“Be more productive” is the work chant of the decade. And it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. The future is every bit about boosting productivity. Meanwhile, today has its own challenges. And it’s tougher than ever to stay ahead. Especially considering how quickly things change.
And these things are all related to technology. Indeed, tech has revolutionized the workplace. Granted, the past few decades have brought forth significant change. But we mean disruptive tech. Only two decades ago email on a mobile phone was a stretch. Tech is key, and it’s been transforming the workplace. But the constant is people. And people, unfortunately, can fall behind only to find themselves on the brink of burnout.
Besides, we might have reached an odd plateau. When compared to people, tech is no longer as disruptive as it used to be. At least, not when it comes to tech helping us be more productive. Because at the end the day, it’s the individual that deals with all the challenges. The constant here is the end-user. There’s only so much we can do in a day.
Sure, with an optimal educational system and years of training, humans can achieve amazing things. But there’s simply too much variation in that regard. Then there’s the new workplace revolution. All sorts of productivity hacks and tech solutions that boost productivity. But in this sea of fixes, there’s little firm ground. Here are 5 ways to build your own solid ground of productivity and keep burnout at bay.
#1 Manage your stress
Think of stress as a physical burden. As if it’s something heavy you take on. A big rock on your back. One that you carry up-hill, every day. And even when you think you let go, you actually don’t. All that tension stays with you, behind what you can actually perceive. Why? Because the very next day, you carry yet another stone. And while even stones can crack, your back will fail you a whole lot sooner. Stress makes you slouch.
It makes perfect sense. Too much stress and too much work pressure will get to you. So much so that you won’t even notice. Day after day, you slouch a little more. After a while, you might start to think that it’s all normal. You start believing that any break you catch is relaxation. In fact, you are only partly relaxing.
You might even spend your weekends bruised and tired. Meanwhile, you assume that what you are experiencing is relaxation. In fact, most of us don’t even realize how tired and slouched we really are. Why? Because once we unburden ourselves, we seldom take care to unwind. And this is a spiral. It’s a slow, yet certain way to go down. However, the same path can be followed to get back up.
The trick to this comes from resistance training. There are two key ingredients to resistance training. One is to choose the right weight. And the other is the number of repetitions. Working out with a small weight will get you nowhere. Taking on a too big a challenge will break your back. The balanced approach is being smart about stress.
How important is this? When you’re smart about stress, you boost productivity. So figure out what you can do to manage work pressure. Start here.
#2 Sleep – rest – recover – repeat
Without a doubt, you’ve heard a lot about sleep. It only makes sense in a sleep-starved, workaholic culture. Proper sleep is often neglected, overlooked. Last to be satisfied. Meanwhile, your health crumbles. Your mind finds it tougher to maintain focus. You’d love to be more productive, yet you’re yawning every 20 minutes.
Even so, don’t worry about yawning because it’s good for you. However, beware. Sleep deprivation exists, and so does sleep debt. Both of them affect your health and your work performance. Don’t assume yawning will save you, even though it’s good for your brain.
Perhaps it’s cultural too. Not only are we work-driven and very ambitious, but we are also sleep-neglecting. Let’s face it. With 35% of adults never getting enough sleep, maybe a workaholic culture is sleepless too. And those 35% don’t get 7 hours of sleep, even though adults should likely sleep a bit more. So, it’s a public health issue. Hence, when you want to be more productive, work smart and sleep better.
Optimal downtime guarantees optimal uptime
The first thing you need to understand is that everything is connected. And if you want to be more productive, you need to see the connections. Work performance and stress. Productivity and work pressure. And not just as pairs, but as more – a nexus.
Sleep, relaxation, meditation, emotional awareness, self-development, etc. They’re all connected and we need to put ourselves at the center of it. After all, even computer farms need some downtime. Maintenance, updates, changing parts, virus checks, and more.
In the same way, the human brain needs downtime. When we boil it down, all we experience is information. Our brains naturally process huge amounts of information. In fact, much of our life we learn how to sort and organize information. We learn to select what’s most important. We focus on what must be remembered. Yet, we can easily strain when confronted with so much information. In fact, it takes a certain brilliance not to overload.
Nietzsche’s notion of being a genius works in similar fashion. To Nietzsche, genius was not possessing an outstanding intellect. Rather, it was facing outstanding amounts of stimuli without going mad. However, let us leave not going insane to the geniuses. For most of us, that’s what sleep is for.
Sleep is, notoriously, a period of downtime. We regularly take the time to process everything that is unprocessed. We even take time to ponder on what processing choices we made. Without a doubt, sleep is human downtime. We’ve already covered how to make the most of your sleeping time. This is precisely how you can be more productive, by sleeping right.
Make the most of your breaks, short or small
If your mantra is “be more productive”, start with breaks. Undeniably, breaks are another way to get some rest. The only other way would be to get a vacation, once in a while. On the whole, it is breaks that that help you be more productive.
It all boils down to focus. You might think that interrupting work makes you less productive. Indeed, interruptions at work are bad for you. However, voluntarily interrupting yourself can be beneficial.
In fact, temporarily shifting your attention away from work gives you a chance to do several things. For starters, you can replenish your ability to focus. Secondly, you can let your mind drift away for a bit and that can also be good for you. Granted, you can use mindfulness meditation to regulate mind wandering.
Yet, making the most of your breaks means that you should take yourself out of the context. Leave your workstation, leave your desk. All things considered, maybe it’s best if you just leave the room. It seems people can be more productive whenever they dedicate the right time to breaks.
And there’s an added benefit whenever these breaks are balanced with the right context: nature, a walk, a friendly conversation. It’s not slacking, it’s recharging.
Besides, breaks work wonders for stress. As a result, you get to be more productive, and even happier. And happiness at work is linked to productivity.
Overall, breaks allow you to tap into areas of your brain that regular focus can’t reach. This enables you to become more creative.
Imagine work is like staring and breaks are like blinking. Sure, you can engage everybody in a stare-contest. But having a “blink-favorable” culture might actually be more productive.
#3 Socialize more
This is not to say that socializing will directly make you more productive. Unless your work is HR, of course. Or other such lines of work in which human interaction is very important.
Indeed, why is human interaction so very important? Of all possible types of activities, studies show, there’s nothing quite like a bit of live interaction. Some decompression. Water cooler gossip maybe. A chat over a cup of something.
In fact, all lines of work benefit from socializing, in one form or another. From athletes motivating each other with pep talks to teams going into team retreats. It makes sense, if you think about it. Socialization increases employee engagement. In return, everybody feels like they can be more productive.
But this runs deeper. You cannot foster teamwork without socialization. Teams don’t turn on or off like a switch. Teams remain teams even after the work is done. Sure, go ahead, you can disconnect, that’s a great idea. But at all times, you know who your people are. If your team is truly a team, you must have at least one friend on your team. Right? Surprisingly, this older study suggests that people seldom have friends at work.
So, have a quick chat with your teammates from time to time. It’s an incredible opportunity to reduce work pressure. You can shift loads, compare perspectives. Talk about the future, or about the President.
You might think you’re talking about nothing. However, your body goes through several changes. It becomes less tense, more relaxed. And it does so in the company of people you’ve felt stress around. Secondly, your rest feels “team-approved”. This can be quite a warm feeling. Lastly, it creates positive energy that your team can share.
#4 Be more productive, but don’t over do it
It makes sense for certain people to optimize their routines. After all, each minute of their time can make a difference. And people go as far as wearing “uniforms” only to save time and energy.
You know, Steve Jobs did it. Mark Zuckerberg does it. Probably Bill Gates too. But few people take interest in that. Indeed, there’s a full list of highly effective individuals that wear the same outfit everyday, for a range of reasons. And yes, one of them is being productive. And dealing with decision fatigue and stress.
But this may not be your way of taking care of business. To go ahead and purchase several identical outfits. Only to wear them on rotation, exclusively, in perpetuity.
Indeed, there are tons of ways to be more productive. You don’t have to do everything at once. Instead, try and be selective. Think of what burns up a lot of time for no good reason.
For some people, it’s the commute. For others, it’s a gaming addiction. Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. It could even be that you can’t focus unless you listen to smooth jazz at twice the speed.
Be mindful in your choice of productivity hacks. Doing everything won’t improve your situation. Nor will doing anything randomly. What you need to do is realize what stands in your way and what you want fixed. There are 3-5 fixes revolving around your problem, no matter what you’re facing.
#5 Be more productive, but don’t burn out
Burnout is feeling like a trace of derailing. You feel like your energy levels are low. Every day you feel tired.
When burned out, you have only two work moods. The first is that work is tedious to the point of suffocation. The alternative is that it makes you feel like it’s beyond your ability.
You oscillate between these two moods, with every day worse than the previous. You might get sick more often, or even experience migraines. Your sleeping patterns change.
All these symptoms are the mark of burnout. You simply feel like you can’t go on. Like a tube of toothpaste that was squeezed too tight. Thoroughly, meticulously. When feeling burned out, you will isolate yourself. Procrastination will bloom over being responsible.
But here’s a theory. You experience burnout because of your own lack of productivity. Which spirals down, towards an abyss of unhappiness. Burnout is not the result of being overworked. It’s rather the result of not feeling positive about your work. Hence, working on your productivity will help out on several accounts. It will make your work more bearable, since you’re more productive. But it will also allow you do to some self-work. And self-improvement is therapy. Hence, becoming more productive can be an effective self-therapy.
Overall, to be more productive you need to pay special attention to balance. You need to be more self-aware and understand that you need sleep. Furthermore, you need to be more firm about taking breaks. Not to mention socializing. In fact, socializing should be the one change that makes all the difference. Lastly, you need to protect yourself from burning out. While counter-intuitive, self-improvement actually protects you from burnout. And working to be more productive is also self-improvement.