9 Ways Successful People Avoid Burnout While Getting More Done

Most people struggle with time management.

By the end of the day, their to-do list is uncompleted and little time is left for their families and hobbies.

There’s simply too much work and too little time to get it done.

Today you’re going to learn how to get more done while avoiding burn out.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Why Working More Isn’t The Solution?

A lot of the tasks we have to get done are important and not always a meaningless grind. So we try to get through the ever-growing workload by working longer and harder.

We squeeze more hours into our workday and we try to multitask.

However, this approach is eventually found to be unsustainable and often times lead to burning out. 

What is Burnout?

Feeling tired all the time, lacking enthusiasm about your work, feeling cynical and disengaged from what you do, are all signs of burnout which is becoming more and more common as our lives became busier and more demanding.

However, burnout isn’t simply a result of working too hard for too long.

“Burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation,” according to Alexandra Michel, a science writer at the Association for Psychological Science.

While feeling always tired and lacking engagement in your work can decrease your productivity, the risks of burnout run deeper than that.

In fact, studies have shown that burnout is also associated with obesity, insomnia, and anxiety.

While causation hasn’t been proven, research also shows a link between overworking and a higher risk of both stroke and coronary heart disease.

How To Avoid Burnout?

In order to overcome the effects of burnout, psychologists usually suggest finding ways to make your workload more manageable (delegate more, say “no” more often, eliminate time wasters and distractions…).

But burnout isn’t only about workload stress. It’s workload stress exceeding the rewards of that workload.

#1. Determine How Long The Workday Needs To Be

Although success is being linked with little work and more leisure time, in real life, people with the highest status jobs and highest salaries are more likely to be overworked.

Overworking can become counterproductive and cause burnout. In fact, researches have shown that working more hours can only increase your productivity to a point before it diminishes.

This point seems to be around 49 hours per week. Beyond this point, you won’t get more done and you’ll put your health at risk.

So working more than 49 hours per week isn’t likely going to get you ahead in your career or impress your boss, or even help you keep up with your never-ending to-do list.

#2. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking is nothing but fast task switching. In fact, doing more than one activity that requires brainpower such as writing, reading, conversing… at the same time is impossible.

David Meyer, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says “as long as you’re performing complicated tasks that require the same parts of the brain, and you need to devote all that capacity for these tasks, there just aren’t going to be resources available to add anything more.”

While attempting to multitask isn’t uncommon, it can lead to some bad results. When you switch between tasks that require effort and concentration you either are going to have to slow down on one of the tasks or you’re going to start making mistakes.

So instead of wasting our energy and working at lower speed and accuracy on more than one task, we need to prioritize our work and focus on one task at a time.

#3. Craft The Perfect Morning Routine

Most successful people in history have relied on morning routine to help them start their day on the right foot and increase their productivity throughout the day.

Hal Elrod, in his book The Miracle Morning, has written six simple habits to start the day right.

It’s called SAVERS. An acronym that stands for:

S — — Silence. Start your day with at least 5 minutes of meditation. Focus on your breathing and let go of any thoughts that might come to your mind.

A — — Affirmations. Write down on paper your ideal life in the present tense. If you want to become fit, you can write down “I take care of my health and exercise daily.” Then read your affirmation aloud with emotion and intent.

V — — Visualization. Close your eyes and think about your ideal life as if you were living it. Do it for 5 minutes.

E — — Exercise. Even an exercise as simple as stretching can be enough to make you alert and improve your concentration level.

R — — Reading. Reading something inspirational in the morning will give you something to dwell on.

S — — Scribing. You can write down your to-do list for the day, things you’re grateful for, and any thought that comes into your mind.

Related: Morning Routines: The Definitive Guide to Design Your Perfect Morning Routine

#4. Protect Your Time

Many of us lose so much time of our meaningful work because we have a hard time turning down requests from colleagues or resisting long coffee breaks and social media/news checking.

Some find themselves stuck in endless meetings they feel they have to attend even though it doesn’t seem to add anything to their work.

One way to protect your time is by scheduling deep work sessions in advance.

Cal Newport author of Deep Work, deliberately prioritize his most important work over emails, meetings with colleagues, or spontaneous opportunities. He schedules blocks of time for his deep work in advance and fits other demands around those appointments.

#5. Constrain Your Time or Your Tasks

Depending on the type of tasks you’re working on, you can either constrain your time or constrain the tasks.

For tasks that aren’t well-defined, or not easily broken down into sub-tasks you can make progress on these tasks by setting a time constraint to work on them, like planning to work for two hours first thing in the morning.

For tasks that are well-defined, you can constrain them by setting a specific set of tasks to complete and work as long as it takes to get them done without setting a specific period of time to work for.

#6. Take Restful Breaks

Not taking enough restful breaks can affect our productivity levels and even lead to burnout. In fact, our brains are built to detect change. When things are consistent over time, our brains stop paying attention to it.

So when you’re working on tasks that take a long time, eventually you stop paying attention to it. This is why taking a break is found to improve focus and productivity in general.

In order to benefits from your breaks, make sure your switch off from work, including not responding to emails or updating your to-do list.

Spending time in nature can not only improve your focus but also reduce stress, as well as improve your mood and sleep.

Related: 35 Easy Ways to Relax: Beat Stress and Anxiety in as Little as Five Minutes

#7. Increase Your Productivity For The Last Hour Of Your Workday

The way you spend the last hour of your workday can make a huge difference in how productive you are the next morning and the rest of the day.

Creating productive habits for the last hour of your workday can help you start the next day in a good mood.

The following are some examples of habits you can develop:

 1. Plan tomorrow’s to-do list

Having your to-do list prewritten for the next day means that you’ll know exactly what to do when you get into your desk instead of simply acting on whatever draws your attention.

When planning your to-do list for the next day, it’s important to look at your calendar and take into consideration the time that will be taken by meetings and other plans.

2. Leave something unfinished

Even with a prewritten to-do list, you might find yourself procrastinating on going through it. This is why leaving something unfinished in your last hour of the day can help you start working as soon as you get into your desk.

This is called Zeigarnik effect.

When there’s something unfinished, your brain wants closure. This can make you eager to finish whatever is left unfinished first thing in the morning.

#8. Find Ways To Relax And Enjoy Life Again

1. Practice Self-care

Self-care should be a way of life, not just practiced when you’re burned out.

Eating well, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of quality sleep are simple yet effective ways in preventing burnout.

Find out what activities are most relaxing for you and make time to do more of them.

Related: Take Care of Yourself: (26 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body & Soul)

2. Do What You Enjoy

Burnout is caused by a feeling of resentment toward your job and not being able to do what you love or what is important to you regularly.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer says that people “will become resentful if work makes them miss things that are really important to them.”

This is why it’s important to know what you care about most and make more time to do it. If there’s a particular activity that you enjoy in your work, make time to do more of it. If, on the other hand, your activity of pleasure is not work-related like playing an instrument, make time to do it regularly.

It may seem like a counterintuitive idea, given the hectic schedule you might have, but doing more of what you enjoy can stave off burnout and rejuvenate your energy.

#9. Make Your Work More Meaningful

We seem to push ourselves for higher levels of productivity and higher output without asking what kind of output is meaningful and whether we’re spending our energy effectively.

First, you need to understand what makes work meaningful.

A meaningful life is about helping and connecting with other people, and contributing to something beyond yourself, like others, nature, or your work. Meaningfulness in our work improves our performance and job satisfaction.

Moreover, meaningful work and life produce more positive feelings on the long-haul which makes the effort worth it.

However, meaningfulness is rarely experienced in the moment, but rather in retrospect and on reflection when people are able to see the connection between their achievements and its impact.

Related: Why ‘Following Your Passion’ Is Not The Answer – (And Here’s What To Do Instead)

How to make your work more meaningful?

If you want to increase your feelings of meaningfulness at your work you can either look for a new job that offers more meaning for you, or you can adjust your current job.

The latter method is called “job crafting,” a term coined by psychologists Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane E. Dutton in 2001. The aim is to adjust your job description in a way that will create more meaning in your life and turn your current job into the job your love. You can do this through three main steps:

1. Task crafting. In this part, you adjust your role by picking up or dropping specific tasks. You can usually do this once you’ve proven yourself to your supervisor. You might even have to learn a new skill or expand your abilities.

2. Relational crafting. In this part, you, purposely, work on creating or deepening relationships at work.

3. Cognitive crafting. In this final part, you work on thinking differently about what you do and why it’s important.

With the ever-increasing demands of our work, we struggle to get things done. We turn to failed methods such as working longer hours, skipping breaks, and multitasking. However, these approaches often lead to burnout.

By managing your time better and doing more of your meaningful work, you can get more done without hindering your health

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