How many of you are just plain tired?
The grind of business travel can just plain wear you out at times. Early flights. Late flights. Delayed flights. Canceled meetings. Late dinners.
Is anyone deeply tired? I mean you feel tired at a whole new level.
And how many more of you can take that a few steps further and would say you’re exhausted?
There’s physical exhaustion when your body is just wasted, ka-put.
Then there’s being mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Have you been there before?
Maybe you’re there now.
Most road warriors live at a pace that is simply unsustainable over a long period of time.
And oh how we try!
But here’s the challenge: you simply don’t realize the exhaustion when you’re in the middle of it.
A friend of mine, Dennis Mcintee, always says, “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle.”
Others can. They see it and even feel it. Sometimes avoid it.
The Exhaustion Cycle is a real thing.
I lived it and it took my crash for me to get out of this vicious cycle.
And the problem is once you escape The Exhaustion Cycle it’s not a once and for all, one and done and never going back cycle.
It will lure and suck you back in before you know it.
Kinda like that bad bad girlfriend I found myself going back to in high school.
The difference is once you realize it, you can get out of it earlier or avoid it altogether the next time.
Ideally, your company notices before you do and can help you stay out of the exhaustion cycle quicker than you trying on your own. And that’s the type of company you want to work for!
Here Are The Three Phases Of The Exhaustion Cycle:
PHASE ONE = BUSY – CAN’T STOP NOW
It’s a new greeting or hello on the road.
“How are you?” “Busy. How are you?”
Then we feel obligated to prove just how busy we are and if you’re sick like me, you try to outdo the other person and one-up them.
“Let me tell you about MY week or MY travel stretch, I would trade you in a second!”
It’s sad but being busy is the new status symbol.
I have to be busy if I’m going to be important.
We don’t know any other way. We remove any possible margin and downtime. We start our week this way and in full swing before lunch. On Monday.
Now, I want to state upfront, busy could be a very good thing if it means things are happening. Forward motion. It becomes an issue when it becomes a consistent pace and the only way we do life.
There are busy seasons but all too often we live busy lives.
And oh there’s a RUSH to being busy. Making things happen.
I love this quote by James Gleick in the book, Faster: “Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power. It thrills us. If we have learned the name of just one hormone, it’s adrenaline. No wonder we call a sudden exhilaration a “rush”.”
But here’s the takeaway: it’s not a sustainable pace.
The problem is being busy is never noticed and corrected, but often just the way things are for us, our way of life.
When I get too busy, I become distracted, rushed, impatient, more prone to make errors, and I usually don’t enjoy what I’m doing as much. You also don’t feel like you can bother a busy person because, well, they’re busy. I feel rushed with them like I don’t have their full attention.
Sadly, I’m that guy too often. Busy is having little to no margin. And margin means having space to breathe.
BUSY = I’m hurried. And busy doesn’t always mean productive.
When I’m overly busy, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything very well. I have to move on to the next thing. And I have a love/hate relationship with being busy.
I hate being hurried and hassled by an overcrowded schedule. But I also love being in demand and the adrenaline rush of a fast-paced life. Ugh!!!
I once heard someone say, “I’ve been thinking about starting a support group for compulsive hurriers. The upside is our meetings wouldn’t last long.”
Even Thomas Kelly said back in 1941: “We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, pressed, and fearful we shall be shallow… We have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”
Wow, over 75 years ago this was quoted and look how much busier and hurried we are now. It’s not easy to slow down in our lives. Despite the complaining, we like the exhilaration and rush.
Even if we take a moment to think about how to get off the proverbial treadmill, we’re not sure where to even begin. Busy is a slippery slope, a downward spiral that rarely is an end but only the beginning.
We don’t feel like we can pull back because we “can’t stop now.” My energy is dispersed. It’s ALL over the place. And it’s the opposite of focus.
It’s going absolutely everywhere because I’m busy and there’s “people to see and things to do.”
Don’t you know I’m busy people!
Phase One of the Exhaustion Cycle – Can’t Stop Now = I’m Hurried and my Energy is Dispersed
You can be busy for a long time before phase 2 but it will come unless something dramatically changes in the way you do life which we’ll learn, after this short break.
Busy, if not kept in check by you as the road warrior or preferably your company can very easily lead to the next phase, which is:
PHASE TWO = BEATDOWN – CAN’T TAKE THIS
Busy, “can’t stop now” builds in pressure. Rarely does it stop with busy. You don’t immediately end up in beatdown from busy but IF you keep up the busy pace of always being hurried and little to no margin, it will inevitably lead to feeling beatdown.
This is inward. No one usually knows when you move from Busy to Beatdown. Remember, Beatdown is a feeling and you start thinking: I Can’t Take This! Whatever feelings of fun or a rush you were getting from “being busy” have officially left the building. A thing of the past.
If this is the case, you’re officially entered Beatdown. But it’s subtle so you must look for the signs.
Personally, I feel more frustrated, more easily irritated. I become passive-aggressive. I feel tension. I even feel cynical sometimes I’m embarrassed to say.
I also become more defensive like everyone is after me. My self-talk increases. It starts with: “I don’t want to do this” then “I can’t take this.” And when it gets really bad, it turns into audible unintelligent man sounds: UGH! ARGH!
I also get snarky, more sarcastic, and more cutting with my words. It never ends well and has become an area of growth for me.
Remember, Busy = I’m hurried but…
Beatdown = I’m stressed.
Busy is beginning to pile on and it’s no longer as fun. The “rush” is wearing off. Not cool, man. You’re officially feeling its stress. And people handle stress in different ways.
Some ways are healthy, such as exercise, downtime, or even taking much needed time off of work.
But most people’s stress outlets are often unhealthy, especially when you’re too busy and beatdown.
We think we don’t have the time or can’t take the time to do the very things that relieve this stress.
This is never good Road Warriors.
For me, it starts with my muscles getting tight in my neck and shoulders with no back rub in sight. Then I move on to lazy or poor eating choices. I want something I can control and makes me feel better. I want little preparation and a quick reward. Snacks. I also get lazy on my eating and drinking to “feel better”. A little more sauce (aka vino) and a lot more Oreos. Hide the bag from the women and children. Those Oreos are going to get hurt and it won’t be pretty.
My energy goes from dispersed in the BUSY phase to decreased.
My ENERGY is DECREASED
My energy NOT my stress is decreased. Your Stress INCREASES and Energy DECREASES.
As my 4-year-old says: “that NO good!”
When we’re in the Beatdown Phase and let’s say you use the weekend to regroup, you’ll fly through the Busy Phase and into the Beatdown Phase before the end of the
Something has to change.
And once you’re in the Beatdown Phase, you almost always end up in the final phase of the Exhaustion Cycle:
PHASE THREE = BURNOUT – CAN’T KEEP GOING
Sadly, most road warriors have been there. We just don’t care anymore. We just want everything to stop.
And what happens when we can’t keep going?
Things start dropping.
Busy = I’m Hurried.
Beatdown = I’m Stressed.
But complete Burnout = I’m Done.
I simply don’t have the bandwidth needed to get what needs to be done because I’m done.
This is a bad place. And it doesn’t end quickly. No more quick fixes. Everything good that was working for you is usually gone – sleeping well / eating healthy / fitness to even more movement.
I recently read a commencement speech delivered by Brian Dyson, the former COO of Coca-Cola a number of years ago: “Imagine life as a game in which you’re juggling some five balls in the air.
You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they’ll be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.”
Here’s the moral of the story:
We cannot afford to drop the highest priorities…
And when you get to Beatdown, the likelihood is incredibly high that one or more of the glass balls will be dropped. Some very important glass balls may be scuffed, nicked and damaged.
And for many, their health is the very first thing that goes. We know we need to change things but we’re SO far from where we used to be, it just seems insurmountable. And what happens to my energy in the Beatdown Phase?
It went from dispersed to decreased but now…
My ENERGY is DEPLETED
Symptoms could be:
- No motivation to do anything
- Aggressive (passive in passive-aggressive now sold separately)
- Numb or choosing numbing behaviors
This is the Jekyll and Hyde side of you – the complete opposite of who you were and possibly the ugly side. It is for me.
Burnout is L-O-N-G and often painful for you and those around you. Burnout is also scary. It can lead to any or all of the following:
- Reaction – anywhere but here mindset
- Regret – do something stupid (usually big) to feel better or feel anything at all
This is where glass balls in the juggling example crack or even shatter. Health and Relationships are the most critical. The Burnout Phase should “scare the exhaustion out of you!”
Drastic measures often need to be taken by you as a road warrior or your company and ironically, this is the purpose of the Elite Road Warrior Group, to help eliminate burnout and exceed results for business travelers.
There is hope. There IS a way OUT of the Exhaustion Cycle…
Here’s a remake of Psalm 23 for those who live in The Exhaustion Cycle:
Psalm 23 revisited
The road is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted.
It leads me into deep depression, it hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for busyness’ sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done, for me “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines, my inbox overflows.
Surely busy, beatdown, and burnout shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the bonds of the exhaustion cycle forever.