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Managing Burnout

This list is notes for a possible blog post based on a very thin article from ETF.com about financial advisor burnout. Apparently quite a few advisors are feeling a sense of burnout because of how the last few years have gone. There are a couple of quotes from advisors who exercise and then the article finishes with a weak connection to using ETFs in portfolio construction. Any advisor who started using ETFs just in the last few years since the pandemic started, I mean Jesus, maybe you're burned out for having no engagement in relatively modern practice management. Or, if you changed your investment process during a crisis (market or personal) then you may not be cut out for this sort of work. Harsh but c'mom, clients expect their advisors to have their acts together.

My ideas for avoiding burnout hopefully have more depth than what the article explored and maybe can apply to people in different vocations.

    1. Pomodoro

    Take little breaks here and there to mentally reboot. The ideas are endless.

    • Draw something
    • Manipulate a photo for Instagram
    • Play a game of computer solitaire
    • Watch a funny video
    • Walk around
    • Do a task that is completely unrelated
    • Got a quick fix-it? Work on that for 10 minutes
    • Do a chore

    2. Get out into nature regularly

    I don't necessarily mean as a Pomodoro break in your day, although depending on your schedule, sure. What I mean is some sort of regular time spent outside, for me that might be hiking or a couple of other things. Fresh air, trees, prudent amount of time in the sun, the quiet of nature; regular exposure to all of that can help ground us.

    3. Spend time with your dog

    Dogs love us and want the attention, their enjoyment can do wonders for us.

    4. Get really into a hobby or two

    Here I mean something that you can spend time immersing into. Presumably a hobby is fun and some amount of time in your week that is just about fun can help.

    5. Rely on family

    Yes, your family can help you but I think we can get more benefit by being there for family members' life challenges. Be present for them, actively listen to them, help them figure things out. The act of helping others will have the effect of helping ourselves.

    6. Confront failure

    Failure is part of life. Whatever it is that is burning you out, what happens if you fail? Can you live with the consequences? If failure means less money now or less growth later (relevant to advisors here), how would that actually impact you? Would you actually be hurt? No wrong answer but you need to understand the answer to put the stakes into perspective and if you think you would be hurt, how can you mitigate that?

    7. Emphasize the parts of your work you enjoy.

    I've mentioned that the firm where I've been since 2004 is going through a forced merger due to the malfeasance of one of the partners and the obliviousness to that malfeasance by the other partner. I would describe the work to implement the merger as being mostly about the business of running an advisory not about managing portfolios or helping clients.

    I don't like the former which is why I was never a partner at the old firm but I love the latter which of course I've continued to do through the merger. Absorption into the new firm might be a more accurate word. So yes there was some amount of feeling overwhelmed at times but that was always going to be temporary. In the mean time I continued to engage with the parts of the work that I love doing.

    8. Actively volunteering can help!

    When you actively engage in some sort of volunteer endeavor you are solving different challenges and problems from your day job. Regularly using different reasoning skills in this manner will help keep you fresher and even if this point doesn't prevent burnout it might help you navigate through it easier.

    9. Exercise yes, but...

    Exercise should be a very regular part of everyone's routine to get the maximum emotional benefits. Being fit raises emotional wellbeing and makes it easier to navigate regular highs and lows of life versus feeling stressed or overwhelmed and reacting with a one off, quick exercise session. Yes that could help but far less bang for the buck versus regularly committing time to fitness.

    10. Diet matters too

    You're not doing yourself any emotional favors by eating a lot of carby and/or processed foods. There is abundant research about this that could be summed up as garbage in, garbage out. The more foods you can eat from the edges of the grocery store (think about what is on the edges versus the isles) that don't have ingredients the better off you'll be on all levels.

    11. Maybe you're actually done

    Happiness and fulfillment matter. At some point it is reasonable to conclude that maybe you're not burned out, maybe you are legitimately done. If at all possible, I would suggest not throwing the towel in the middle of whatever is burning you out. That would potentially be a rash, emotional reaction versus a calm, less emotional decision.

    12. Doing it just for the money? Uh-oh

    Financial advisors can make very good money of course but if you're really just there for the paycheck and not much else it will be much harder to enjoy what you do. This is probably true in many other vocations.

    Motivation matters. Genuinely caring for your clients' outcomes matters. Having a desire to help people is very important.

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