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'Career doctor' Liz Bentley: How to keep up with the new pace of 2021 ― and avoid burnout

That past year has pushed us to work harder, longer and more effectively. But it also led to a lot of burnout. How do we learn to work at this new pace without losing our stamina or our minds? Executive career coach Liz Bentley explains.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.Anthony Scutro

I like to boil 2020 down to this analogy: we started the year running a 10-minute mile and by the end, our pace was down to a 5-minute one. This is both incredible ― and risky.

Over this incredibly challenging year amid a global pandemic, we learned a lot, notably how to pick up the speed of our workflow and get a lot done in shorter periods of time. In many cases, we had no choice. In the industries that surged, work was abundant, and for the ones that struggled, we were forced to get creative in order to survive.

It certainly was an uphill climb. Everyone experienced challenges due to Covid-19 restrictions. People were forced to navigate a whole new world as they juggled childcare and remote learning, lagging internet connections, isolation issues, relationship struggles, physical space challenges, and the list goes on. All of this compounded with increasing work levels created a stressful and overwhelming environment. As the stress continued to grow on both the personal and professional front, we faced a new version of exhaustion and burnout.

Since we do not see this pace slowing down (or life going back to what it used to be) anytime soon, we all need to adjust our thinking and stamina if we haven’t done so already.

Plus, there is danger in not adjusting. The competition will keep moving ahead, and those standing still will fall behind.

Here are the most important habits to adopt so you can keep pace and stay energized this year.

Create routines, set boundaries.

For most of us, we still lack a distinction between work and home. And the possibility of quarantines is ever present. With all of this swirling around us, it’s essential to create routines and set boundaries.

Routines will help you get into a rhythm so you can get into a state of flow for your mind to function best. Map out the day (including breaks), and know when to stop working, so work doesn’t bleed into all aspects of your life. Physical boundaries are also essential—such as dedicating a space for your work and letting your family or housemates know when you are unavailable for interruptions.


Delegating is key to keeping up with this swift pace. Go through your list of things you need to do, and what you do not and be clear about them. And most importantly, delegate the decision-making so things don’t bottleneck on your plate. Often people delegate tasks but don’t give over the power of the decision making, which is one of the most important parts of delegating. By allowing and sometimes pushing people to make the decisions, it takes the stress off of you and keeps projects moving.

Vary your activities.

We used to have places to drive, meetings to attend and social events to look forward to. In the absence of this, our days tend to blend, and our energy can become drained as a result. While it is essential to have routines, you need to mix it up here and there.

Add events to your calendar that are unique and unusual, such as a game night with friends over Zoom versus the usual happy hour, or a good book to read instead of Netflix. Start a new project that is creative and works other parts of your brain. Variety is going to help you shift your perspective, be more adaptable and have fun with the unexpected.

Rest your brain.

To maintain this elite level of work pace, you have to do a lot of brain recovery and care. The brain is a muscle and it needs to be exercised, pushed and rested. This is where exercise, sleep and diet come into play.

Exercise gets great blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins and pushes the body to recover emotionally. Sleep is also critical for fully turning off your thinking and resting every part of your body. And a good diet increases your energy versus a bad one that depletes it. Falling into bad habits around any of these crushes stamina, while utilizing them to rejuvenate your brain helps insulate you from stress and exhaustion.

This year has already offered us hope—vaccines are here and we see a light at the end of this dark tunnel. But we still have a ways to go. So, empower yourself to rise to the challenge and find productivity and contentment in your life. You have everything you need right in front of you to stay energized and be the best you can be.

Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs. She is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and executive coach to top leaders and teams across a broad range of industries