The Happy Engineer Podcast

105: How to Reduce Stress and Improve Daily

In this episode, I’m going to share with you the single mindset shift that has helped me prevent burnout permanently for myself and hundreds of engineering leaders around the world.

And the best part is that this one is EASY to take action on.

Maybe you have had a lot of success lately, and don’t feel stressed or burned out.

Congrats, that’s good news! But here’s something to remember…

Success does not mean you have no problems.

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to reduce stress and improve our lives every single day!

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The Happy Engineer Podcast




Previous Episode 104: True Esteem – from Deep Insecurity to Unshakable Confidence with Teresa Quinlan | EQ Emotional Intelligence Expert Coach






Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: What’s up? Happy engineer. Welcome back, Zack White here, and before we talk about stress and overwhelm and how to shift into a growth mode every single day. I’ve got a few wins I wanna share with you. First of all, thank you to everyone who shared Episode 100 with a friend or posted it on social media. It was super cool to see all of the participation in helping us to celebrate that incredible milestone.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:29] I’m really proud of episode 100. I will say the episode got tremendous feedback and while it took way more time, Than I expected to pull that together. It was incredibly fun to make. So thank you for your support. And if you missed episode 100, I really encourage you to go back, check it out, share it with a friend, and let me know what you think.

[00:00:51] And if you go back and. Listen to the full episodes of any of those short clips that we put together in our top 10 lessons that every engineering leader needs to know from 99 episodes of the podcast. It was super cool. One more quick win. I wanna shout out to Jim who joined our coaching program, the Lifestyle Engineering Blueprint, about a month ago, because he’d been laid off in January this year, and by February he had totally burned out on the process of finding roles, applying for jobs.

[00:01:25] Interviewing and getting rejection after rejection. That’s a really tough place to be. He was frustrated and all that anxiety started building as the bank account was dropping and maybe you’ve been there. It’s a really scary place to be. Well, in just one month of coaching and support from our team, Jim turned that energy around.

[00:01:46] He got laser focused on what he wanted and really showed up 110% in his interviews, and he just landed a new job that he’s super excited about. He accepted the offer and I love seeing these kinds of turnarounds. It is so fun to be a part of it as Jim’s coach. And congrats, Jim, to you. Shout out. So proud of you and let’s now talk about a turnaround for you.

[00:02:12] have you ever felt that stress? That sense of overwhelm at work. Have you burned out completely? Maybe you’ve hit rock bottom. I know I have. And the question that comes up is like, how can you recover from that? Or maybe more importantly, how do you prevent burnout in the first place? So imagine this, all right, you’re, you’re stepping into your first management role.

[00:02:39] After working hard the past six months to position yourself for a promotion and landing it, maybe you have been here. This is a huge win for your career growth, right? And you wanna make a great impression in those first 90 days. Well, that’s where my client, Satish, found himself recently. I helped him land a promotion within his company.

[00:03:00] But that new reality quickly set in that. Success does not mean that you don’t have problems. Okay? Maybe you didn’t get that memo, but in case you thought that hitting your goals meant that you wouldn’t have any more problems in your life, you’re wrong. Success does not mean that you don’t have problems.

[00:03:21] Success simply means you have better problems. Okay? Satish came to one of our coaching calls and I could tell he was down. His energy was off and he confessed in the call that he was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, like he was falling further and further behind on his goals for his new team and really ramping up in the role.

[00:03:43] And I just want you to think for a moment, how does this relate to where you are at right now? What’s the problem that’s keeping you up at night? Where do you feel stuck? Where do you feel frustrated in your career right now? Well, I started asking Satish some questions. How’s your weekly planning and playbook going?

[00:04:04] Well, it hadn’t been going. How’s your sleep lately? How’s your exercise been? How’s your time with family and friends? And those things that really feed energy through relationships into your life? How are all these things going? And the core problem came to the surface quickly. You see, he had stopped doing the most important things to stay balanced and improve himself every day.

[00:04:32] And this is no judgment of sock Tisha at all. I’ve been down this road many times. When you get focused on a goal, you have a big vision at work or in in your business or in any area of your life for that matter, you begin to make these small compromises because you’re really excited about moving the needle on that goal.

[00:04:52] Maybe you break some of your boundaries. And your time in different things, and you say no to some of the things that you used to do that you love, so you can get a little bit more done on that big objective. So you can move the needle faster. You might burn the candle on both ends and you start drinking from the fire hose and all of these things we talk about, well, it’s so easy to slip into that behavior and then you start to feel.

[00:05:18] A little bit tired, a little bit burned out, and then you start to blame yourself and you feel some guilt for working too many hours, or you start to blame your company for overworking you and undervaluing your hard work. And all these things happen. It’s a pattern I’ve experienced. It’s a pattern I’ve seen with so many of my clients.

[00:05:38] But here’s the truth, your stress, your anxiety, your overwhelm, your burnout. Is not caused by what you’re doing. It’s not the long hours. It’s not the complexity and challenge of your new role. It’s not your lack of skills or it’s, it’s not your bad boss. It’s not a toxic culture. It’s not any of those things.

[00:06:04] Burnout is not caused by what you’re doing. Burnout is caused by what you are not doing. Let me say that again. Burnout is caused by what you are not doing. So when you set a goal and you tend to focus only on the actions that are directly linked to that goal, but then you forget how many of the actions that you take in your life every day and every week are truly essential.

[00:06:41] To keeping you healthy and balanced and energized to be able to do the things that are focused on the goal. So if you’re feeling stressed or like you’re on the road to burnout right now, here’s what you need to do instead of focusing on what you’re doing and trying to optimize that or fix that, or blame that, make a list of what you are not doing.

[00:07:09] That you know you need to do, and then we’re gonna pick one and take action immediately. Now, you might hear this concept and object to it right out of the gate, like, Zach, whatever. This doesn’t make sense, you know, if you knew how much work I needed to get done, if you understood my situation, like this whole idea of making a list of what I’m not doing, that will never work because I don’t have time to do any of those things.

[00:07:37] So it’s pointless. And I get that. I really do. I mean, you believe that if you did take time for those things, like sleep, exercise, and family, then you wouldn’t get your job done or you wouldn’t hit that goal. Well, really quickly, let’s consider some of the data. On this exact topic, and I’m gonna reference a couple of studies here, there was one conducted at Harvard where researchers set out to determine the correlation between vacation time and workplace productivity.

[00:08:09] All right, so looking at your choice to take vacation time that you’re given by your company and your productivity, and here’s what the researchers discovered. People who took fewer than 10 vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three year period. And on the other side of the coin, employees who took more than 10 vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raises or bonus.

[00:08:44] That’s basically double their peers. So the workaholics had half the chance of getting the razor bonus versus the folks who took the vacation time. Super interesting. And alright, let’s talk about this idea of exercise. Most people would claim, Hey, I’m, I’m too busy to prioritize my health and exercise right now.

[00:09:07] I know it’s important, but I need to get the work done. I don’t have time to go to the gym. Well consider this study by leads Metropolitan University that looked at the influence of daytime exercise on office workers and. The fluctuations in performance on days when any given employee visited the gym and days when they didn’t.

[00:09:31] What they found was that their managing of time was more effective. They resulted in higher productivity on key metrics. They had better interactions with their colleagues, and they were feeling subjectively happier and more satisfied. So, Look, we could cite study after study after study on this all day, but here’s the truth.

[00:09:56] The evidence is clear that our mind plays tricks on us. In this way. We convince ourselves that we need to be acting the way that we’re acting. We wanna cast blame and complain about things outside ourselves, but we need to take responsibility and I need you to know that it’s not the things you’re doing that are leading to burnout.

[00:10:15] It’s the things that you stopped doing when you got so laser focused on that single goal. And it’s the second order consequence. Choices, right? It’s the things that you don’t see the consequence right now, while I’m sleeping two hours less every night. Well, you don’t feel that the next day, but you’re gonna feel that in a week, in a month, and in a year, more and more and more.

[00:10:40] Oh, I’ve stopped hanging out with my friends. I haven’t been prioritizing time for social interaction and just having fun doing things that I love because I don’t have time for that. I’ve got my job and my family, and I don’t have time for my friends. Well, guess what? That infusion of energy into your life over time, it’s going to be something that holds you back from being at your best and the data is clear.

[00:11:05] You don’t need to work 70 and 80 and 90 hours a week. For you to get to a place of growth and promotion. In fact, to reference back to one other study, there was some interesting research done by, a Stanford researcher named Alex Pang. He’s the author of the book Rest, and he says that most people are only truly productive for four to five hours a day or 20 to 25 hours a week.

[00:11:34] I mean, that’s super interesting and I know you’re immediately gonna wanna object to that and say, well, I’m not one of those people, but guess what? Odds are you are. We all wanna think we’re above average, but the truth is there’s an average for a reason, and we tend to probably be in it more than we think, especially on items like this.

[00:11:53] So grab your phone, open your calendar. And I want you to block two hours sometime in the next week, a single two hour time block, just for you to get away from everything. Go to your favorite coffee shop, get out into nature, go someplace away from your work environment, away from the distractions of everything going on in your life, and create your list.

[00:12:23] Of what am I not doing that I need to do? What am I not doing that I know I need to do? Give yourself some space to reflect, decompress, plan, take a deep breath, and just separate from all these inputs of life so that you can get clarity on what it is that you have given up. That you know keeps you healthy, keeps you balanced, keeps you passionate, keeps you energized.

[00:12:49] I promise if you will, make that list for yourself. And then take action to get those things back into your life. I’m not saying you need to put all of it in place all at once. It’s very difficult to make these big swings if you’re burning out, if you’re overwhelmed. I understand that you’re not gonna be able to cut 20 hours off of your work schedule next week, but just put one thing back.

[00:13:13] From your list that you know you need, and then the following week, put one more back in and then one more, and then one more. And you will begin to shift back to balance and maximize your growth every day. I promise. And I’ve got good news for you, sich, who I was mentioning earlier, he took time for himself like this.

[00:13:33] He made a plan and within a week he was back to high energy flowing through his workday and, and here’s the thing. That that overwhelmingly long to-do list, all of those things causing the stress and the overwhelm were still there. It’s not like every problem went away immediately, but he was able to show up and crush it every single day because he started doing the things first that he needed to do, like executing his weekly playbook to stay aligned.

[00:14:07] I hope this helps you. Remember, burnout, stress, overwhelm, all these things are not about what you’re doing. It’s about what you’re not doing. So stop what you’re doing, grab your calendar and block those two hours right now. I know that this will help you. And hey, while you’re at it, if you want help implementing this as part of a complete system to accelerate your career growth, to reach that next level, to get the strategies, the tactics, the tools, the mindsets, everything that you need, whether that’s to.

[00:14:44] Escape burnout. You know, find your passion again or break through to a promotion and, and get what you want for that next level, regardless of where you’re at. Just let me know. You can join Jim and sais. You can jump into our coaching program exclusively for leaders like you in engineering and technology.

[00:15:02] You can find the information for how to apply in the show notes, or you can simply text the word lifestyle. To 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, and I’ll get you the next steps. Listen, you don’t get results by staying in your comfort zone. And if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. So crush comfort and create courage by joining this amazing group of leaders who are hungry for the next level.

[00:15:30] I’d love to support you. This is what we are great at. So I’d love to see you there if we can help you in any way. But in the meantime, go get your two hours. Make your list. Take action now and let’s do this.