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Join expert guest Hannah Tackett for a must-listen episode as we take a deep dive into burnout: packed with tips on how to identify, avoid and overcome it.

Episode Transcript

This episode transcript has been AI generated for your convenience and accessibility.

William Wadsworth: Hello, and welcome to the exam Study Expert podcast. Over the next few weeks, I’ve got a little mini series for you on finding calm, a trio of episodes in which we’ll be taking a look at practical tips for keeping your stress levels at bay, tackling imposter syndrome and academic anxiety. And, today, to kick things off, exploring the phenomenon of burnout, what it is, how to avoid it, and how to get out of it. The reason I wanted to bring you this episode was that I was hearing more and more of my coaching clients talking to me about feeling burned out, where they were getting burned out, feeling they were totally burned out, and they were using the term in slightly different ways. So for some people, it just meant it may be a little bit run down and tired after a busy term or semester. And for others, it was quite a serious, deep, almost paralysing exhaustion, typically reached after pushing through successive limits to what you should really be taking on for sustainable workload balance, sometimes over years. Now, I know many of you listening are pretty high achievers, and with that, we tend to push ourselves quite hard. That’s great in many ways and can lead to some wonderful successes. But if we’re not careful, we can risk pushing ourselves too hard for too long, giving too much of ourselves over too long a time without sufficient rest and recuperation and ending up in that burnout, scenario. So, because so many people have been talking to me about this, I really wanted to bring on an authority on the subject onto the podcast. And I I think I found just the person for you today in the shape of our guest, Hannah Haringer. As you’ll quickly hear for yourself, she’s unpicked this subject to an incredible level. So, I’m really excited to introduce Hannah to you today. Let’s meet Hannah and dive right into today’s episode.

Hannah: So, hello. My name is Hannah, and I am a burnout recovery coach. And, essentially, I got into this because I have a habit of taking on so much and pushing so hard that I burned out more than once in more than one career. And I became very interested in, how to prevent that from happening, how to live your best, most fulfilled, ambitious life without hitting that wall, without spending months not being able to get out of bed. And I’ve talked to so many women, at conferences and in my professional world, back when I’m incorporated as a UX designer in tech, talked to so many women who have hit the same wall, who’ve gone too far, who’ve burnt themselves out, and it became kind of an interest and a passion of mine. And so here I am. Bring help and support to all of us who are struggling to get it all done without completely frying ourselves.

William Wadsworth: Wonderful. Before we dive right in, I think maybe we could start with a definition. So what is burnout, and, what does it feel like?

Hannah: Right. So burnout is somewhat subjective. Like, this is not a medical diagnosis. And the way I think of it is we all get tired, right? We all feel disconnected and occasionally resentful towards our responsibilities. And I, can go through a list of symptoms. actually, I think I will.

William Wadsworth: Yeah, that’d be great.

Hannah: So, signs that, the stress is getting to are pretty standard. So there’s irritability, anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration, even tummy troubles, headaches. And those are all. I mean, those could be anything. So how do you know when you’re heading towards burnout? And there’s, I think, some big red flags, and one of them is cynicism and detachment. When you start feeling kind of checked out, you start feeling like you don’t care or you start feeling very cynical about the situation. That’s one sign that you’re heading towards the burnout. And then worse than that is when you start feeling that way, it affects your performance. And then when your performance is impacted, then you feel kind of like a lack of accomplishment or like you’ve become ineffective at your job. And that’s kind of at the tail end of experiencing a burnout. Ideally, we turn things around before you hit this wall, and that can lead to, like, hopelessness and poor performance and feelings of inadequacy and feeling easily overwhelmed. So, you know, we don’t want to get all the way to just not functioning. So when we start to feel that feeling of overwhelm, extreme fatigue, cynicism, and detachment, typically we take some time off. Right. Take a weekend off, and you come back on Monday, and you still feel that way. And it happens again the next Monday and the next Monday, and you start to feel dread on Friday. About the Monday. That’s a red flag. It’s kind of like when you don’t come back, when the rest that is scheduled into your normal life isn’t enough and you’re not coming back with a full cup. I feel like that’s when you need to start looking for some support or looking to make some changes in your life and the balance of your life. And, yeah, I think it’s that just not recovering in the time that you have to recover is one of the biggest signs. Red flags, like, hey, you need to change something before this gets worse.

William Wadsworth: Yeah. Just maybe talk to your own experience a little bit, just add a little bit of colour maybe for people listening. So you mentioned your experience. I think you talked about not being able to get out of bed, you know.

Hannah: Yeah.

William Wadsworth: What was, what was it like for you?

Hannah: So I’ve had three big burnouts in my life. One as a student, I was in my early twenties, going to school full time, working quite a bit and volunteering on the side. And, for that one, I actually fell asleep while driving. Wow. So that was a big wake up call for me to drop at least some of my responsibilities or some of the things that I had opted into, because, I did crash the car. I survived, no one was injured. Car was done. but scared me. Right. So, I did stop the volunteering work and focused just on school and work. My second burnout was when I was a holistic healthcare practitioner and I didn’t know how to say no. And I was very much a people pleaser. I always wanted to say yes. I always wanted to be the one to do things and I just said yes to too many things and I got very, very sick. and that one lasted, that one was only a few weeks, but it was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. And it was right when I was about to do something that I didn’t want to do, I had that resentment, hard, like, I should not have said yes to this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t. Why did I say yes? We ended up not doing it. But that’s a terrible way to back out of something. And then my last one, my most significant one, the last time I burnt out, which really kind of helped me to dive into the whys and understand the reasoning. Like, why does this keep happening? Because it’s a cycle for some of us, you know, like, if you are a high achiever, a people pleaser, a perfectionist, these things can continue to happen over and over again. So in that one, I was a young mom, so I was in my thirties, had just had babies, working full time, running the household, had the young children, and, I didn’t change the way I worked, not that you have to, but if you work the way I work. You might want to. So. And I, got, you know, I started feeling resentful. All those symptoms started coming up. The extreme fatigue, which obviously a mother of very young children, you’re going to feel a little tired anyways. But it got to a point where I. I couldn’t get out of bed for months. It took months. I was not able to get up. I was like working from home in my bed kind of. And that scared me. That really scared me because I was. It wasn’t just me anymore. You know, it’s not just my life on the line here. It’s like I’m responsible for these two little humans that need me to show up as my best self every single day. I’m responsible in this marriage to show up. I’m responsible to pay the bills for this household. I have a career that I put sweat and tears into building and I don’t want to lose it. You know, I don’t want to damage my reputation. And so those things matter deeply to me. And this wake up call, I’m sorry, this burnout was a wake up call in that way. And that, like, I have to recover from this and it’s never happening again. and that was where my journey really began in understanding what the deep work was that would lead to the changes that I need. Because it’s not just external factors that lead to a burnout, it’s also how you behave and who you are being in conjunction with. So it’s like an inner game and outer game.

William Wadsworth: So I think in your work, I understand you talk about, you know, six main traps, you might want to call them. Do those kind of fit into those external and internal drivers? So maybe, would you maybe just give us a summary of what, what those six are? Ah, I think you might have sort of touched on a couple of them in passing already, but, yeah, what’s the full set that we should be looking out for? And then maybe we can kind of dive into some of the details.

Hannah: Yes. So I think of these as like the six success traps and they are the same behaviours that drive us to success. However, when we take them too far, they can drive us to burnout, especially if they are driven by fear. So, those are, the first one is people pleasing. So if you find yourself constantly overworking, and you’re driven for the need for approval and you end up being just like the go to person, and you take on more and more and more because you don’t want to upset anyone, you don’t want anyone to be unhappy with your performance. You don’t want anyone to feel like, like unhappy because you didn’t do their job for them. So there’s that people pleasing aspect of it. That’s one behaviour, right? And then there’s the perfectionism, which I think we’re familiar with. There’s a lot of. I think there’s a lot written about being a perfectionist and how that plays into leading to burnout. And that one also can be driven by fear. And when we hold ourselves to such a high standard that meeting it consistently sucks our life out of us. Like, that is a level of perfectionism that we need to take a step back from. Sure, it can drive you to success, it can drive you to be known as the person who gets things done really well, but you don’t want it to go too far, you don’t want it to end up damaging your career. And then there’s also overextending. So when you step up and volunteer to take on other people’s responsibilities and, you’re overextending, you’re over working, you’re everyone else’s rock, you’re everyone else’s emotional support, you’re everyone else’s everything. And then in turn, kind of neglecting your own self care because there’s just no room left in your life to take care of yourself because you have overextended yourself on behalf of everyone and everything else on the planet. So that’s another behaviour that can drive us to success. It can also drive us to burnout, helping. So some of us have a very helpful nature, which is a beautiful thing. So like I’m saying, like all these success traps, there’s like a flip side. Perfectionism means, you know, you have high quality, high standards. The flip side is perfectionism, which can, can drive you to burnout with helping. Beautiful thing, absolutely beautiful. To love helping others, and I love helping others. But, if you are constantly offering to help and being that helper and placing others needs before yourself, which we’re taught to, or many of us are taught to from a young age, it can drive you to burnout, if not balanced. And the 6th is being the nice girl or, you know, the nice person. It’s kind of like a combination of people pleasing and over overextending. But really the root of being the nice girl or the nice person in the situation is that you never say no. You say yes to everything. The idea of saying no gives you anxiety. And so that’s something that, you know, it can lead you to success if you’re saying right. Yes to the right things. Also not. You could just spin in circles if you’re just saying yes to everything. But, always saying yes and not having a really solid no practise in place, like knowing how to say no and standing in your own space, that can absolutely lead to burnout. And, if you don’t make it all the way to burnout, you’re still going to end up feeling resentful if you’re not saying yes to what actually matters to you. So those are the six things that come up as behaviours. And those behaviours can be driven by fear, and we can talk about the fears that drive them, but those are the six behaviours that are, that we have control over, that in play with the external factors, which we can also get into, can accelerate or lead to a burnout.

William Wadsworth: So I’d love to come back to those, those six areas in a moment and we maybe talk about some of them in a bit more detail and how to kind of overcome them. And there are just a couple of other things you mentioned are quite important by way of kind of context. You talked about kind of the external driving and then also kind of some of the reasons for the fear. So I wonder if you talk to those, those bits of context as well.

Hannah: Absolutely. So those behaviours, those six success traps are typically, if they’re driving someone to burnout, typically they’re being driven by fear. Like fear is what is pushing that behaviour, what causing that behaviour. So, changing the behaviour itself. Like maybe you can tackle the behaviour, but typically we just end up falling back into it. So what we need to do is look at the fear behind it. And you know, there’s like top five fears that tend to drive us to behaviours that lead to burnout. And the first one is, like the fear of scarcity or belief, that there’s just never enough. Like the pie just isn’t big enough. And that can drive us to feeling like if we don’t become a perfectionist, people please always say yes, you know, if we don’t exhibit those behaviours, that we won’t get a piece of the pie, we won’t be rewarded, the pie is not big enough. And it’s that fear of scarcity that drives the behaviours. And the behaviours are the perfectionism, the people pleasing, the always saying yes, you know, being a nice girl, the overextending, the overachieving, the helping. And it’s driven by that fear of not enough, or maybe you know, and as far as where that fear comes from, it can come from so many places, but oftentimes it’s an experience at some point in our lives and during our programming, of not having enough, whether that’s growing up without enough or some other exposure or some other belief system that we’ve adopted that has developed that fear in us.

The second fear is a fear of setting boundaries. And the biggest behaviour that we see coming out of that fear is the fear of saying no, or that always saying yes. And so if you are afraid of setting a boundary, of separating yourself from your work, of saying a clear yes to what you do want and a clear no to what you don’t want, there’s, a fear behind that, typically of rejection or of. Of like a loss of self, of like a loss of. Or fear of having autonomy. It’s a complicated one, but, there’s definitely a fear of setting boundaries that exist that I’ve seen in women that I’ve worked with, and often women or people in general who have that struggle, that fear setting boundaries. They over commit and they struggle to manage their time effectively. And they tend to be in a reactive state because they have to react to whatever comes up because there’s no boundaries in place.

The third fear is fear of rejection, or specifically in the work world, like job loss. in academia, it could be failure. And that’s like a core human fear, right? So because we want, one of our core needs is to belong. So to be rejected is the opposite of belonging. And that fear of rejection or job loss or failure that would take us out of our, you know, losing that academic goal can drive people to overwork themselves, in an attempt to prove their position or secure what they are trying to hold on to in that belonging. So whether it’s their job, their career, their reputation, the degree, whatever it is that they think that they need to support their identity, they have a fear of losing it. So they go overboard. They exhibit those behaviours, that fear drives those behaviours. The perfectionism, the, overachieving the list of behaviours.

A fourth fear that I have seen, and I actually was a little surprised at how much I’ve seen, this is the fear of not being worthy. And this is when you are proving yourself, for whatever reason, you feel like you’ve got to prove yourself. And if you don’t succeed or, if you don’t prove yourself, then you’re not worthy as a human. Right. So what I’ve seen, like specifically with women that I work with, is that they’re established in their careers, they’re in senior positions and they are still proving themselves every single day. Like, they don’t have to. Like, the people around them aren’t proving themselves, they just show up. But the fear that’s driving their behaviour, they’re overachieving, their, constant leaning in, the never letting go, the not having boundaries is this fear of not being worthy. Like they, like, it’s like, we call it imposter syndrome. Right? Yes, but it’s like imposter syndrome, but really deep. And the fifth one is actually, I think it was just the four. Yeah, it was just the four big fears. And then those drive all those different behaviours that are, that are like the success traps. You know, those behaviours that can lead to success, but they can also lead to burnout if out of balance.

William Wadsworth: Yes. We’ve got these kind of inner belief systems, the stories we tell ourselves, and they drive the outward behaviours, which I, think is really interesting, the way you put it. There’s two sides to the coin. There’s the positive side of being someone that’s helpful or someone that has high standards and wants to achieve and aspire. And then there’s when it goes too far and ultimately what that can lead to for some people in burning out and going too far. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, imposter syndrome is such a particularly higher up in academia. Once you get into, you know, research degrees into PhD level, you know, it’s extremely prevalent. Something we’ve talked about on the show before. So it’s really interesting kind of how that idea links in, in this context. I guess the work on the kind of inner beliefs, that’s quite a, that’s quite a personal thing. Everyone’s going to have to sort of unpick where their beliefs come from and do that kind of soul searching. Is there anything you’d particularly say on that now in this context, on a podcast, in terms of those inner stories?

Hannah: Yes, absolutely.

William Wadsworth: Or is that just something that someone’s going to have to do some work on a personal basis?

Hannah: Yeah. So beliefs are sticky, but they are, if you can tackle your stories, they are the best way to make a change because you’re going deep, you’re going to the source. I do want to call out that, you know, I’m saying all these behaviours that, you know, like we’re saying there’s a positive and the negative side to them. I just want to encourage people not to beat themselves up if they have one of these behaviours, or they exhibit several of them, because most of us who say, hey, I’m burning out, we tend to have a few of them. Yes, because every behaviour has a positive intention. And I’m going to say that for our beliefs too. So if your belief is fear driven, it has a positive intention for you, your behaviour has a positive intention for you. And that intention is typically to protect you from what you’re afraid of. And so when you give yourself that compassion and be like, I’m a perfectionist because maybe I grew up poor, we didn’t have enough and I never want to experience that again. And so my belief is that there’s not enough. That’s my fear. It’s driving this perfectionist behaviour and it’s led to great things in my life because it is trying to protect me. However, I’m fatigued, I’m hitting a wall. I am struggling with staying engaged with my job, with my, studies and I needed to shift, right. So that’s kind of the arc, you know? So you get to that point where you’re hitting that wall and you’re like, oh my goodness, everything that I’ve worked for is going to fall apart if I don’t figure out how to reengage or figure out how to recover from this deep fatigue that I’m experiencing. And that’s when, you know, people start looking for solutions. Right. And so I just wanted to say, like, none of these things are evil or bad, right? They all have a good intention and for most of us they’ve worked really well. it’s just that they’re working too well and we need to bring it, rein it back in.

And so what we do is we look at those, those fears. And I have almost a quiz to identify which fears you should tackle first. Because usually we have more than one, especially if we find ourselves in this cycle of burnout, then what we do is we try to reframe the fear and that is a whole coaching session. But, essentially what you do is you identify the fear, which is a huge step. That’s a big step. Realising that you have a fear of not enough or a fear of not being worthy or whatever it is, that’s a huge first step. So if you can identify your fears or realise what’s driving the behaviour that is to be applauded, that is a huge first step. And then once you’ve figured out, okay, well, I think it’s mostly this one. So we’ll start here. You can look at where that fear has come from. Maybe the first time that you’ve felt that fear, or the first time that you’ve been exposed to a belief or story that supports it. So we’re looking for evidence to support the belief, right? So if you believe that you’re not worthy, at some point in your life, there’s been some sort of evidence or story given to you, or even exposed to that form, that belief. So looking for that evidence both for and against your belief, so you can find evidence for either. Depending on what you’re looking for, people tend to find what they’re looking for. That is like, basic human psychological thing. So start looking for evidence of the opposite. So. Or evidence of something that is closer to the opposite if you can’t go all the way there. So if you feel like I am not worthy, and that’s the root of the fear, the fear of not being worthy. Like, you have to prove yourself. You’ve got the imposter syndrome. you’re not as good as everybody else. Whatever your story is, whatever your narrative is, look for evidence to the contrary because it exists, it is there. You just have to intentionally look for it, because right now your story is driving you to only see evidence to support itself, right? Because that’s your belief.

So, I mean, as far as, like, how to do it, just sit down and take some time and look for evidence that supports that you are in fact worthy. And you will find it. If you look for it, you will find it. and then with that evidence to support a new belief, which is that you are in fact worthy, because we are all worthy, then you can start to reframe your belief. And that could be something like with the worthiness example, instead of everyone else is better than me, they’re succeeding. Why haven’t I? You can shift it to another statement, like, if they can win, why not me? If they can succeed, why not me? And just like, shift it a little bit. Whatever your new belief or statement or story is, you have to be able to believe in it. So even if it’s just a little shift in the right direction, as long as you can buy in, then go with it and practise it. That’s another thing, like, just doing it once, like sitting down and doing a good solid journaling session and digging it all up, getting yourself like a mantra, and then, like, saying it once, you’ll make some progress. But these beliefs, these stories that we’ve told ourselves have been on repeat in our brains, creating a deep groove for sometimes decades. That groove is deep. So we want to do is start creating a new groove and to create a new groove in our brain. I’m thinking of a record player, if any of you can relate to that. To create a new groove in our brain, we have to practise it. So, scheduling time, it can be very short period of time. It can be like two minutes while you’re having your coffee and review your new statement, your new belief that you’re practising. Just to have a daily reminder and start practising and creating that new groove. So that’s kind of, I guess like a high level walkthrough of one of the ways that we can tackle those foundational beliefs that are driving the behaviours.

William Wadsworth: No, that’s so interesting and thank you for, I guess, that example of how we can go about doing that work and how it is possible to do good work on kind of unpicking some of this stuff and also the honesty about it’s not going to be a one night overnight fix. It is something you need to kind of revisit and keep going with. But the payoff in terms of being able to make some progress. And kind of get on a better track is huge potentially. If your description of your story, you know, three burnouts, that’s got to be something you get to grips with and sort out. So yeah, worth doing the work and the words.

Hannah: It doesn’t just affect your burnout because if you have a fear of being worthy, it tends to show up in other areas too. So this will doing the work. Like sure, yes, we’ll stop the burning out cycle, we’ll turn it around, but it also affects your relationships. Like for example, I ended up losing 50 pounds, I turned my relationship with my husband around. Like there’s other. It has this effect on everything in our lives once we go to those deeper levels. So we solve the problem that we’re aiming for and then it, like there’s a ripple effect, which is, I think, magical and very exciting. But yeah, it’s fun and exciting work.

William Wadsworth: Should we go back to the sort of behaviour level and talk about some of the six?

Hannah: Sure.

William Wadsworth: Let’s assume we’ve sort of at least started the journey on the inner work. I’m going to kind of count backwards, I think. So with the six things we mentioned earlier in at number six we had, being a nice girl, I think you put it, or never saying no, or being afraid to say no. So I guess this one is about setting effective boundaries and struggling with that.

Hannah: Yes. I mean, a lot of these, like, I labelled them as six separate things, but a lot of them, you know, they’re a little bit overlappy. But what I found with the nice girl is that maybe you were raised to be, I don’t know, say obedient, but always be helpful to others. Always put others first, put yourself last and never say no. You’ll get in trouble. Right. That’s rebellious. You don’t say no. So, I mean, there’s different ways that this fear of saying no, this always saying yes, can come up in our lives, and those are just a few. And it exhibits itself, kind of like, it can be really passive, so you may not even realise you’re doing it. And I’ve seen this so many times where people just have a full calendar, they’re double booked, they can’t do anything about it. They have no control. People just put things on their calendar. So by not doing anything about it, by not saying yes or no, you just have stuff on your calendar. And I used to do this. You’re saying yes. Like, if you’re not saying no, you’re saying yes. And so I think realising that when there’s a lack of clarity around what you’re saying yes and no to, it tends to be like, other people will just be like, I’m going to take your yeses then, because I need someone to help me. And so it can be passive by not saying no to something that we end up being dragged into. And we don’t even realise that we’re saying yes. We just get resentful. You’re saying yes by not saying no. And so I think that there’s, like, there’s the proactive person who’s always saying, yes, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. Someone comes up to you, you say, you know, you look at your calendar, there’s no way in hell you’re gonna be able to do this thing. You say yes anyways, so there’s that, which I think is more obvious, like, you know, like, oh, I’m that person. But there’s also that aspect of us where, like I said, it’s passive. We don’t realise we’re saying yes, we’re just not saying no.

William Wadsworth: Yeah. How do we sort of teach ourselves to start setting effective boundaries with colleagues, peers?

Hannah: The first step is to get really, really clear on what is meaningful and valuable to you. And so this is like, you know, when I think of the process of ending the cycle of burnout, the first thing that we do is identify your values, your values and your purpose, not your boss’s values, not your mother’s values, not your spouse’s values, your values, what matters to you? And so many of us are so wrapped up in layers of expectations of shoulds. Like, I should be able to work a full time job, keep my house perfectly clean, make a homemade dinner every single night, meet all of my children and husband’s emotional needs. And, and, and, like, there’s all these expectations and wherever they are coming from, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we identify what actually matters to you. Is it important to you to make a homemade dinner every night? Is it important to you to meet your children’s emotional needs? Like, figure out what actually matters? And then once we know what does matter, we can look at what doesn’t matter. Like, what is this? What out of this list is like a. It’s a nice to have, it’s an expectation. You feel like other people expect it of you. You feel like you should be doing it. Like, if I think a good giveaway is when in conversation, I am going through this list and people are like, well, I should, like, red flag. You should. You’re shoulding yourself. Stop it.

So, yeah, I think identifying those shoulds and then identifying your true values is a really big first step because you don’t know what to say yes to, and you’re certainly not going to say no unless you’re holding space for something that matters. So when we get our yeses really clear, when we get our values really clear, then we can start looking at our life. This is kind of like the second. Once we get our values clear, then we start assessing and becoming in tune. Right? So to become in tune with what’s going on, we want to increase our awareness around activities that are giving us energy and activities that are draining our energy and being able to actually call them out. Once you have an idea of what’s giving you energy and what’s draining your energy, once you have an idea of which activities are moving the needle on your values versus not having any impact on your values at all, then we know what to say yes and no to, and that’s a whole other skill. But, like, once you have those foundations, like, you know your values and you know what’s giving your energy and what’s draining your energy, those are the things you start with. So you start by saying, I like to start by saying yes, what are you going to say yes to? And being very intentional about what you want in your life, what matters to you. So, when I began to set boundaries at work. What mattered to me was being able to be with my young children from drop off to bedtime, like, go through the whole routine with them every night. So, 430 to 730 off limits. And so, because that mattered to me, I was able to go in and say, I’m saying. I’m saying yes to something, right? I am saying yes to time with my kids during specific hours of the day because I was saying yes to that because it mattered so much to me. I was able to go to my boss and say, I know we work with all time zones. I’m willing to work after eight, I’m willing to work before 07:00 a.m. but these hours are sacred to me. They mean so much to me and my family that I would like to have the ability to have the flexibility to really be there for my kids during these hours. It didn’t even bat an eye. And I was able to go in there with strength and confidence because what I was asking for, what I was saying yes to, mattered so much that my request to say no was easy. So I think that’s how you get to the point where you can start saying no is you figure out what your yeses are and make sure that you care deeply about them and you’re willing to fight for them.

William Wadsworth: Beautiful example. I really like how you link that to both values and then kind of what gives and drains energy as sort of decision making criteria. I, talked about, so we’re recording this in January. I talked about the word of the year or theme of the year concepts, a couple of episodes back, at time of recording, won’t be time of broadcast to look back at the January episodes. And, you know, for me, certainly that’s been quite a useful concept in just a really simplified version of what are, your values. What’s important to you? Just having that idea of what am I aiming for this year? Whether it’s a year of simplicity or a year of adventure or, you know, that just gives you an idea, you know, does this fit in with my, I’ve decided, is my kind of direction for this year? I definitely want to talk about number five, overachieving, because I think so many listeners to the examples of the expert podcast could identify by being an overachiever. Tell us a little bit about, yeah, what we need to come to terms with to avoid our, ah, tendency to overachieve, leading us down the path to burnout.

Hannah: Right. So when I think of overachieving, it’s, you are doing right, you are, you’ve got a big checklist of accomplishments and you are checking them off. You are busy, right? And so achieving is this very active, very, busy state of being. Like, you’re getting it done. It’s like a mode, right? It’s a mode. You’re just getting through things. You’re getting through the list. You are busy every minute of the day. At the end of the day, you’ve got, you can list off the things that you accomplished. You’re impressive. People are blown away by your productivity. There’s a lot of fun and good in being an achiever. Where I think it turns into leading to burnout is when all of this space in your life is achievement and there’s no space for being like, who are you being? Are you being, are you existing as a human, a full, well rounded human being or are you just getting through the checklist constantly? And this one, you know, I’m, I’m very much a checklist person and I like to get things done. So even I have to like remind myself, like, am I making space to be, am I making space to just relax and enjoy a show? And I was like this as a student too, where I never took a break. I didn’t have fun. Like, what is that going to do for you? I was definitely just constantly achieving and doing and if I wasn’t doing that, I was asleep, you know? And so the, the way to balance the overachieving is, well, first identify the fear that’s driving it. And, you know, you can go through all of those steps, but also look at your calendar, look at your, I don’t know if your time box, but, what we tend to do is accomplish, right? But we don’t make space to refill our cup. We don’t make space to exist and to be, right. So, sometimes I’ll go through the calendar and I’ll colour code. Like is this that driving, getting it done space or is this a refilling my cup space? And when you look at it, do you have anything on there to refill your cup? Where’s your activity to recharge? Where’s your activity to rest? And it could be anything, like whatever, whatever refills your cup. There’s no judgement. You could read fantasy novels, you could go to the spa. It’s, I mean anything, right? We’re all different in that way. But just making sure that every day there’s a couple different ways that you’re refilling your cup and it could take anywhere from an hour to like two minutes to recharge and so I think that it’s just being really intentional in your driven, get it done state to make space, to add an extra checkbox in there, to refill your cup and to let it go. Let go of all the things you’re trying to do. Just let it go for a little bit. Trust that everything will be okay and breathe.

William Wadsworth: I think that’s great advice. So I think I’m going to skip number four, helping, and number three, overextending, because I really want to talk about number two, perfectionism, because I think that’s another one that is going to be a big theme for quite a few people listening, because I think perfectionism was a big part of. Yeah. Again, back to your kind of two sides of the coin thing. Both what led me to success in my own kind of academic journey, but also, you know, some of what caused challenges. And I never considered, like, I kind of burned out or anything. But, you know, it’s certainly, when you. When you’re kind of striving for the perfect set of grades, that can create a lot of pressure. And it’s not always. It’s not always necessary, I think, to put that amount of pressure. And I think, we need to balance that with perspective, too. Yeah. What’s your experience on this one?

Hannah: Right. I remember my first fail, and I was devastated. Okay. So I was pretty young, I think it was actually, I failed my driver’s test. But, it was the first time I’d failed anything in my life. I mean, I was used to straight a’s all the time. I’d never gotten a b, much less failed something. So I was devastated. I was so distraught. I thought I was just the worst human being in the world for failing that. And that kind of mentality, carried forward, you know, like, I expected myself to get A’s all of the time, if not the best grade in class, I was kind of okay, maybe with the second best grade, only if I really admired the person who got the first, the highest grade. Right. And that was my expectation through college. And, And that’s kind of what I was working for. I was working to be the best. I wanted to be the best at, you know, whatever it was. I didn’t really have an overarching strategy.

And I think that that’s when choosing good enough comes into play, when you have a clear goal and perfection is not necessarily prerequisite to get there. And this is something I learned as a designer, because I learned to create things that were good enough and then get feedback on them. And then iterate, because going into something thinking that you know what perfect is, I think in academia it’s a little easier, right? Because it’s a grade, and that’s clearly defined. But once you’re out of academia, perfect is not clearly defined. Like, what does that even mean? You could do really, really, really amazing at solving a problem and then find out you solved the wrong problem. And we find this in, you know, in software design, we do this all the time. We solve the wrong problem really, really well. So what I learned was, experimentation and to learn from feedback, and so to do something good enough, the mvp, right? And then get it out there and get that feedback. And that feedback is criticism, by the way. So you’re intentionally solving a problem well enough to get specific criticism on it so that you know what the real problem is to solve. Because before you get that feedback, you’re kind of guessing. You’re like, well, I think this is the real problem. I’m going to solve it well enough, get some feedback and see if it is even the right problem to solve. So, that process of becoming a designer and learning how to get the iterative feedback and I guess striving for perfection within scope. So there’s a deadline, things you have to stop working at some point. So you have to be done enough, right? So go as far as you can within constraints. so I learned that perfection is not the goal. The goal is to solve a specific problem with an outcome, and there’s usually a constraint involved, if not several. And so if you were able to solve a goal with an outcome within the constraints that you’re given, you have succeeded, and then you get feedback and you can iterate on it. You don’t need perfection. You just need to be able to iterate.

William Wadsworth: So I think the way I see this playing out for some of the students and scholars I work with is, particularly when you’re taking a very advanced exam, you can’t cling to the idea that you will have learned everything for that exam. There just isn’t time, particularly if you’re trying to take a very demanding exam alongside a full time career and maybe family demands as well. But you don’t need that level of perfectionism in how much you’ve learned to pass the exam. You need the pass mark to pass the exam. That’s your goal, 70% or whatever the pass mark is. And I think making peace with the fact that you won’t learn everything is quite a difficult but essential first step to coming to terms with the task ahead. And not, not burning out along the way. So I think that’s, yeah, that’s, that’s a really, really interesting one.

Hannah: I love that because, I mean, because you’re saying, okay, this person has a goal and it’s to pass an exam to get to wherever they’re going, right? Wherever they’re going is really the end goal and then they have requirements to get there, which is to pass the path. Passing is the requirement. Acing is not the requirement, so you don’t have to ace anything. If passing is the requirement, you just pass and you save the rest of your energy for what matters to you right now. If there’s things that you’re curious about and you want to iterate and learn more, you have your whole life to go deeper. But within, like you’re saying you have a certain time constraint, you have an exam to study by x amount of time. If the requirement for your mvp, which is whatever the goal is, you’re going for whatever degree, whatever certification it is, that’s your mvp, is to pass, then you pass because no one’s going to look once you’re out of academia. No one cares. So, yeah, so do the MVP and take note. Like, oh, I’m really curious about this subject because I care about it, not, because I have to be perfect, not because I need an a. I care about this subject, so I’m gonna take a note and I’m gonna study it when I have the time. But right now I have to get the pass, take care of my family, take care of myself because I’m aiming for this goal. So it is very similar. Like, you have your requirements, you have your deadline, you have your larger objective. And I think what might help is realising that the other things going on in your life are also requirements, so you have to meet them all. Like basic self care requirement, whatever your value system is within your family, like upholding a certain standard of connection, it’s a requirement. So I think getting really clear on what your requirements are, what your values are across your life, and then you can say how much effort you can put into each thing to meet all of those requirements while still getting your mvp or you’re in academia, your certification or your degree or whatever it is.

William Wadsworth: People often ask me, oh, you know, how much should I be studying a day? And I don’t know, let’s figure it out. And then you kind of almost work backwards from how long do you spend at work or, you know, in classes? How long do you need for self care staff, you know, and then we figure out what the gaps are in your life, deduct a bit of time, as you were saying earlier, for kind of protected me time, be filling the cup and then that’s the time that’s left over that we can start to be thinking about how much of that are we using for studying. That’s the available resource constraint that we’re working with. I just wanted to touch on people pleasing, and like, the way I see this one coming up for people is pleasing family, particularly for your younger scholar, pleasing your parents and asking yourself that question, well, am I doing it for them or am I doing it for me? And I think it’s important to be kind of clear on that, or in other contexts, maybe even pleasing your teacher or your tutor. Sometimes that can be, and again, as you’ve pointed out before, sometimes that can be a good thing. An element of that will help you stay engaged and stick with the process and achieve what you’re capable of. But as with all of these things, we can take it too far. So I think perhaps just being aware of that and bringing an awareness to that, that dynamic, if that is going on for you, is a helpful thing.

Hannah: Absolutely. Yes. I have been motivated by making people happy. Everyone from my teachers. I loved, being the favourite student to my bosses. I mean, I considered it part of my job to make their lives easier because I like making people happy. And like, liking to make people happy is not a bad thing. But like you’re saying, you have to know where your values are and always remember that you are the most valuable, important, critical aspect of your education, of your career, of pretty much anything that’s going on in your life. Because without you, it wouldn’t be happening. And so you have to prioritise yourself and prioritise refilling that cup over making other people happy. Because in the long run, you won’t be able to make anyone happy. Yes, if you aren’t taking care of you.

William Wadsworth: But that feels like a beautiful note to conclude on. Hannah, thank you so much. You’ve been incredibly generous with your really deep wisdom and experience in this area. I know I’ve learned a lot, listening to you over the past, time we’ve been talking. I feel like you’ve essentially shared pretty much your entire book structure, with us today and given us many of the kind of best bits along the way. So I’ll look for that, said book coming out, very soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, if we want to go further on, anything we’ve talked about today, you mentioned the quiz, for example. Where do we find that? How do we get in touch with you? How do we take the next step?

Hannah: Yeah, so you can find me at serenesuccess.net and once there, if you want to hop on a call and do a deep dive on your burnout patterns, we can do that. There’s also a quiz to see, kind of help self identify where you are on the burnout journey. That is fun to take as well.

William Wadsworth: Well, we’ll link that in the show notes and definitely encourage people to, as you suggested, if this is something that’s causing pain in your life, you know, seeking some support is, a great next step. So, Hannah, thank you so much again for your generosity on the show today. It’s been hugely illuminating to talk to you. Thank you once again.

Hannah: All right, thank you. Thank you so much for having me on. It was a pleasure to meet you and to have this fantastic conversation.

William Wadsworth: Well, thanks again, Hannah. And I really do encourage anyone who feels, they may be at risk of burnout is they have become burnt out to have a conversation with Hannah. I think she’s a wonderful person to talk to. She’s one of the best I’ve come across on this subject when I was researching people, to ask to talk to you on this particular episode. so I do encourage you to get in touch next week, continuing our, ah, series on finding calm in your academic life, Heather Lillico is here with us on the show, sharing some of her top practical tips for managing anxiety on the academic journey. Heather specialises in particular in working with high achievers and perfectionists. so those labels may well resonate with quite a few listeners to the show. and she’s got some fantastic practical advice for us all. So I really do hope to see you back here then for that conversation.

In the meantime, if you’d like to go a little deeper in finding calm on your own academic journey and some of the ways I might be able to support you, you in that, there’s a couple of ways you can do it. Firstly, study strategy coaching with me. You may already know that I coach privately on, study strategy, working one on one with you to help you find the right routine for you, optimise your learning and memorization systems, and ultimately helping you get the success you’re looking for when you’re working towards those big exams or potentially research or written assignments. People often come to me with, a particular problem they want to solve. they feel they’re not retaining information as well as they should, or perhaps they just feel overwhelmed by how much they want they have to do, or they need help with sort of managing their time management, project management and so forth. And, in the coaching work we do together, we come up with practical solutions to those problems. But there’s always a side benefit. And it sometimes kind of comes as a little bit of a nice surprise for my clients in that by doing the practical work and just by meeting one on one to talk through it all, you know, so many clients will say at the end of our sessions, you know, I just feel, I feel like weights been lifted from my shoulders. I feel really reassured, you know, all those really good things. So through the coaching, that can be a good way to find a little bit of calm.

And, if you are interested in finding out more about how that works, and potentially getting in touch with me, it’s examstudyexpert.com coaching. That’s ExamStudyExpert.com/coaching. Or if you prefer, a self study, self guided model, you could look into my mindset programme for scholars called The Scholar’s Way. The promise of that programme is helping you find peace and purpose, calm and clarity in your studies once more, and helping you, change some things about how the way you kind of approach your studies, both practically and in terms of your attitudes and your kind of mental perceptions, that can really sort of have a transformative effect on how you feel through the study process. Not, only making you more productive, but also helping you, you know, enjoy it that much more and find that much more peace and calm in the process. If, you’d like to learn more about that particular programme, it’s a really, really good programme. It’s one of the things I’ve put together that I’ve been most proud of over the years. you can learn more at ExamStudyExpert.com/TSW, which stands for The Scholar’s Way, the name of the programme. So that’s at ExamStudyExpert.com/TSW, for The Scholar’s Way. and as with all of my online self study programmes, ah, that’s included, if you are a Study Smarter Network member, my premium membership, that includes all of my digital self study programmes. Thank you so much once again for listening today. It’s been a real pleasure to have your company, and I look forward to seeing you here again soon. Wishing you every success, as always in your studies.

Many listeners to the Exam Study Expert podcast are pretty high achievers, and with that, you tend to push yourself hard. 

Pushing too hard, for too long, with too little recovery can result in us getting run down and burnt out.

Today’s episode is all about understanding burnout. Including what burnout is, steps to avoid it, and steps to get out of it and recover.

Today’s guest, Hannah Tackett, is an incredible authority on the subject of how to avoid and overcome burnout: whether you’re a student, professional or parent.

Hannah’s advice is packed with personal experience and practical steps. She’ll help you to identify the 6 most common root causes of burnout, and the 4 fears that fuel them.

We also take a deep dive into identifying and correcting unhelpful habits that lead to burnout, including procrastination, overachieving and setting boundaries.

A must-listen episode, whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or are simply curious!

* * * *

Discover more about Hannah:

Visit her website: >> https://serenesuccess.net/

Hosted by William Wadsworth, memory psychologist, independent researcher and study skills coach / trainer. I help ambitious students to study smarter, not harder, so they can ace their exams with less work and less stress.

WANT ME TO SPEAK AT YOUR SCHOOL? Learn more at: https://examstudyexpert.com/revision-workshops

Get a copy of my ultra-concise “6 Pillars Of Exam Success” Cheat Sheet at https://examstudyexpert.com/pillars/

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