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The Five Rocks: An Exercise to Reduce Burnout

With all that 2020 has brought upon us, it’s not surprising that most people are feeling overwhelmed. A recent Limeade Institute survey shows a current reported burnout rate of 72% — contrasted with 42% pre-pandemic.

How do we prevent burnout? How do we manage our stress better despite a growing workload and ongoing disruption? I find so many leaders are struggling to keep up. Yes, it’s a unique and challenging time. But part of the problem is that they may not be prioritizing effectively or letting go of some of the tasks on their list.

In this post, I’ll share a productivity technique for leaders called the Five Rocks Exercise. It’s one of my favorite tools because it’s fast and insightful. It will help you see what you should be spending your time on, as well as uncover some tasks that can be eliminated or reassigned.

The Five Rocks Exercise

There are three steps in the Five Rocks Exercise.

  1. Think about the last two to three weeks. Come up with at least five tasks that you look back on and realize, “I worked on these things, but maybe I shouldn’t have.” Write that list down.
  2. Look at the list, and ask yourself: “Who should have completed that work? For each of the items, who on my team or in my organization could have done the work instead?”
  3. Now ask, “How am I going to handle this work in the future? How do I ensure that this particular activity is performed by another person inside of my team or organization?”

Analyzing your five rocks enables you to change your mindset. Instead of the common mentality of “if you want to do it right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” you can say “How do I ensure that another person is doing it– and doing it well.”

This will enable you to spend more time on the high-value work that should be on your plate as a leader.

If you do, you will improve how you Lead for Tomorrow.