07 Sep

What if I’m Burned Out? Counteracting Workplace Burnout

There are days when all of us feel a little tired. But, sometimes, you find yourself dead-tired day after day and the thought of going into work makes your brain feel like it’s going to short-circuit. The former might just be garden variety tiredness, but the latter sounds like burn out.

With the real possibility of working 24hrs a day, American workers are being asked to do more and more. Non-profit and museum worker often find themselves between a rock and a hard place; work hard because jobs are hard to come by. The result is this sector is full of people who are performing impaired by the mental and physical effects of burn out.

The following graphic is a quick look at burn out. But for more reading, catch this article from the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review.  Robert Weisberg and I are also working on an e-book, due this fall at #MCN2017, that will expand on ways to dodge burnout to survive change. 

08 Aug

Self-Care: Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is a positivity-focused planning process that allows teams to build on the best of their past to dream of the best future. This strategy can be helpful in organizational problem-solving.  You start with a goal (rather than a problem, as in problem-based learning or design thinking), and then you go through five steps: define, discover, dream, design, and deliver.  Alliteration aside, the process asks you to start with what’s good, discover what’s next, put down your dreams, design your dreams, and then deliver on them.

I have been playing with this process developed by Case Western Reserve University to facilitate organizational change. But, I have also been playing with this tool as a means of personal growth.

How about you use Appreciative Inquiry to help your self-care practice?

Self-care is basically a process of making sure that you aren’t burned to the core. You make sure to keep your inner-self nourished and whole. It isn’t about being selfish or self-focused. Instead, it is about self-preservation. Self-care is about making yourself ready for anything the world throws at you. Here are the steps to help you make the most of yourself.

  • Define: This is an illuminating and essential step. Take stock of yourself. Ask yourself a series of questions. Write your answers. Draw your answers. Think your answers.   It’s the type of work that is best done with a little procrastination. This is the kind of stuff that bubbles up when you are driving the car or standing in the shower. So, start, stop and start again.  As yourself questions, like, who are you? What makes you tick? What makes you freeze? What exhausts you? What ignites you?
  • Discover: This is a process that can work in many ways. In traditional AI, you can frame a series of exercises to go through discovery. But, for self-care, try giving yourself this challenge: write 5 sentences about your greatest desires.
  • Dream: Now that you know about your greatest desires, spend some time dreaming. What are ways that you can make it to your desires? Don’t negate your dreams. Don’t say no to yourself.
  • Design: Alright, so now you have your beginning (defining) and your ending (discover), and some of the ways you can get there (dreams). So, what next? Design concrete ways that you can get there.  For example, if your greatest desire is to be healthy, and you dream of being muscular, then design a way to make exercise part of your life. Now, this is a concrete example, certainly, and goals like “be happy” might be harder. When your goals seem too abstract, break them down. So, go back to your define statements, what makes you happy?
  • Deliver: In a non-profit, this is easy. You turn your strategic plan into action points and show how you did it.  But, for people, this is the same in some ways. You make yourself accountable to your goals. Put them on your calendar. Give yourself tasks. Basically, make ways to help yourself achieve your goals.


03 Aug

Centering Empathy in your Visitor-Practice in Museums

Empathy is one of those things that is hard to verbalize and even harder to feel. If sympathy is when you say “I know how you feel” then empathy is when you connect with someone’s pain to not be able to say anything at all.  Empathy is hard to gain, requires time, and involves work. You don’t gain empathy by looking onto something in a disconnected manner. You gain empathy by linking with others in real, authentic ways. These connections return enormous gains.

Think of your visitor. You no longer think of them as one monolith. You start to differentiate the mass into individuals. You start to wonder what they would think, not in an abstract way, but in a solvable way.  You move from inaction to action.

How do you gain such powers?

Pretty simple. Walk out of your office. Sit where your visitors sit. (Didn’t put a bench there? Well, then you think about sitting where your visitors think about sitting.) Talk to people. Be careful–this is not an evaluation that I am talking about. Don’t take this sample size of a handful as

Talk to people. Be careful–this is not an evaluation that I am talking about. Don’t take this sample size of a handful as an anecdotal study.  Just get to know your visitors as people. Let them be actual people rather than abstract numbers.

Then go back to the problems that face you. Think of those people that you have been getting to know.  Try to solve these problems for them.

Oh, and ask facilities to put an extra bench in the galleries.

21 May

Creative Self-Actualization #selfcaresunday #selfcare

We are on a giant rock that whizzes through space without a pilot. How is that for a lack of control? Well, for most of us, the spinning of the globe doesn’t even factor in our control issues. The reason might be that we don’t even think about it. The other thing is that it isn’t really about you.  Sure, if you are reading this, you are most likely a denizen of Earth. But, it is hard to put yourself into the narrative of its orbit. It doesn’t orbit, because of you.  (Now if you do believe that, your challenges will be much more than I could improve in this blog post).

The lack of control in life is most uncomfortable when you are at the center. Let’s think about work. You feel out of control when you organization has layoffs, and you don’t have any say about your job. In this instance, your lack of control is also because you don’t have any voice. You are silent to your plight. So, what do you do in that instance? In some ways that is the moment to do anything but think about layoffs. You might even want to explore  the orbits of the planets as a way to get your mind off your work.  In other words, you want to try to focus on something else.

Let’s stay on the topic of your career. Layoffs are often symptomatic of other deeper problems. You can choose what your actions are in that situation.  You have the choice to spend your energy to find a new job.  Trust me. I know that jobs are scarce. And, its hard to get a good one. And, I mean you work in a MUSEUM. All true. But, you might take all of your bad feelings at work, and turn them into better feelings about you.

So, what does this have to do with self-care?  Well, sometimes you aren’t even sure that you are ready to take care of yourself.  But, you are in control of that. You get to decide how you react to things. You can choose some elements in your life. If you imagine your life as a pinball machine, then you are in control of the blocks and some of the levers, and your career is the ball going where it wants within the limits you set.

Let’s use exploration to create your career plan, like the easiest pinball machine to win. Grab a sheet of paper. Draw a picture of yourself now in one corner. Draw a picture of yourself in the future in the other corner. Start adding all the steps you need to get from one place to another.  Go slow. Savor all your imaginary moments. Annotate your personal map with feelings. Set this document aside.  Come back to it. What resonates? What reads false? What can you bring into action?  Make a list of plans.

While this exercise sounds hypothetical, by doing it, you are actually putting yourself in control. You might not be able to put all those things you drew into place.  But, your mind has now started to think differently. You are no longer voiceless or overly focused on your lack of control.  You have helped yourself move forward.

14 May

#SelfCare : What to do When Your Mind is Full?


There are times when you mind is super full.  I feel like this after I read a particularly heady book or when I am at a conference.  The book and the conference are similar in that you are immersed in a fairly cohesive set of ideas.  They are different in that a book is usually an individual experience where as a conference is a collective one.  However, in both instances, you need to make your own meaning. You might then need to incorporate the relevant meaning into your thinking.

I use a number of tools to try make sense of these ideas. Today I am sharing two tools that I use, on their own or together.


Mindmapping is a wonderful tool to create structure from protean intellectual ooze. You spill ideas, drawing linkages as you go. You can use a blank sheet of paper, put your big idea in the middle, and then let your ideas flow.  If you want a styled up sheet, you can download one from me.

I love mindmapping, because you can watch the linkages appear as you think.  However, there are drawback, as well.  With some ideas, you might need to really wait to develop the linkages.  Sometimes you will jump to conclusions in order to flesh out your map.  That might not always be ideal.

In those instances, I create a MindBrew.



This is when I want to percolate. I want to be a little uncomfortable with the load of ideas. We live in a society where we fashion our lives around comfort. Okay, I have definitely walked around with coffee, for fear I might have to live the discomfort of being without caffeine. So, I get it. But, there are also times when I know that I need to live with discomfort. Discomfort comes from being faced with anything that feels hard. But, if you don’t address hard feelings, you won’t be able to transform them into constructive ones. The only alternative would be for them to remain in your mind festering and fomenting unrest.

So, I try to allow my mind to brew constructive ideas. This takes longer than mindmapping. I start by writing out ever idea that was in mind with no structure. I usually do this right after I confront something mindboggling. Recently, for example, I was at a heady conference. On the flight home, I went all Faulkner on my ideas, steaming them out.

Then I set those ideas aside. I waited a couple days. Noting when one of those ideas popped up again. At which point, I know that my mind is telling me something. Finally, after I feel ready, I allot good ideas in the hot burner to work on, and then I put less interesting ideas on ice.

You can use my MindBrew tools (pg 1 and pg 2), or you can hand draw them yourself.