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How to avoid burnout while staying productive

Feeling like you're on a never-ending treadmill? Here are some simple, practical tips to help you beat burnout and get back to feeling like yourself again. Take a breath, grab a cuppa and give it a read.

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You have a lot on your plate. You're juggling work, family, and social obligations, and it can be tough to stay on top of everything. Most days you get by, but you wonder how long you can keep it going! With social media keeping us addicted to feeds, and work being full of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, it's no wonder that so many people feel burned out.

But there are ways to avoid burnout and still be productive. Before we get into the default advice that you've heard 100 times, I want to preface it with my hard-won experience:

Burnout is caused at least as much by a lack of purpose and progress as it is everything else

The research shows that it's not just about overwork. It's about not feeling like you're making a difference in the work that you're doing. Feeling there's an inherent purpose in what we're doing is what keeps us motivated, so when you don't have that, it seeps into your psyche, and makes you feel like you're constantly not doing enough. It's really easy to get lost in this slump, but there's a way out.

How to find purpose and make progress

We have a whole article on finding purpose and making progress, but for now, we'll keep it short.

Understand what's important about your work

Find out how your work fits into what your company does for people, especially learn about the real individuals you're enabling, or saving time or money for. This will help you both see more purpose in what you're doing, and will help you make more progress because you'll be able to skip things that don't directly contribute to that goal. If you can't find anything about what you're doing that helps anyone, it could be time to reevaluate what you're doing for money!

Efficient work habits

Again, we have a whole article on improving your work habits, but here are a few quick tips:

  1. Pick one major task/focus for your day, and stick to it until you get it done. This helps you avoid context-switching too much and spending a lot of time flicking between tasks without getting anything done.
  2. Give yourself time to get into flow, and make sure you batch up non-work tasks into longer breaks. When you go get water, make sure you go to the toilet, grab a snack, take a quick walk or stretch, so that when you sit down you can really get stuck into your tasks.
  3. Work like a lion. Do your hardest work at the time of day you're most productive. Then give yourself permission to truly rest, before more work-rest sessions if necessary. If you don't properly rest, you'll struggle to get a good 2nd and 3rd work session in your day, and it might even affect your sleep.

Cover the basics

I thought about not including any of these, but to avoid burnout you really have to give yourself a firm baseline of health and wellness. So forgive me if you've heard these before, but here are the final life-tips we have for you.

1. Get enough sleep.

Sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health. When you're well-rested, you're more likely to be productive. Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

2. Exercise regularly.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall health. Even just a 30-minute walk can make a big difference. I've been playing pickleball recently with some friends from the Franklin Premier Pickleball League

3. Take breaks.

When you're feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and regroup. Step away from your work, take a deep breath, and clear your mind.

4. Set realistic goals.

If you're constantly putting pressure on yourself to meet unrealistic goals, it's only going to lead to burnout. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day, week, or month, and you'll be more likely to achieve your goals.

5. Delegate and ask for help.

If you're trying to do everything yourself, you're going to get overwhelmed quickly. Delegate tasks to other people, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Hope this has been somewhat helpful, please reach out with any extra ideas you have. Finally, good luck! Beat your burnout!