How to Avoid Burnout by Treating Yourself like an Athlete

I have a simple mantra for how I treat my work life:
Train like an athlete.
Win like an athlete.
Recover like an athlete.

When I was running my own company, there were years I prided myself in working 100 hour work weeks. I prided myself in working on weekends, late at night, running on very little sleep, and I prided myself on being the “always ON” CEO.

Ironically, those were not the years where I did my best work. Those were not the years where we hit our biggest company milestones. In fact those were the years I just burned myself out.

The years where we crushed our goals were the ones where I was proactive about my work and I was proactive about avoiding burnout and recovering.

We’ve all been guilty of it.

We gloat to our co-workers and friends on how BUSY and SLAMMED we are at work.

Somewhere along the line, boasting about working 100 hour weeks became a rite of passage instead of talking about what we actually accomplished at work.

I think as a culture we forget that it is not about the hours we work, but it is about managing our peak performance and winning the games that we play.

No one cares if a football game lasted an hour, two hours, went into overtime or what.

What people do care about is if you won the game.

So in my quest to winning, and to becoming the best version of myself, one of the things that I grappled with the most was burnout.

Harvard Business Review defines “burnout” as when relentless work stress pushes you into a debilitating state.

They go on to explain that when you are burned out at work, you start feeling three things: 1) exhaustion 2) cynicism and 3) incompetence.


The worst part of all this is that when you are burned out, you’re so in the thick of it, you don’t even realize you’re burned out and you’re too busy reacting to all the things in front of you to even think about taking some time off.

The ONLY way you can avoid burnout is if you proactively manage for it.

A few years ago, I started to get proactive about how I managed myself and my performance.

I started to treat myself as an athlete.

I developed this mantra of:
Train like an athlete
Win like an athlete
And… RECOVER like an athlete

The basics that I incorporated into my life were simple. I made sure I worked out 3x a week. I also made sure I meditated every day. I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation for nearly 10 years and it has been life changing for me. I also took time to pause and reflect on Sundays.

But the ONE non-obvious thing that I started to do that made the biggest difference was that I started to get proactive about my year.

I used the Unstoppable 365-day spreadsheet to make sure I laid out exactly where I’m going to be over the course of the year, and especially over the next 6 to 8 weeks.

And MOST importantly, I started to make sure that I treat myself as an athlete and schedule in time to RECOVER as an athlete too. Every six weeks, I marked a weekend to make sure I took time away from work to rest and recharge — whether it was in my own home town, or going away somewhere, or planning a real trip.

By getting proactive and baking in RECOVERY time every six weeks into my calendar, I made sure that even if I entered points of burnout, I had it baked into my plan to take time off and recover from how hard I was training and how hard I was playing the game.

If you’re looking to take a more proactive approach to your life using strategies like this — be sure to SIGN UP for our Unstoppable Life Planning Guide by following the link below!

We’ll share the templates that I use for reflecting on Sundays, planning your year, and also creating a vision for yourself for the next 5 years.




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