The summer is a busy time for me. When busyness comes around, you know that burnout is not far away, threatening to destroy your will to continue on in work or ministry. Burnout is ugly, but we all face it from time to time. I’d like to share what I do to stave off burnout when it comes calling.
Prioritize Your Time With God
God is the Creator of time. If you make time for Him, He will give you enough time to do the things you need to do.
Burnout tends to come when we’re too busy. I can’t stress the importance of spending time with God daily. I hear it time and time again: “I didn’t pray or read my Bible today because I’ve been too busy.” Both kids and adults have said this to me. My response is always the same: “God is the Creator of time. If you make time for Him, He will give you enough time to do the things you need to do.” It seems counterintuitive. Taking time out of my day gives me more time? Yet, I have seen Him do it over and over again.
I look back at certain periods in my life and wonder how I ever managed to stay afloat in all the tasks I had to accomplish. At one point I was working full-time, going to grad school full time, and running a children’s ministry. It wasn’t easy, but never did I think I should take a day off from reading my Bible in order to make time for something else. It was only because I put God first in that regard that He sustained me through it all. He will do the same for you. Trust me.
Take Time For Yourself
When I was feeling overwhelmed, I received this revelational piece of advice from a college professor: Take time out for yourself. This also seems counterintuitive, but hear me out on this one. Life, work, and ministry can easily become overwhelming. It is easy to become stressed. Working while stressed can cause you to be less efficient. It will also cause burnout.
Taking time out for yourself will make you more efficient. One study showed that taking even a brief break will increase productivity. This is because your mind dulls towards your work over time. Focusing on something else for even a short time will reinvigorate your mind to your task when you return to it. Another study revealed that basketball players who slept longer performed better the next day. In short: take breaks, get more sleep. You will be much more productive, less stressed, and less prone to burnout.
I tested out this idea myself when I first heard about it by working on a long assignment. I worked for an hour and a half and then took a 30-minute break to read a book for fun. I powered through that assignment faster and with more motivation than I had with other assignments like it.
Do something to divert your attention and you will come back to your work more productive and less stressed than when you left it.
When you start to feel your attention wavering (usually about an hour in), get up to stretch your legs. Take a short walk. Play a quick round of a game on your smartphone. Do something to divert your attention and you will come back to your work more productive and less stressed than when you left it.
Taking time out also includes taking a day off. God programmed us to rest and modeled it for us at creation. Exodus 20:11 says: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Use this time to relax and spend time with God.
One last piece of advice in this area: try pursuing a hobby. I love learning. In my free time, I’ve started to take up learning Spanish and programming (but not programming in Spanish!). These hobbies bring me a little extra fulfillment that is effective in countering burnout. Try finding something you love to do outside work or ministry.
Learn Time Management
Time management deserves its own post, but it is worth mentioning here. The better you are at managing your time, the more productive you will be. The more productive you are, the less you will feel burnt out by the never ending pile of tasks before you.
A great book I can recommend on this subject is Jim Wideman’s Children’s Ministry Leadership: The You-Can-Do-It-Guide. It’s about much more than time management, and the nuggets of advice he gives in it are worth implementing.
Two key points of time management are planning ahead and delegation. I used to dislike writing out to-do lists and schedules (I still do, honestly), but they really have helped me stay on course with what I need to do when I need to do it. I miss fewer deadlines and am less stressed now that I am a little better at planning ahead.
Delegation: Not only have you freed up your time, but you’ve empowered someone else in the process.
Delegation is a hard word for me. I love learning to do new things and don’t enjoy passing them off. However, piling your own plate too high will cause you to burn out quickly. What are you doing that someone else could do? Delegating tasks will allow you to do the things that only you can do. I may take extra time to train someone to do something, but it will pay off in the long run. Not only have you freed up your time, but you’ve empowered someone else in the process.
Know Your Purpose
Romans 12:1-2 is a familiar verse. It reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The more I hear this verse, the more I’ve begun to realize that this is our purpose: to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to serve God even when it’s hard. What else could bring us greater fulfillment than to serve Him with the gifts and talents He’s bestowed upon us?
No greater counter to burnout exists than to remember that what you’re doing matters.
I talk a lot about purpose because it’s what drives us to accomplish great things. When we’re living in the purpose God has chosen for us, He sustains us even when we feel like giving up. No greater counter to burnout exists than to remember that what you’re doing matters. If you know what you’re doing pleases God, you will keep doing it.
You don’t have to be in a ministry setting to have a purpose. You don’t even have to be where you eventually want to end up to have a purpose. When I worked in fast food, what brought me joy was bringing a smile to people’s faces, to shed the light of God on them in even a brief interaction. What is your purpose in what you are doing right now? Find it, and when you’re starting to feel burnt out, remember it. Hold on to it. When you look beyond yourself to giving to others and giving back to God, a passion will grow inside of you that not even burnout can overcome.