5 Signs Your World Is Spinning Out of Control

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Almost every leader I know is busy. A little too busy.

Busy has a price, and often that price leads to a leader’s world spinning out of control. It’s not just a price you pay. It’s a price everybody pays: Your family, your team, your church.

A fine line separates ‘busy’ and ‘out of control.’ The challenge, of course, is knowing when you’re near it.

I’ve been close to that line and I’ve crossed it a few times. Thankfully, I’m not in that season now and have learned how to better avoid it.

The stakes are actually quite high.

If your world spins out of control for too long, you end up in burnout, like I did a decade ago. And as I outlined here, the road back from burnout is a long one that not everyone makes (by the grace of God, I did).

How do you know that your world is actually spinning out of control?

Here are 5 signs I’ve learned to recognize in myself and in others.

Busy has a price: a price your family, team and church continue to pay. Click To Tweet

1. You’re too afraid to slow down

When your world spins out of control, you convince yourself you can’t take any time off. The default solution in your mind is this: work more.

Yet that’s a futile line of thinking. There are actually just a fixed number of hours in the day. You can’t create more.

And the more you work, the less effective you become.

It’s critical that you get under what’s driving your irrational reluctance to slow down. Chances are that when you look, you’ll find fear.

Fear usually drives the belief you can’t slow down. And that’s always a bad sign for leaders. Anytime fear is in the driver’s seat, God isn’t.

Anytime fear is in the driver's seat, God isn't. Click To Tweet

Fear says, “It all depends on me.” God says, “No, it doesn’t.”

Fear says, “If it’s going to get done, I have to do it myself.” God says, “So, you’re just going to ignore the 7 billion other people I created?”

Fear says “If I don’t keep pushing, it’s all going to fall apart.” God says, “What happened to rest?”

Naturally, there’s a tension. Leadership requires effort, heart, skill and perseverance. And there are seasons where you will simply need to burn the midnight oil and push through.

But seasons can become patterns and patterns can become your default.

If you feel like you’re too busy to slow down, you’re simply too busy.

If you feel like you're too busy to slow down, you're simply too busy. Click To Tweet

2. Your activity is increasing while your productivity is decreasing

One sure sign of a leader whose world is spinning out of control is this: A ton of activity and very little productivity.

Some leaders work massive amounts of hours but produce less than other leaders who don’t put in as many hours and still manage to do more.

Activity does not equal productivity. One sure sign your world is spinning out of control is that there is an inverse relationship between hours worked and things accomplished.

Activity does not equal productivity. Click To Tweet

Too often you end up staring at a blank screen when you just should have gone home. Or gone to bed. Or played with your kids. Or gone for a run.

Ironically, one of the best ways to cure a lack of productivity is to work less, not more. At least for a season.

Try it.

One of the best ways to cure a lack of productivity is to work less, not more. Click To Tweet

3. The lines between work and leisure are blurred

I love the age we live in. But being connected everywhere and all the time comes with its own set of challenges.

Work used to be something you went to and came home from. Now, thanks to smartphones, work is something you carry in your pocket.

When your world is spinning out of control, the lines between work and leisure are blurred. You’re never off at home, but you’re so out of control that when you’re at work, you’re not really on.

Thanks to smartphones, work is something you now carry in your pocket. Click To Tweet

You’re tired. Maybe you run errands during the day and work at night. And as a result, you feel like you never get any rest.

Change that. Set up some boundaries.

Work when you work. Play when you play. Rest when you rest.

And when you’re not working, turn the notifications off on all your devices.

4. You underreact or overreact to almost everything

One sure sign you’ve crossed a line and your world is spinning out of control is that your reactions to things around you and within you are disproportionate.

When your world is spinning out of control, you’re either numb to everything or you overreact to everything.

Your emotions should be proportional to what’s happening around you. You should be happy when you’re supposed to be happy. And you should be sad when you’re supposed to be sad.

It’s amazing how rare that is to find in busy people.

5. Nothing’s fun anymore

Remember when leadership was fun? Remember when life was fun?

If your world is spinning out of control, that memory can feel like it was a long time ago. You may be tempted to believe it can never be fun again.

That’s a lie.

Sure, leadership is hard. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

Leaders whose worlds are spinning out of control never smile. Which is too bad, because they have a heavenly Father who still smiles at them.

In the seasons I’ve stopped having fun, I’ve had to pause long enough, sleep long enough and pray long enough to realize I’ve lost perspective.

When you’ve lost perspective, just remember God hasn’t lost his.

When you've lost perspective, just remember God hasn't lost his. Click To Tweet

Can't find the time to get it all done? Become a high-impact leader without burning out (or sacrificing yourself).

Without a new strategy and approach, it's easy to continue to:

  • Sacrifice family on the altar of work
  • Overcommit and underdeliver
  • Have no time for what you actually want to do
  • Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax

Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.

It’s time to change that by implementing a strategy that works.

At Your Best is a proven strategy to get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor. It's my step-by-step online course that will help you overcome stress, find a sustainable pace without losing impact, and be far more productive at work.

50,000+ leaders have used the At Your Best strategy to escape the stress spiral and finally do what they want to do—grow their organizations, advance their careers, launch new ventures, be far more present at home, and take regular time off.

Wow! I didn’t realize I was in desperate need of this message and system in my life and business. 

This message so profoundly impacted us, that we named our annual company theme, “At Our Best,” using Carey’s system and resources to strengthen our culture and make health a priority this year.”

Sean CannellFounder and CEO, Think Media

Whatever you choose to do with it is up to you. Join today for instant access.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.