Avoiding Burnout 101: Tips for Highly Ambitious Women

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Ambitious women are arguably the best candidates for burnout. We want it ALL:

  • a thriving and successful business
  • a happy family life complete with a gorgeous husband and 2.5 well-behaved kids
  • meaningful friendships
  • a banging body
  • the house
  • the car
  • a big social media following
  • great sex life
  • holidays to exotic locations
  • hobbies
  • spiritual fulfillment
  • never ending personal development

Oh and to only ever eat organic, pesticide-free, no-GMO, locally sourced, ethical and sustainable food.

Did that list exhaust you? Maybe it made you chuckle as you felt yourself relate?

It’s totally understandable to want it all. We’re in a fortunate position in 2019, where we aren’t held back by our gender. But, striving for it all can take a major toll on our energy, productivity and creativity – if we aren’t careful.

On a scale of 1 – 10, how are your energy levels? If you’re full of vibrant holistic health and consider yourself a productivity powerhouse, could we ask you to write the next blog post, please…? If not, here are our suggestions for avoiding burnout, which we’ve gathered through lived experience.

Essentially the idea is to make space in your life for self-care, which is the fuel your Wonder Woman tank needs to keep you going long-term.

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1. Decluttering your To Do Lists

Let’s start by finding out what you could take off your plate to give yourself some space to recharge. Let’s channel Marie Kondo. What sparks joy for you? What doesn’t?

For many women, running their household alongside their business is exhausting. Feeding the family takes up a lot of mental space. Cleaning the house is a pain in the arse. Start with your personal to-do list:

  • Could you order your groceries online instead of schlepping to the grocery store through traffic on your way home?
  • Could you get one of those ready-made meal services to deliver food a few nights a week to give you a break?
  • Could your husband commit to making one meal for the family per week (let him become the expert at ‘hamburger night’ even if it only involves popping the ready-made patties in the oven and cutting up the toppings!)
  • Could you get a cleaner in twice a month – or invest in a robot vacuum cleaner?
  • Could you get an au pair? There is an amazing website called Workaway where you can find people to do all sorts of jobs for you and your family in exchange for food and accommodation.

Keep brainstorming… You’re a creative woman.

Then look at your business to-do list. Have you heard of the concept of identifying your vital few? It’s similar to the Pareto principle i.e. the 80/20 rule. Essentially, your vital few are the few things that you (and only you!) can do in your business to bring the business closer to achieving its goals and impact its bottom line. If you can identify those few things (generally no more than 3 things), you can see how everything else you do can potentially be delegated.

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2. Limit Mindless Distractions

Now, how much time do you lose every single day mindlessly checking your phone, scrolling through social media or getting sucked into an app when all you wanted to do was check your calendar? 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. These seemingly harmless time-voids quickly add up to steal your precious time.

This article contains simple steps to help wean you off your smart phone. Not completely (don’t panic!) but enough to give you some time back. Steps include swapping randomly checking your phone for checking it on a schedule, turning off push notifications, taking distracting apps off your home screen and kicking your phone out of your bedroom. If you’re really serious about cutting down on your phone time, read this article, which contains some more extreme recommendations.

Netflix, Foxtel, Stan and TV are also culprits. If you’re using these in moderation and they bring you joy, great. But if you find you’re blobbing every night to ‘wind down’, you may like to re-assess what else you could be doing with that time that could more efficiently fill your tank. A bath and a good book perhaps? Listening to a guided mediation? Calling your bestie for a chat? A yin yoga class?


3. Guard the Gates of your Calendar

Don’t let your time and energy be stolen by agreeing to do things that you don’t want to do. As women, we have a tendency to avoid conflict. So, we say yes when we really mean no. Then we’re stuck in that horrible place of feeling obligated to go or do, even though we really don’t want to.

It’s time, lovely. Time to put on those big-girl undies and learn to say NO.

It’s absolutely ok to respond to an invite you don’t want to accept by saying “Thank you so much for the invite, but I actually just don’t have the bandwidth to attend at the moment”. Or “I would have loved to have helped you, but I just don’t have capacity right now”. You do not have to explain yourself. Sorry, not sorry.

Putting these healthy boundaries in place is incredibly liberating. And once you start enforcing them, people will start respecting them. It will also free up your calendar, making space for those important self-care activities.

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Now, Use that Space for Self-Care

Following the suggestions above should give you some space for self-care. This is the fun part. You get to ask yourself ‘What can I add in to my life to fill up my tank?’. We’re all different, and what floats one woman’s boat, won’t necessarily float another’s. The important thing is to find self-care practices that help to ground you, get you out of your head and give your nervous system some well-deserved down-time. Here are some tried and tested self-care practices, to give you some inspiration.


1. Meditation

If you don’t already have a meditation practice, you’re probably sick of hearing this one. But we’ll let you in on a little secret. Most insanely successful people do it daily (hello, Oprah!). It may feel like a chore initially, but once you establish the habit, you’ll find you look forward to it as you notice the positive impact it has on the space between your ears.


2. Mindful activities

Taking a break from the constant chatter of the monkey in your head is a great way to find calm, which in turn fills up our tanks. Mindful activities force us into the present which leaves no room to worry about the future or ruminate on the past.

There are a lot of options to choose from, be it yoga, swimming in the ocean, walking in nature, doing an adventure sport, colouring mandalas, playing an instrument, journaling, making gratitude lists or spending time with animals. Find the mindful activity that fills you up. And if you don’t know, experiment until you find a few.


3. Therapies

Massage, acupuncture, hypnosis – there are lots of great treatments available that by-pass your mind and get your body into a deep state of relaxation.


4. Sleep, exercise and real food

These are no-brainers. Getting enough sleep, moving your body regularly and eating well are simple practices that do wonders for our energy levels and mood.



Making space for self-care and continuously prioritising it is an ongoing journey. It’s easy to get motivated to practice self-care when you’re frazzled and the cracks have begun to show. But at that point it’s more damage control than maintenance.

If we prioritise self-care regularly (and not just when we desperately need it!) we feel overwhelmed less often, we have the bandwidth to deal with stress in a healthier way, we give our bodies the rest they need and we enjoy our home and work lives a lot more in the process. Our self-care practices not only help us to avoid burnout, they also help us to enjoy life more. Which is ultimately what we’re all looking for, right?

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Rps Author Profile
Courtney Bowie


Courtney is Her Lawyer’s founder and principal lawyer. Before starting the firm in 2017, she worked as both a lawyer and consultant in top-tier law firms. Courtney is passionate about gender equality, mental health and wellbeing, especially in the legal profession.

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