Ways to Increase Your Productivity Without Burning Out
It’s a very modern conundrum: How do you constantly achieve more, while often making do with less?
At work, do you find yourself needing to sell more widgets, create more content, get more users—but do it all with a smaller budget, less human power, less time?
In your personal life, you’re trying to see more friends, have more fun, buy the latest gadget, save more money—attempting to do it all with less free time, less savings once you’ve paid your bills, and less energy after worrying about how to juggle all the things.
So how the heck can you make it all work… and maybe even have some fun while doing it? How can you get more productive without completely burning out?
What Is Burnout?
In case you haven’t heard, burnout is no longer just what you say when Friday night hits and you’re too tired to make any plans. As of May 2019, burnout is an official medical diagnosis according to the World Health Organization. Here’s how they define the symptoms:
1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
3. Reduced professional efficacy
Human services professionals—physicians, nurses, teachers, attorneys, law enforcement, and retail and hospitality workers—are more likely to experience burnout.
Whether you work in one of those areas or not, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself every few months to see how you’re feeling.
Signs of Burnout
Here are some signs to watch out for: Do you have a lot of stressors in your daily life, like a long commute, family responsibilities, or little sleep? Do you work in a high-pressure environment where you rarely take breaks and are expected to be “on” 24/7? Do you have little time—or energy—to do things like exercise, see your friends, or do something nice for yourself?
If you answered yes to some or all of the above, it may be time to think about refilling your own well before taking on more. You know the airplane safety advice about putting your own mask on before helping others? It’s usually a good principle for your life, too.
On the Road to Recovery
This doesn’t necessarily mean something drastic like quitting your job to travel around the world. (Though, if that’s what you want to do, more power to you!) It could be something as simple as sharing with your team members and manager that you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload and asking for help. You could try taking a day off, going on a “staycation,” or even taking a vacation.
Hopefully by now you’ve realized that before you start searching for the best productivity hacks, you should check in with #1 (that’s you!). Assuming you’re in a good place and are ready to take on more, you could ask yourself what you want to be more productive at, and crucially, why.
Sure, your boss might be breathing down your neck to add more projects to your plate. But know that it’s ok to consider your own priorities, too.
When you’re able to clearly identify what matters to you and what doesn’t, you might be better able to use your available energy more thoughtfully. That doesn’t mean refusing to work on a new project, but it might mean setting expectations up front about what you can contribute in a given time frame.
If you’ve ever had trouble prioritizing your time, one way that might help you get more clarity is to identify your top three core values. Values can include anything that matters to you.
A few examples include being there for your family, making a positive difference for others, being self-sufficient and independent of others—really, it’s whatever resonates most with you.
Try to be completely honest with yourself, and not to let yourself feel pressured by what others are expecting of you. You might surprise yourself by finding that something you thought was a top priority is actually lower down on your list.
Challenge yourself to limit your list to your top three. Understanding what doesn’t make the cut is just as important as what does.
Once you’ve identified your top three values, ask yourself what three areas you spend the most time on. For example, if your career is your third value but you spend 75% of your time at work, are you living in line with your values? Do you feel that your top two values are getting the appropriate share of your time and energy?
Take some time to honestly compare the things you value most with the areas you focus on. Ask yourself whether there are any adjustments you would like to make.
It’s ok if your time and values are not perfectly aligned right now, but moving toward a state where they are closely matched to your goals could help decrease feelings of stress, and ultimately help you feel more productive in the areas that matter most to you.
One of the secrets to finding more energy for the things that matter to you is first understanding what does—and, crucially, does not—matter to you. At its core, becoming more productive can be considered as an exercise in getting better at prioritizing.
Remember that everything you say yes to, whether it’s an assignment at work or drinks with a friend, means you may have to say no to something else. Here’s a trick to help you decide whether something is worth your time: If it’s not a “heck yes!” it’s a “heck no!”
If you’re ready to get ahead or figure out what’s next in your career path, consider SoFi career coaching. It’s free for SoFi members, and you can get guidance on your LinkedIn profile, resume suggestions, and a customized plan to suit your needs.
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