Navigating Burnout with Breakfast Leadership Network’s Michael Levitt

The most important meal of the day.

Michael Levitt is the Chief Burnout Officer at Breakfast Leadership Network.

Michael is a speaker and has attended hundreds of events. He addresses burnout and how to save organizations money due to costs associated with medical leaves. He is also a writer and does content creations, works with teams for consulting, and appears on many podcasts, including The Breakfast Leadership Show.

Learn more about Michael's advice on how to avoid burnout and more in this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on   Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

And with us right now, we've got Michael Levitt. Michael, you are the chief burnout officer with the Breakfast Leadership Network, and you're found on the web at, thank you so much for joining us.

Great to be with you today, Josh?

Well, I'm glad we're talking about burnout. Because Michael is you know, and I know, there are a lot of folks, I would argue this year more than any year in memory, that are probably struggling with this issue right now. They normally love what they do. And I've got my own theories, like, you know, I'm gonna be very transparent about my own experience with this and, and maybe you can kind of help me out in real time. And then, you know, love To find out more about, again, what you do. But would you mind kind of starting off by kind of sharing a little bit more about what the breakfast Leadership Network is? and how that relates to being a burnout expert?

Absolutely. I launched the breakfast Leadership Network several years ago, because I saw a huge problem in society with burnout and my initial thoughts and working with the organization and finding I was working with C suite executives and I found the only time you could get a hold of those people were first thing in the morning. So before they get into the trenches, and doing the work, so came up with breakfast leadership to tie into the leadership component. And breakfast is typically a morning based meal. So and plus i love that meal. So I figure if I'm a name a company, I might as well have a name I like so yeah, it's easy for me to remember it. Organization has four pillars. One, I do a ton of public speaking on burnout prevention, and 2020. A lot of it on work, working from home burnout, and we're seeing a lot of cases of that. Also have my own show, the breakfast leadership show that I've been doing for several years and interview amazing people interviewed you several years ago, it doesn't seem that long. But I look back and went, Wow, that was a long time ago. And then writing, doing a lot of writing, I've got a new book coming out later this year, early next year really depends on timing of that on burnout of all things. And then finally, you're working with organizations and individuals to help them navigate through their burnout journey. So that's what the organization's about. And it's somewhat keeping me out of trouble. Yeah,

yeah. So let's so obviously, with 2020, everyone's working from home, I look I can I can explain, let me share kind of my experience with this. And, and I'm sure it's not too uncommon. Normally, I'm able to break up my routine. And as an enneagram, seven, for those who are familiar with enneagram sevens typically really need their variety. They and you know, if we get kind of in that hamster wheel a little bit too much itch you got, you know, I have to, I have to have that self care, like I in my self care is I need to go to a different environment for a short time. I need to go in the woods, go hiking, go out running, you know, like, but I got to get away from the same four walls and I and if I don't do that, you know, I just get I just get more exhausted earlier in the day. Things that I would normally be able to power through. You know, it's like, I just had lunch with my wife. And I was say I you know, I was just saying as little as possible, because I'm like, I just need to decompress and not say anything right now. Especially doing what I do, you know, without the podcasts, you know, especially when you have work like maybe like teachers and leaders and people that have to be on really on for long periods of time. Boy that can. Yeah, I think we just need to be realistic about our own limitations, and that we're human. Michael, I know you have a lot of experience with this. I don't, I don't mean to kind of steal your thunder, but I know that that's a lot of what I've experienced. So this year, like normally I would have been to, you know, between March and now when we're recording this, I would have been to three additional conferences at a minimum. I would have broken it up. I would have had myself a good seven to 10 day summer vacation, didn't have that and it's it's endless.

Me, you're not alone. And a lot of people, including myself are feeling it. Yeah, I would have been at several conferences, speaking at them and attending them myself, and gone on vacations and, and done all the things that we normally do, I just think back to 2019. And the number of trips that I took that year towards and then you look at 2020, where I had a trip in mid March, just prior to the pandemic really going full tilt and haven't been anywhere since. So it's our rhythm is thrown out, our normal way of doing things is not here right now. And we are getting tired of our own four walls. And for those that are working from home, their work in their home is the same place. And for many of us that that is normally the case where we work from our own home or home office, even those people are feeling it because there hasn't been the typical escape and go somewhere and do things because we've been in a lockdown and then just kind of keeping our physical distancing. And not a not everything is open as much. So you're not alone with those things. And it does take a toll. So what I tell people to do is to focus on the things that they can do. And I know there's a ton of things right now that we still can't focus on the things you can do, and book those into your calendar. And when you do that, at least you've got some changes, some other things that are on your schedule. So it's not the same thing day after day after day after day. Because after a while, and I joke with people all the time, I'll say I have no idea what date is. So I just say happy day to people, because I don't know if it's a Wednesday or Thursday or Tuesday, unless I specifically look at my calendar, which I do every day. Because if I had to choose between oxygen in my calendar, I would probably choose the the oxygen, of course. But I really need that calendar, because without it, I wouldn't know where I'm supposed to be right now.

Yeah. So, Michael, tell me about the practical work that you're like, how are you addressing this issue?

What I'm doing a lot of right now is speaking at conferences in front of a lot of different stakeholders organizations have been bringing me in to talk to their employees, and then also at conferences to talk about what burnout is, what are the signs that you can look for, because even in my own burnout journey from 11 years ago, I was unaware that I was burned out, everyone else around me knew that I was, but I was the last person to realize it because they didn't know what the signs were of it. I certainly do now, and it so it helps to show people these are some of the warning signs to look out for if you are really stressed or burned out. And then give them the techniques to implement some things right away. A lot of people think, Oh, it's gonna take me years to get over the burnout, it's actually not true, you can actually get back to a more even keeled state in a shorter period of time than you think. The key work though is, after you get back to a state where you're feeling better, you're sleeping well, you're eating better, and you just feel better about yourself. Yeah. Is to start doing the work of figuring out why did you burn out in the first place? What were the ingredients? What were the behaviors, the thoughts, the beliefs, all of those things that led into it, because I hear time and time again, people that have burned out, say that they've been burned out a few times in their life. I've been burned out once in my life, and it nearly cost me my life. And I don't ever want to approach that again. So that's why the work of digging and figuring out why did I burn out in the first place is a key step in preventing it from ever happening again.

So if you and I were chatting, and you know, and you and I came to you and I said you know, Michael, I'm just I'm just not at my normal level, like what questions would you ask me?

I'd ask you How is your sleep for first and foremost? So what Yeah, what's your sleep pattern? And, you know, what is your sleep environment? Like? Do you have your smartphone in there? Do you have a television in there? How's the lighting? What's the room temperature? Like? Do you toss and turn all night? Or do you get a decent amount of sleep. And that's crucial because we do so much damage to our bodies on a daily basis. And we can be the healthiest specimen on the planet and eat the right foods and get the right amount of activity and pull in all of those things. But if we don't get restful sleep, damage that we face every day, will get piled up on tomorrow's damage and then it gets piled up on the next day's damage and the next you know you start having more physical and mental challenges which then prolong the stress that you have Prolonged stress leads to burnout. And it can have some really nasty effects. If you don't address it,

one app that are one one thing that I just started using, so this is an aura ring on Apple just announced with their Apple Watch sleep tracker built into the Apple Watch, I'm really excited for more people to start tracking and monitoring their sleep, because I think that's going to provide a lot of insights as to Hmm, when I do this, this is what happens to my sleep quality and my readiness. So in the aura app, it'll actually so it's almost so it's kind of gamifying it for me now, which is, psychologically This is really cool. So, you know, you learn things like you know, if you, uh, you know, if it's Friday, Saturday night, and I have an adult beverage, there's a consequence to that, that's absolutely gonna look, it's fun, but it's going to impact my sleep in a negative way. Uh, you know, and also, I've also been experimenting with a, you know, block access to light, uh, in the hours leading up to sleep as well. And so if, you know, if it's nighttime outside, and I'm in front of lights, you know, indoors or, like, I'm wearing my yellow tinted glasses, if it's nighttime outside, I don't want my brain to think, oh, you're getting daylight colors. Let's stay out of Josh. Because if that happens, guarantee, I'm not gonna sleep till after midnight.

I love this technology. And I'm a huge fan of one, the gamification of it, but also, the tracking capabilities because I'm a big fan of journaling, not just for how your day went, which is important, because then you can look back over time to see, okay, am I seeing a theme here? But also food journal and energy journal? Because what happens is if you realize, okay, I don't feel good today. Okay, what did I eat yesterday? What did I consume yesterday, not just from a food standpoint, but from an energy and from watching television or conversations with people if you if you notice, like, Okay, I'm kind of drained today. Let's go, what did you what happened yesterday, and you look back and you go, had that argument with a co worker, or I watched that negative news story on this, that reminded me of something that happened to me when I was a kid. All of these things play a factor in what we do. So getting more in tune with what's going on with us from a physical and a mental standpoint, is crucial. So I commend apple and all the other device makers that are making these things so we can I don't want to call it biohacking per se, but it's a lot like that, where you're getting more in tune with who in what you are in, and you will be able to monitor it and go okay, I feel amazing today. What were the ingredients, okay, I need to replicate that. And if you can, and you have another day like that, another day that then all of a sudden you start thinking, alright, now I know this is the combination that's working for me right now. It's keeping my stress levels low, I'm more upbeat, I have better clarity than I ever had in my life. And life is just amazing, even in a pandemic, like, okay, what's going on? What am I doing here, and then you realize, okay, I like this feeling and you, you get addicted to it, you get addicted to feeling good. And when you can do that, it has such a huge ripple effect in a positive way, because you're able to do life in a much better state than what was happening before. So again, I'm thrilled that Apple and Fitbit and all these other device makers are doing this work, because ultimately, we're going to be able to catch things before that's it happen. Right? Right, prevent clogged arteries. Hello, that's what got me if I can, if I could have prevented that. We probably wouldn't be talking today because I don't think I'd be working in this space. But it was a tragedy that happened to me, I survived it, moved on from it, learn from it and decided, Okay, I need to be able to share what I learned with others to help them prevent having a catastrophe in their life.

You know, I would imagine again, most people, you know, everyone's gonna be a little bit different, you know, and, and, you know, to some, there's going to be more critical than others. But I wonder about the just how important and critical it is that we have non work, maybe passion projects or things that we really enjoy doing, if it's woodworking or walking or gardening or whatever that thing is, you know how important that is to us.

It's amazingly important and one of the exercises I have people do is on their calendar and I use a digital calendar where you can use a paper One as well. Start scheduling those things that you enjoy that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether it's walking, gardening, going for a bike ride, going to your favorite coffee shop, going to lunch with your friend, whatever the case may be scheduled those and don't cancel them, treat them as if they're the most important meeting you've ever had with your boss, because the boss of your life is, you know, do it and scheduled those first. Oftentimes we schedule all of our work first, and then we go, okay, where can I squeeze in that 10 minutes of totally. Okay, it's 6:17pm on a Thursday, well, that may or may not work with your schedule based on other things that are going on, scheduled the self care first. And when you do that, work, don't worry work will find a way to be found in the calendar. Yeah,

it always seems that we have a way doesn't it?

But But for me, and this ties into the journaling. And looking back at things on my calendar, again, you can do this on a paper one are additional one is the self care, I color that with my favorite color, which happens to be blue. So that way I can look back at last week, or the last month or the last quarter. And if I don't see a lot of blue, that's a problem. And I need to adjust it. And I this is an ongoing thing for me, even with my schedule and speaking and all the events that I've been doing. I look ahead at my calendar go, okay, what's next month look like. And if I see it's like, Whoa, I see a lot of the other colors, but not enough of the blue. Okay, where this kind of goes against what I just said. But I start adding more blue to the mix. And in the beautiful thing about doing that is it helps me control how my week goes. And I have themes for every day of the week. So I know, on Mondays, for example, I do research on speaking engagements, Tuesdays intro calls, and maybe if I'm on podcast shows, Wednesdays are the days I typically record on my show or get on other shows, Thursdays and Fridays, well in advance, I block off. But I will put things in those days. If something comes up, that is important to me. And it's got to be important to me and beneficial, whether it's speaking engagements or opportunities or you know, sometimes podcast shows those The only days they record, I can do that. But having that autonomy on being able to control your schedule, even for those that are in our nine to five type of environment or working for somebody else, you can still do that. You just have to, you know, play with the time that you have, and make sure you take care of yourself in the best way possible. And you focus on yourself care when you do that. It just makes life so much more rich and full and and healthier, quite frankly.

Yeah, you've got Michael, you've got several books that you've written, released on your website. So there's burnout, which we've been talking about avoid chaos, preemptive strike leadership, and then is your newest one 369 days, how to survive a year of worst case scenarios.

That was actually the older one that came out. Okay. I agree resource order. That's all right now that that that Chronicles my burnout journey. And yeah, I do the work that I'm doing, I do have a new book that's coming out. That's more robust than the last burnout book that he did, that's going to come out either by the end of this fall or very beginning of 2021. It was ready A while ago, and then the pandemic hit. And I had to go back and I said, this book needs a working from home chapter in it. Because that's a big challenge that people are facing right now with burnout and how to establish boundaries, how to communicate with your boss, how to communicate with your family, in in a way that everyone can be kind of meeting halfway. And even during a pandemic, it can be done. And it's just a case of as I'm seeing the cases are going through the roof as far as burnout is concerned. And I joke, you know, sometimes I think we have a pandemic within a pandemic, with the numbers that we're seeing. Yeah, and it's alarming and I it's not sustainable for people and it's not it's not a good situation.

Yeah, right. Right. So Michael, and someone has been listening to our conversation and like, I need help where would be the you know, and again, they're struggling with burnout right now where would you direct them to?

Oh, definitely go to my website breakfasts leadership calm and at the bottom there's a place where you can fill out some information and send me an email or even Michael at email me and just, you know, share a little bit of what's going on and jump on a call no obligation, or chat about your situation. See, you know, what, what I can help you with and give you some pointers on what you can do right now to make it easier on you. And then of course, if they want to do ongoing work or some additional things, then we can have that conversation but or Michael at Is the best way to find me.

Yeah. And of course, you know, listen to this podcast right now you can just search for the Breakfast Leadership Show Podcast. There's your smiling face right there. So yeah, go go subscribe right now Breakfast Leadership Show. Michael Levitt. Again. Thank you so much for joining us. Your website, of course is Thank you so much for all the great advice. Thanks so much, Josh.

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