#041: How to Tackle SLP Burnout

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Would you describe yourself as a helper? Or do you throw around the term “labor of love” when telling folks what you do? 🤔

If those are a heck yes, and last week’s episode about telepractice had you nodding your head and daydreaming about that elusive work/life balance…then you’ll definitely want to dive headfirst into today’s conversation with SLP and Life Coach Angie Merced, where she unpacks the phenomenon of SLP burnout.

First things first: You are not alone. Burnout is a real psychological phenomenon!

When workplace stress isn’t managed, it feels like your brain can’t retain information, you’re spinning your wheels when it comes to productivity, your usual uber-positive attitude feels harder to muster, and you’re so spent that you just need Netflix and a nap when the weekend rolls around. 😴

Next: There is hope for less stressful, more productive, and happier weeks!

Angie is a wellspring of inspiring, tangible, and actionable advice on how to reclaim your energy, create more time, and generate resources. There are only 24 hours in a day, but these tips will help you to identify where you’re leaking time, take care of yourself first, and make the most of your schedule. 💪

So grab your beverage of choice (I’ll have a chai latte!), put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways + Topics Covered

– Angie’s journey through her education and her own brush with burnout
– “Burnout” is an actual psychological phenomenon caused by unmanaged workplace stress
– Symptoms of burnout
– Angie’s five effective ways to get your time and energy back
– Identifying your “energy leaks” (things you spend time on that aren’t aligned with goals)
– Time-savers for your everyday

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

– Angie’s website: SLP Burnout Coach
Five Effective Ways to Get Your Time and Energy Back
Pomodoro Technique
Steven Covey Urgent vs. Important
Parkinson’s Law

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Transcript

Marisha: Hello there, and welcome to the SLP Now podcast. I am so excited to introduce our guest today, Angie Merced. Angie is a Certified Life Coach by the Life Coach School, and a school based SLP. She lives with her husband and two little girls in Rochester, New York, and her passion is to rescue SLPs who are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and trapped in a career that they're "supposed to love." If you don't relate to that, then I don't know.
I've just been consuming some of Angie's content, and it's been so incredibly helpful, and I can see how she shows her clients how to reclaim their energy, create more time, and generate resources. She's just on a mission to help whip-smart SLPs do less, be more, and thrive with joy in the one life they have. I cannot wait to dive into a discussion all about burnout today, with Angie.
So, without further ado, hello, Angie.

Angie: Hello! So excited, thank you for having me.

Marisha: Yeah. I cannot wait to dive into the questions that we have for today's podcast, because I feel like this is something that all of us struggle with, at least at some point in our career, if not frequently.

Angie: Yeah.

Marisha: ... throughout our career.

Angie: Yeah.

Marisha: I cannot wait. But, before we dive into the burnout discussion, I'm so incredibly curious to hear about, first, just your experience as an SLP? Then, also, about how you became a Life Coach, and that journey as well?

Angie: Yes! So, I graduated with my undergraduate degree, back in 2001. I started working with preschoolers, and right out the gate, I was pretty burned out, three or four months in. That was my first round of burnout that I had, and that place was coming from a severe anxiety, and lack of confidence, and that ... What do they call it? I'm trying to think. Impersonator syndrome? Imposter syndrome, that's what I'm thinking of. That was my first round of burnout.
Back then, I didn't have the life coaching tools that I have now, but I was able to use enough resources that I was able to come out of it. I worked for two years, that was back when you could work without undergraduate degree. In New York State, I don't think you can do that anymore. Then, I went back to graduate school, and graduated from graduate school in 2004. And I went back to working with preschoolers, which was fun because I had done that before, it was at a different agency.
After a couple years there, I started realizing I'm going to work, and I'm coming home, and I'm putting my pajamas on, and going to bed. That's all I had energy for. That was another round of burnout that I had. I was looking at my options, and I thought, well, maybe I need to change my setting, go into a different job. I did find a job in a school district, back in 2007. I thought it was great, because there was going to have a planning period, and I got some other perks of working in the school. But, there again, within that first year of that job, I found myself in burnout again.
I was learning all new processes, working with a different population. Again, that lack of confidence. For me, that lack of confidence was coming up. At that point ... Let's see, by about 2010, 2011, I said, well, I'm going to quit being an SLP, and I'm going to become a life coach. Ever since I was a teenager, probably, I've just been obsessed with reading self-help books, and watching Oprah, and things like that, I was just so interested in mental health, and becoming a life coach.
So, I decided that. I thought I'm going to quit my job, then I'm going to be come a life coach, and I did. The amazing miracle, awesome thing that happened was, in the process of becoming a life coach, I learned the skills of managing my mental and emotional world, and I learned how to ... I just learned the skill, the literal skill, of loving my job. Then, I found myself in a place where I didn't have to quit my job, I didn't have to escape my job anymore, which was fun. So, I stayed, and I'm still there, I'm still at the same district.

Marisha: Oh, wow. I'm glad that there's no video here, because I was like, nodding my head like a bobble head, because there's so much in your story that I can relate to. I just love that you were able to learn the skills that you needed to, to not need to escape. Then, you're also able to help other SLPs figure that out for themselves.

Angie: Yes! Yes.

Marisha: That is so cool.

Angie: I hear about ... We're struggling, they're struggling, and I just want to do everything I can to get people some tips, and just help people take some agency over their career, and over their life.

Marisha: Yeah, that is so amazing. I am even more excited to dive in, because I frequently talk with SLPs who are in my membership, or just in my community in general, like on Instagram, and one of the biggest things that comes up is, they don't feel confident, and they are just really struggling, and don't feel great about much of anything that they're doing. You're the expert here, but I think that definitely contributes to the burnout, and you just kept mentioning that confidence. That's something that I've heard from hundreds, and thousands of SLPs, even, that's a real struggle.

Angie: Yeah. I mean, it really is. It's not the case for everyone who's struggling, but yes, that is a huge piece of it.

Marisha: I think it's just the broad scope of practice, especially in the schools, we can ... There's so much paperwork on our plate, and the caseloads, and all of those things. I'm excited to hear your perspective, but I think that makes sense.
So, the first question is, can you tell us just a little bit about what you've seen with SLPs and burnout? Do you have any information about how many SLPs struggle with it, or what the patterns are?

Angie: Yes.

Marisha: Kind of, what you're seeing there?

Angie: We are givers, right? We're teachers, and we're guiders, and we're healers, and we serve, and we help, and that's what we do. A lot of us struggle from burnout. I've done a lot of searching for stats on what percentage, and there are some studies that are definitely relatable to our field.
About 20 to 30 percent of teachers in America have moderate to high levels of burnout, about 52% of medical professionals, so we're thinking doctors, nurses, have moderate to high levels of burnout. So, those fields are pretty relatable to our field. There's a study, out of Canada, that said that 76% of SLPs were experiencing mild to moderate signs of burnout. Now, when I read that study, a quarter of the SLPs that were given the questionnaire survey, didn't fill out the survey. My guess is that most of those that didn't fill out the survey were also burned out, because they couldn't be bothered with the survey.
Yeah, if I were to hypothesize how many SLPs struggle with burnout, at some point, I would say it's really because ... Although burnout is becoming more recognized, and more understood, it's highly under reported. I think that it would be closer to 80%, if I was going to hypothesize about how many SLPs suffer from burnout.

Marisha: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. If you're looking over the course of a career, I feel the estimate could be-

Angie: Yeah, like 99.

Marisha: ... even higher.

Angie: Right?

Marisha: Or, 100.2.
Yeah, that really makes a lot of sense to me, I think it's helpful just to get a little bit of the numbers behind it. I'm curious, what are the symptoms of burnout? I'll let you decide what makes the most sense, but I'm curious, how do we know if we're burned out? Then, what do you think about the causes of it? Like, it might make more sense to start there.

Angie: What's kind of cool is that it is being recognized more and more, it's actually ... Burnout is in the ICD 11. What it's defined as is "burnout is a syndrome, conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been managed." There's three components, they define three components of burnout.
Now, the first one is ... I always talk about, if you picture your spaghetti strainer, if you're a bowl, normally, when you're in burnout, you're a strainer. It goes along with that first component of burnout, which is energy depletion. You're physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. That's the first, and these do occur in progression, that's the first part.
The second part that I see is what I call brain fogs, so there's a mental distance. Your brain actually becomes pretty cynical, pretty critical, very negative. That's a tough place to be, because once you're there, it's really hard for your brain to see any kind of solution.
Then, the third component is reduced professional efficacy. So, you're just not as effective, which makes sense.
Some other things that I see, on top of this definition, is a lot of scatteredness, confusion, over analyzing, over questioning, lack of confidence. Something I call compare and despair, so you're comparing yourself to other people, and you're in a lot of despair about that. I see difficulty making decisions, and I see defensiveness.
Another thing that I want to say about burnout, and this is what happened to me, is what I call perfectly hidden burnout. Like, really, there probably was some reduced professional efficacy on my part, when I was in burnout, but really, no one would have ever known it. I was still going to work, I was still turning in my reports, and everything that I needed to do, it's just when I was getting home, I was overeating, watching Netflix, staying in my pajamas all weekend. Not because I wanted to, but because that was all the energy I had. I was just going through the motions of my life.
Then, the other thing I see is, I like to see your body's response to chronic stress. Your body gives you whispers, what I call whispers. So, you'll get a headache, you'll get a kink in your neck, you'll have some stomach issues, you might get a sore throat. For me, now that I've been doing this work for quite a while, my jaw is my stress management barometer. If my jaw and shoulders are tense, I know that I need to go back and manage my stress. So, your body gives you those little whispers, and most people, most of us don't really listen to those, we don't really connect that it has an underlying stress-based cause.
The thing is, when you start living from that place, you're very dependent on the world cooperating with you. It's like, you're constantly living from an anxious place of, I hope nothing happens, because I can't handle one more thing. But, we're humans, and we live in a world, and one more thing always happens. It's just a crappy place to be.

Marisha: That is definitely a crappy place to be, and I ... Oh, I just love your analogies. I take some notes during these, and my pages are already full, so much good stuff. I love the bowl versus the spaghetti strainer analogy, that makes so much sense. Yeah, I think I can definitely relate to what you call the perfectly hidden burnout, because I was just picturing myself with the overeating, Netflix, pajamas all weekend. That was definitely part of my life for a while, there, too.
I just love what you said about the whispers, because a lot of that stuff is happening for a reason. So, so incredibly helpful.

Angie: Yeah.

Marisha: I think that's a great breakdown, and a great way of checking for other SLPs to ... The first step is being able to recognize what's happening, because then we can take some next steps.

Angie: Yeah. That's the tough thing about burnout, when your brain is cynical and negative, it's actually hard to recognize it, it's hard to have some openness and curiosity about yourself.

Marisha: Yeah.

Angie: That's the inaudible part. That's why I think education is huge here.

Marisha: Yeah, I agree, and you are the profit person to break this down, so I am very excited. I think, based on what you were saying, burnout comes from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been managed. Was there anything else that you wanted to say about the cause, there?

Angie: Oh.

Marisha: Okay.

Angie: Yes, there is more I wanted to say. I've got a few things, here. Yes.
Nobody teaches us how to manage stress. Most people, we really don't know how to manage stress. We have these clues, like do yoga, and drink a green smoothie, and take a bath, but that doesn't really teach us how to manage stress. We don't learn it, we certainly don't learn it in our training, we don't learn it in grade school, most of our parents don't teach us that.
For me, it's something I learned in becoming a life coach. There're things that happen in our world, we do have stressors, and we do have triggers. I know that's a word nowadays, like trigger warning, but my thing is, let's not have a life where we have to avoid every single trigger, because triggers are going to happen in our world. That's just part of being a human. Things like, you get three new avails, or you have some new students, or you've got a student with some specific behaviors, or you're asked to, I don't know, write another report. Just all those things come up, and those definitely might be triggers. How do you manage those triggers? Not being able to manage them is one of the big causes.
The other thing that I like to think about is, we don't know how to say no. I feel like part of this comes from our grad school training, because you think about grad school, I know for me, it was pretty intense. It would be like, you have to push yourself through, and take this test. Push yourself through, and write that lesson plan, and do your practicum. Push yourself through, and jump through another hoop. We condition ourselves to live our lives that way, but it's not sustainable.
When I talk about people don't know how to ... Saying yes, and saying no, people have just said yes to too many things. They need to say no more, and create good boundaries. Good, healthy boundaries. Specifically like time boundaries, right? Making sure you have a time to work, and a time to rest, and a time to be with your family, and your loved ones, and making sure your time is organized in that way.
Now, something I continue to work on is when I have a coach ... I am a life coach, and I have a life coach. One of the things I continue to work on is a massive resistance to rest and relaxation. So, a lot of us, we're watching Netflix but the whole time, in the back of our mind, we're saying, I should do this, and I should do that, so we're not truly resting.

Marisha: Yeah, I totally can see that. I'm thinking back to the weekends when all I did was watch Netflix, and I definitely didn't feel rested after doing that. I think part of it is because, yeah I was just lounging in my pajamas watching Netflix, but I was also constantly scrolling through my phone, and thinking about Johnny, and Alice, and thinking about what I was going to do for my therapy plans, and all of that. I think there's really an art to true relaxation, I think.

Angie: Yes. I think part of is just, like I said, we have to undo that tendency that we have to push through, and just realize that it's not sustainable. Yeah, just getting into that wholehearted rest. Well, I'll get into my tips in a little bit, I'm going to get into that.
Putting those time boundaries for your rest, and putting your relaxation in your schedule first. If you're not rested, if you have no energy, you're not effective, right? We have to work at undoing those tendencies, though.

Marisha: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. It's like trying to pour from an empty cup. It might feel selfish, or, I don't have time to rest, what are you talking about? I have my job, and my three kids, and all of this stuff happening. If we don't take that time, then we're not able to show up, and be our best selves for our students, and our families, and just for ourself, too.

Angie: Yes, yes. I'm so glad you said that. The thing is, once you actually practice it, and learn how to wholeheartedly rest and relax, it doesn't actually take as much time as you think it would.
Like you said, a whole weekend of having that brain spin, of all the things you should be doing, but on the surface it looks like you're resting, but you're really not, in your mind. All that time isn't restful. Whereas if you actually just wholeheartedly rest, for an amount of time, it really is rejuvenating.

Marisha: So helpful. I am super excited to dive into some tips and tricks that you might have for us.
Let's say that an SLP is beginning to experience the signs of burnout, or they're deep in it, what would you tell us, if that's where we are?

Angie: Yes. I have so much for you.
Fundamentally, the first thing is giving yourself the gift of openness, and just giving yourself the gift of curiosity about what's going on, what do I need. There's a meme ... A meme. There's a graphic out there somewhere, that it says, "Our students must Maslow before we can Bloom." I love it, it's referring to Maslow's hierarchy of human needs versus Bloom's taxonomy of the educational objectives. Basically, we have to take care of our human needs before we can learn, and apply things, and self actualize.
Just on a very basic level, when you're in burnout, taking care of your physical needs actually starts to slip. Like, make sure you're getting at least ... What is it? Half your body weight, in ounces, of water a day. Make sure you're at least moving your body in some way, every day, make sure you're eating nourishing foods that physically feel good in your body. It doesn't have to be complicated, but just taking care of your physical needs, that's a place to start. Just being very gentle with yourself, and being curious.
I like to use powerful questions with myself and with my clients. One of the questions that I ask myself, and I have my clients ask themselves is, what's the matter, love? What's up? We ask our students, "What's going on, baby?" Just asking yourself, and opening yourself up to just being curious about what's going on with you. I think that helps to crack that cynical, defensive, critical mindset that happens when you're in burnout.
The other thing that I touched on before, is really creating clear time boundaries for yourself. Sometimes we get to a place and we realize that we've given too many yeses, and not quite enough nos. Making sure there's that time for you to rest, and time for you to connect with your loved ones, and definitely time to work.
I have a five-part series, on my website, Five Effective Ways to Get Your Time and Energy Back. I'll just go through the list, but then I'll go in depth in each one. Does that sound okay?

Marisha: That would be perfect.

Angie: Okay. Now, stay with me, here, because I'm going to explain everything. The first one is Front Loading, the second one is Zap the Time Suckers. Then, Reclaim In Between Time, Prioritize Work, and then the fifth one is Use Constraint.
Talking about Front Loading. I'll ask you a question. If I told you, okay Marisha, you give me $100 on Monday, and if you do that, on Friday, I'm going to give you $500, would you take that deal?

Marisha: Of course.

Angie: Right? You would take that deal. That's what front loading is, but most of us are really afraid to give that $100 up front. That's what front loading is, it's really just planning ahead. But, we have to really make the case for it, in our mind. When I work with my clients individually, we look at, what is going to give them the most bang for their buck?
One thing that I recommend ... There's a thing that's called decision fatigue. When you're going throughout your day, we make a lot of decisions throughout our day. The more decisions you make ... We make a lot of decisions as clinicians, right? That takes brain energy, that takes a lot of brain energy. I like to use the strategy of front loading to reduce the amount of decisions that you have to make throughout your day.
Some things that I've done ... I'm not saying these are the right things for everyone, but just idea-wise. I eat the same thing for lunch, ever day, and I pack my lunches on the weekend, I prepare my lunch on the weekend, and I eat the same thing, every day, five days a week. So, I don't have to think about what I'm doing for lunch. I recommend, also, eating the same thing for breakfast. I've been doing, for about a year now, intermittent fasting, so as far as that, I don't even have to make a decision about breakfast anymore. Now, I'm not saying everyone should do that, by any means, it's just an example of how you can reduce your decisions.
I plan my outfits ahead of time. This is your expertise, here, work in themes. I use a lot of literature, as well. Using materials that can be adapted for lots of different groups. One thing that I've decided, too, is when I take my daily notes, I write one to two sentences, no more than two sentences, with one piece of data, then period. I don't do anymore than that, that decision has already been made, I don't spend a lot of time deciding what I'm going to include in my daily note for my sessions.
Then, a new thing that I've started is I'm doing for dinners, I'm making a monthly meal plan for my family and I. I'm making a ... writing out all the dinners that I'm going to make. Not that I cook every night or anything like that, but what we're going to eat, every night. Then, I basically repeat it, every month. I already know what I need from the grocery store, there's not a lot of decisions that have to be made on a daily basis.
When I work one-on-one with people, we take an in depth look about what kind of front loading might work for them, so we can stop up those energy leaks.

Marisha: Oh, I love that, stopping the energy leaks. I really appreciate all the specific examples that you gave, and I definitely agree with what you said. Each person will need their ... everyone has their own energy leaks, and there's definitely different areas that we could work on reducing the decisions, but I really appreciate those examples, because I think that really helps.

Angie: Yeah, yeah.
The next one is, Zap the Time Suckers, which is kind of a funny name that I call it, but they really are time suckers. To give it a definition, it's those activities, little things that we do, that aren't quite aligned with our goals, and what we want for our future self, or even just our daily goals. Like, if your daily goal is to get your session notes in, but at the end of the day, you pick up your phone and you're scrolling on Facebook, or whatever it is that you do, that would be considered a time sucker.
Now, let me be clear, and give this a little caveat. There's nothing wrong with doing things to kick back, like we talked about before, like watching Netflix, there's nothing wrong with getting on social media, and relaxing, there's nothing wrong with having a beautiful meal and a glass of wine, or whatever it is that you do to relax. The caveat, here, is when we do it as an escape, or when we do it more to avoid the things that we really, actually want to get done. I also call it those numbing out behaviors that we do. Yes, we do need self soothing, and we do need relaxation, but I like it to be purposeful.
So, those times when you're engaging in those types of things as an escape, couple tips. The thing is when you have ... For me, when I have a report to write, especially getting started, I don't want to do it, I just don't want to do it. My tendency is, if I let myself just go, I'll go and scroll Facebook for 10 minutes, or I'll go and commiserate with my coworkers for half an hour about how much work I have to do, or ... This is kind of a joke with my coworkers, but Mrs. Merced will get into the prize box, and it just takes me away from my bigger intention, and what I want to create. I like to leave work at work, because I do have a husband and two little girls at home, and I want to spend that quality time with them when I get home.
We are doing those things to avoid a negative emotion. I want to get into, just a little bit, let's touch on emotion. In life, we experience positive emotion and negative emotion, right? That's just normal, that's a part of life. You're going to have positive things, and you're going to have negative things, that cause you to think negative thoughts, and feel negative emotion. But, I think there is useful negative emotion, versus useless negative emotion.
Some examples of negative emotion that's really not useful for us would be regret, feeling regret, feeling guilt, which I know a lot of us SLPs feel that way, especially Mama SLPs, too. We feel the guilt. Confusion, worry, compare and despair, those really aren't useful emotions, negative emotions.
Whereas, the feeling of discomfort could be useful. When I say that I mean, when I go to write that report, it's uncomfortable, I don't want to do it, it's uncomfortable. This is a really fun tip, wait for it. It's feel the discomfort, just let yourself be a little uncomfortable in the beginning. Now, you might not love that discomfort, but discomfort is better than what you might feel on the back end, if you don't start the project, and that's where the regret, and the confusion, and the guilt, and the overwhelmed, that's where all those emotions start to come in, that feel even worse than that initial discomfort. Does that make sense?

Marisha: Yeah, that does make sense. If we walk through an example, let's say, where we have this report to write, but we're avoiding the discomfort, so we scroll on Facebook, and talk to our coworkers, we don't get it done that day, and maybe we do the same thing a couple days in a row. Then, the report is due on Thursday, so on Wednesday night we're writing the report from home, and missing out on time with our kids, our families. We've got the discomfort still, of writing the report, but then there's also regret for doing the things that we did. And guilt, I'm supposed to be helping my daughter with her homework, or whatever it may be.

Angie: Yes.

Marisha: Is that right, is that how that would show up?

Angie: Yes. Then, I'm so glad you brought that up, because then our brain has a tendency to be mean to ourselves. Like, why didn't you do that? Why can you get this stuff done? Then, we get into that, it's really unuseful. Our brains do that, they beat up on us.
But, I have some more, I have some more tips for this, too, though.

Marisha: I love it.

Angie: To get you through that discomfort, though.
Yes, maybe be willing to be feel that initial discomfort. The next tip is, reclaim the in between times. I know a lot of us ... A lot of times, in my schedule, there'll be an assembly or something, or a student will get picked up, or something happens where 15 minutes opens up in my schedule, or I'll get a little extra time, that I didn't expect. Actually, let me back up a little bit.
When I work with my clients, I have them actually do, most of them actually do a time journal, so we see exactly where their time is going. I do it in 15-minute increments, so that's something you can do. You can really get real about where your time is going, throughout your day, your entire day. The reason I have them do that is because I like to have people get rid of their to-do lists, and put everything on their schedule instead. Endless to-do lists are overwhelming, and it doesn't really give you a good, clear picture of time boundaries, which we talked about before. That's part of reclaiming those in between times.
It's like, when everything is on a schedule, you can see when some time opens up for yourself, and you're like, oh my gosh, I don't have anything scheduled right now. Do I want to take this time for some purposeful rest and relaxation, do I want to start this report that I have, that I have scheduled later?
One of the other tips that I had, I highly recommend using a timer. Now, in college I always called it interval tasking, thinking I invented it. It turns out, it's called the Pondoro Technique. What I do is I use a timer, I try to chunk ... We do this for our students, right? We chunk things, into little mini steps. Use a timer, I work pedal to the metal for 20 minutes, and then I give myself 10 minutes to goof off. Then, I give myself another 20 minute interval, where it's pedal to the metal, and then 10 minutes to goof off.
Now, when I do that, it really, actually, energizes my brain, and gives me just some real focus. That's one of the things that really helps me get over that initial discomfort, that negative emotion that I was talking about. I've just found that to help, really help me be very productive throughout my day. I know it seems like a lot of time of goofing off, but when you have that uber, like I said, petal to the metal focus, you're really getting a lot done.
The other tip I have, this is a strategy for overcoming ... Raise your hand if you're a perfectionist, or a procrastinator, or you're anxious, which, isn't that most SLPs? I know, I raise my hand to all of those.

Marisha: I'm raising my hand, too.

Angie: The tip is, think of it this way. When you get the first 80% of a project done, as fast as possible ... So, those quick, massive bursts, it's going to help you with your focus, stamina, and the other thing it's going to help with, is help you hack your perfectionist fantasies.
Now, today, I was looking at my notes and what I was going to talk about today, and prepare, and I caught myself fantasizing about how I wanted to prepare, to talk with you. I pictured myself going downstairs in my office, and laying out all my articles, and reviewing them. I caught myself actually using a lot of time fantasizing about how I was going to prepare, rather than just preparing, and I think a lot of us do that. There's that over-researching. Do speech pathologists tend to over complicate things? Probably. So, I think just focusing on getting that 80% of the project done, as fast as you can, will really help you get through that initial discomfort of starting a project.
I mean, thinking about putting time boundaries on things, now, most reports I can write in an hour or less. That's my reports, I work with third through fifth graders, so the reports that I'm used to writing, I can write them in an hour or less. What I used to do is get super complicated, and take a report home, and literally, probably spend 12 plus hours writing the report, simply because I had no time boundaries for myself. I would say, well, I'm going to write this report on the weekend, so it would take all weekend.

Marisha: Yeah. I know that, especially for newer SLPs, it's like, I don't know how long it's going to take me. How do I put a time boundary, or whatever? I think we might not know, but we can just pick a time. I think this is jumping ahead to one of your future points, I think we just have to take a guess, and just go for it. It's surprising how that actually ends up working out.

Angie: Yes, yes. Yes, because at least you have that mental expectation for yourself, initially. Yes, I'll get to a little more on that later on.
The next one is just prioritizing. That's just thinking about your why's, thinking about your why's. My priority, in the past, I would say five years, I've realized how much my mental health is the most important thing for me, because that creates everything. That is my number one priority, but do I spend the majority of my time on that? No. Your priority doesn't necessarily have to be the thing you spend the most time on. I mean, the next priority is my family, but we spend a lot of time at work, we spend a lot of time sleeping, too. Those are priorities, too. Those priorities might not always align with time, so it's good to just know that.
The other little point I like to bring up is Stephen Covey has this concept of urgent versus important. Just thinking about the things that come up ... When I have my clients do their time journal, it's interesting, we go over what urgent things come up. The urgent things are like, the example I'm thinking of now, you go grocery shopping and a day later, you get home and you realize you forgot to buy milk. Then, you've got to go back to the grocery store, and spend all that time getting the milk, bringing it back home, doing what you were going to do with it. Or, ... I just had another idea, and I lost it. Basically, when you're having a lot of urgent, unexpected things coming up, that is a lack of front loading.
It's that, you've got to pay that $100 on Monday, so you can get that $500 back on Friday, so the urgent, versus the important things. So, thinking about spending your time on those important things, rather than the urgent things coming up. The other thing is, some of us overcheck our emails. I really try to only check my emails once or twice a day, because it's really just not that important. There's nothing that urgent that I need to be checking my email more than that. So, clarifying in your mind, what are the urgent things that are coming up, and what is truly important?
The other part is clarifying for yourself your have tos, versus your want tos. Now, most of my clients, including ... I've had this, too. They'll tell me, "I have to work, I have to pay my bills, that's obvious." But, something I tell them is, you actually don't have to work, and you don't have to pay your bills, it's just if you're honest, you don't want to experience the consequences of not paying your bills. Maybe you don't want to be homeless, right? Or, another example is paying your taxes, people will say, "Well, I have to pay my taxes. I don't want to, but I have to." You really don't have to pay your taxes, it's just that you choose you don't want to go to jail, or pay penalties, or whatever it is that you have to do.
I would clarify for yourself, and give yourself that subtle but important distinction of, you really want to work, because you do want to pay your bills, because you don't want to be a bag lady, or you don't want to be homeless. Just giving yourself, it is true, you do want to do these things. I think that part is important.
The last tip that I have, let me give this to you, I want to give you as many tips as possible, is to use constraint. That's like, minimalism for your life and your career. The problem with that is, most people when we hear, the definition of constraint is limiting, and constricting yourself. When we hear that, what happens? If you're going to limit yourself and restrict yourself, I know for me, the rebellious, inner emotional child comes out and says, "No, I'm not doing that." Or, we have that fear of missing out, we get the FOMO, or our perfectionist fantasies start coming out. Like, I have to get this right, we have to make it overcomplicated, we have to do more, and research more.
All of those things that our brain does, so that rebellion, and the FOMO, and the perfectionism, creates a lot of indecision, and non-committal, scattered energy in our life, that's that huge energy, and time drain that happens. I do recommend that you constrain your time. If you've ever heard of Parkinson's Law, it's "work expands to the time available." Who decides what time you have available? You are actually the one that gets to decide that. Going back to that, when I said the report would take me a whole weekend to write, versus one to two hours to write. So, constrain your time, give yourself time limits to work on things, and use that timer to help you. The other thing is just constrain your materials, and the things that you do. I like to work, do literacy based lessons, and that just constrains my materials, so that I can use them in so many different ways.
The last thing I want to leave people with, I know I've given you a lot, is just remembering that when you show up with your clients ... There's been lots of studies in education, with counselors, life coaching, although that's a newer field, so it's less studied ... there's been a lot of studies that say, your relationship with your client is the biggest predictor of your effectiveness. So, just show up as a loving human being, and just ask yourself, can I be a human being today, with my students, with my clients? I think we can all answer yes to that. Hopefully, that will just take a little bit of the pressure off.
Hopefully I've given you a lot of tips, and things you can try, like tomorrow. Don't get overwhelmed with it, just try one thing.

Marisha: Oh, I love that. I love when episodes are packed with practical tips, and this one is overflowing with them, so much good stuff. I definitely agree, we've got 100 things that we could do, based on what you shared, and that's definitely not the goal. This episode will be available for, at least for the foreseeable future, I don't think it's coming down any time, so just pick one of the things you want to try next, and see how that goes. Then, if that's going well, you can revisit it, and pick some more things, or you can connect with Angie.
Where would be a good place for people to read more, or connect with you and just learn more, if they're wanting to work on this?

Angie: Yeah, you can go to my website, SLPBurnoutCoach.com, or you can email at Angie@SLPBurnoutCoach.com, or you can see my Facebook page, SLPBurnoutcoach.com.

Marisha: Got it.

Angie: Connect with me, ask me questions, I would be more than happy to answer questions. Email me, reach out, I love talking burnout, I love it.

Marisha: Well, thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise with us. Yeah, I think this was a really helpful conversation, and you definitely gave lots and lots of tips for us to start implementing.

 

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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