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How SMART Goal Setting Is Burning You Out

Written by: Ellyn Schinke, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Have you ever felt like your goals are contributing to your burnout? Well, I’ve got some thoughts on this that might just blow your mind and be a powerful mindset shift when it comes to goals and burnout.

Why are we talking about goals and burnout?

Recently, I was down at the LinkedIn office in San Francisco giving a talk about the different types of burnout, compassion, how to bring self-care practices into the workplace, etc.

During that talk, we were discussing boredom burnout or “bored out”. Just like it sounds, it is a form of burnout that comes from when we are going through the motions and doing the same things day-in and day-out in our lives. We overcome boredom burnout by doing something different and getting creative with where you’re working, how you’re working, or the kind of work you’re doing. It might also mean mixing things up in your personal life: trying a new hobby, adding something new to your routine, reading books, journaling, etc. All of these things can help to create space and a sort of pause button in our lives that most of us don’t get enough of, as well as snapping us out of our state of boredom.

When we were talking about this, I was asked a great question: should we make this new thing in our lives a measurable goal?

My answer? No.

Now, you might read that and say, “but Ellyn! What about SMART goal setting?” and I totally understand. Heck, we’ve been told to use that system our entire professional and academic lives! I already have beef with the SMART goal setting system, but that’s a whole other article. For now, the big thing that I want to focus on is the measurable part.

When measurable goals are good (and when they’re not)

Now, if you’re talking about a business or career goal, yes, I think that there’s validity to making that goal measurable. Your goal could be how many new clients you want to sign in the next month, an income goal, or what salary you want your next position to be. I think having numbers attached to those goals is a good thing!

However, what I’m talking about here are the things that we’re adding to our life to mitigate and manage our burnout. These are things that we should not make measurable. We should not look at those things as another way to push and challenge ourselves. Why? Because they become just another to-do list item and obligation that we can judge ourselves for not hitting.

Why we should make our self-care measurable.

For people like us achievers, there is already so much that can make us feel like a failure or like we’re not doing enough. So, we’ve got to take those benchmarks and measurements out of the equation. It allows these things that we do to manage our stress and make us feel better just that: things we do to manage our stress and make us feel better.

I, honestly, don’t go for walks for exercise. I go for my walks down by the water because it’s peaceful, makes me feel good, gives me a pause, is a form of stress management, and helps me refill my creative reserves. Getting exercise is kind of an added bonus.

I do these things, walking, exercising, meditating, journaling, etc. to manage my stress and make myself feel better. So, to come along and attach a goal or benchmark to that is counterproductive. Suddenly, it turns something that makes me feel good into another to-do list item, and how does that feel to think about?

This mindset shift is most important if you’re an achiever, an Enneagram 3, or someone who is already very goal-oriented. If any of those labels resonated with you, then this is important for you to realize because all these measurable outcomes will do is add to whatever burnout you might already be feeling.

It’s the downfall of our fitness trackers and wearables. Yes, they hold us accountable and keep us from getting lazy, but, because of them, we stop listening to ourselves. We lose track of what our bodies actually need. We lose the joy and stress relief that these things might actually give us.

That’s the perspective I’m coming from. Let’s say “no” to SMART goals because when it really comes down to our routines, our habits, and our hobbies, these are things that we started doing in the first place because it just feels good to do. So, let’s keep it that way.

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Ellyn Schinke, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ellyn Schinke is a former scientist turned top coach and international speaker specializing in burnout and stress management. After burning out while pursuing her Ph.D., Ellyn was sick of all the cookie-cutter, BS burnout tips online and sought out the real, tangible tactics that would actually make a difference in her life. As a result, burnout when from being her lifestyle to her passion. Now, she's focused on helping corporate professionals and businesses free themselves from burnout and take back their lives. Ellyn is the founder and CEO of Coach Ellyn LLC, one of the top burnout coaches on Google, host of the Burned Out to Badass podcast, and more. Her mission: Make burnout a choice.



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