or computer, looking up funny cat TikTok videos or posting on social media when you’ve got a stack of work piled up or other things you need to do?  This is what is called “checking out” and avoiding the things that you need to do, perhaps because it is all too overwhelming or the stress of it all is uncomfortable and hard to manage.  This idea of “checking out” can also be the opposite, where you’re immersing yourself in work because you’re avoiding difficult things at home.  Either way, burnout can come from different sources and if you notice that you’re “checking out” by doing other things when there’s a whole laundry list of things that need to get done, that might be something to be aware of.

BURNOUT SIGN #7: Your relationships with family and friends are suffering.

Are you finding yourself irritable at home and with your loved ones?  Or perhaps there’s no direct conflict, but there’s a lack of connection and not a lot of quality time being spent with friends and family and some of your personal relationships are starting to suffer.  If you are constantly working and thinking about work and are “checked out” of everything that once meant something to you, you may definitely be headed towards burnout.

My Story and Tips on How to Avoid Burnout

Some of you may know this story, but I experienced burnout myself early on in my days working for my boss, attorney Phil Kavesh.  It was self-inflicted expectations and requirements that I put on myself.  I was constantly working, having put my work e-mail on my personal cell phone, I was answering e-mails well into the night or first thing when I woke up and was laying in bed.  I stayed past 5pm most days, took lunch at my desk while I worked, and I even dedicated much of my Saturdays to coming into the office when nobody else was there to work.  This began to take a toll on my physical health.  I found myself at over 300lbs, I was getting sick a lot and having to miss work, and most days, I did not want to come in to work.

It took me some time, but I eventually recognized that something needed to change.  It came when I started to have some health issues that were symptomatic of someone under extreme stress.  I have to credit my former associate (Megan D.) for helping guide and encourage me towards better choices.  The first came in the form of removing my work e-mail from my cell phone and then I stopped working on Saturdays.  The result of doing that was that I got 2 full days to recover, recharge my batteries, and do other things that filled up my cup, and then I came into the office on Monday with more energy, readiness to work, and was far more productive throughout the week as a result. Think about your mobile phone.  If you only recharged it part of the way, never rebooted it, constantly ran it into the ground every day, how do you think that mobile phone would work for you?  Would it be able to do what you needed it to when you needed it?  Probably not, right?

So, here are a few of my self-care tips that will help you avoid burnout.

Take your work e-mail off of your phone.
This one is always one that a lot of professionals and business owners push back when I suggest it, but do you remember the days when e-mail was only accessible on a computer?  People would e-mail, because it was certainly more efficient than mailing in a letter, but now with e-mail accessible literally in your hands (and now on your body, if you have a smart watch!), then e-mail has really become nothing more than another form of instant messaging or texting.  The time and energy that it’s now sucking away from people has made them actually less efficient all around and the constant pinging you to think and deal with work is certainly a cause for burnout.  Ditch it and I promise you, you’ll figure out how to manage e-mail better going forward with the time you take when you do check it (and also because your clients and staff won’t be functioning in the same way and expecting e-mails at the wee hours of the night!).

Work no more than one weekend per month.
Another tough one for some people who are used to giving up their weekends (one or both days) to come in the office or work, but one of the things that I remember about giving up my weekends to work was that I became better at prioritizing my work.  I learned to accept that there simply was no way that I could possibly get everything I needed to done, so I scheduled my time and I prioritized my work time appropriately.  This has given my work weeks structure and it removed the haphazard chaos and resulting overwhelming stress that comes with that.

Take your breaks.
If you know me, then there’s one thing that you know about me—I love to eat! 😜 So, my lunch hour is important to me. But, your lunch break is not just about the needed break to get food in your body to refuel, but it’s also about the much-needed break from looking at a screen, sitting at your desk, and even thinking about work.  Calendar your breaks where needed and, if possible, try and get outside (especially if you work in an office with fluorescent lighting and no windows). That fresh air, movement of your legs, and break is just what your body and mind will need to finish up the rest of the day.  Even better if you’re able to get some activity in, like a short walk.

Tend to your basic self-care needs daily.
This one might not seem like a big one, but the basic self-care needs that people have include: eating food, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and moving the body.  Just do a Google search and look up the stats on the average diet, water consumption, sleep each night, and sedentary lifestyles that so many people have, particularly working professionals that sit hours at a desk.  These basic needs must be tended to daily, particularly if you want to be healthy and avoid any illnesses and ailments as you age.

Block off a quarterly vacation RIGHT NOW for the rest of the year.
This tip I got from Phil, who likes to block off quarterly retreats. These can be 3 to 4-day weekends blocked on his calendar.  Pre-pandemic, he liked to go somewhere remote and be unreachable by anyone and everyone during that time.  He did a lot of self-reflection and even brainstorming and creative “work” while there, while also enjoying activities that rejuvenated him in a way that made him a healthier and happier person (boss, husband, father, etc.) to the world.  If you don’t block this time on your calendar right now, I promise you that you will get to December 31st of this year and realize you never were able to get any time off or a break, because your calendar will inevitably fill up with things to do.

Try some other coping techniques.
Last, but certainly not least, there are some other helpful coping techniques that you might also want to consider to help you gain some balance in your life if you’re feeling like burnout is an issue.  Daily, I would recommend meditation (I’m a fan of the Calm app) and journaling (either free form or you can have one with prompts or a gratitude journal).  As often as needed, you may also wish to consider therapy.  This would give you a space, neutral third-party to speak with about what’s going on with you.  And lastly, you may also wish to research options for life and/or business coaching.  Coaching can be a fantastic way to get the guidance, support, and accountability that you need to get to a better place.

To wrap things up, I hope that you found this article helpful.  I hope that it gives you the awareness (for you or for others you may know), which is really the first step to doing something about it.  Take the time to think about whether you can see some of these signs in your own life or perhaps for some of your employees.  Try some of the tips and help to eliminate the signs of burnout.  I have a saying, “If something is costing you your health, then it is too expensive.”  There’s no point in working yourself into the ground, because if it lands you in the hospital (or worse!), then it will be all for nothing!

If there’s one goal you can set for yourself this year, I hope that it will be to take better care of yourself—body, mind, heart, and soul.


Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach for The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. Her primary responsibility involves consulting and assisting estate planning attorneys on a variety of practice-building and marketing strategies taught by nationally renowned estate planning attorney, Philip Kavesh.

Kristina graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is currently pursuing her Masters in Business Administration degree from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. Immediately following her graduation, she was hired by Phil and Phil’s law firm, Kavesh, Minor & Otis, to help put together live training programs for estate planning attorneys and financial advisors. Additionally, she also served as Phil’s Executive Assistant and assisted his law firm in firm management and marketing.

Thanks to over 17 years of experience working side-by-side with Phil and in his law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous professionals – – and equally as important, their staff – – in the successful implementation of Phil’s systems and practice-building and marketing strategies.

You can reach Kristina by e-mail at kristina@ultimateestateplanner.com.

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