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5 habits that slowly chip into your productivity levels

Volunteering for projects can get you ahead—but only to a certain point.

5 habits that slowly chip into your productivity levels
[Photos: Di_An_h/Unsplash; Dave Hoefler/Unsplash]

You roll over and hope that the incessant sound of your alarm will shut off. It does, but only for five minutes until it reminds you once again that it’s a work day, and yes, getting up is required.

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As you drag yourself to the coffee pot, you wonder: What happened? You used to feel fresh and eager at the start of a work day, and now you feel like a college student struggling to get yourself to an 8 a.m. class.

If this describes you most mornings, you may be struggling with burnout. As a time management coach, I often have people come to me in this situation. This gives me the opportunity to see what’s causing their feelings of perpetual fatigue and to help guide them on the process of restoration.

Many factors contribute to burnout, but here are five bad habits that could be barreling you toward burnout and what you can do to turn your situation around.

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Saying yes in every circumstance

Part of the reason you could have the I-don’t-want-to-do-anything attitude toward work is that you could have too many responsibilities. This could happen because you say, “Yes,” too often or volunteer for tasks—even though you don’t have the time.

To remedy this situation, you’ll need to get clear on how much you can actually handle. I recommend doing this through daily and weekly planning where you decide on your priorities and place them in open times in your calendar. If you can’t find time on your calendar to do what you need to do, you’ll need to start dropping or reducing certain responsibilities until everything can fit. And if you’re already at max capacity, don’t take on anything more until you can get some things off your plate.

This may mean that you need to block “focused time” on your schedule, let people know that you you don’t have the capacity to do certain tasks, or at least tell them that you’ll need a few days—or even weeks—to get items done.

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Working right until to bedtime

Ideally, you’ll wrap up work before dinner and have the whole evening free for eating, spending time with friends or family, exercising, or simply chilling. But sometimes—or in the case of burnt-out people a lot of times—you’re working a second shift in the evening.

If you fall into that category, I highly recommend that you set a cut-off point for when you get off of your computer. That way you have enough time between when you stop working and when you lay down in bed for your mind to calm and unwind.

At minimum, this should be 30 minutes. But ideally an hour or more. Not only will you feel less burnt out because you got some personal time in the evening, but research shows transitioning earlier will help you to fall asleep faster, have better sleep quality, and improve your attentiveness the next day.

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Taking no days off

Longer periods of time off for vacation can definitely help to reduce feelings of fatigue, especially if it’s a company-wide vacation. But what I’ve seen with people struggling with burnout is often they’re not even taking any days off on the weekend: They’re literally attempting to work seven days a week. Or if they don’t actually pull out their laptops, they’re at least mentally carrying the load of thinking about work all the time.

If you’re feeling a constant grind, I highly recommend that you take at least one day a week where you don’t allow yourself to work at all: no meetings, no project work, no email checking, no messaging, no nothing related to your job. Tell yourself in advance this is a work-free zone and stick to it. Although technically you’ll get less work done that day, over the course of a week, you can actually get more done because you’re not so fried.

Doing everything yourself

There are some activities that you can truly only do for yourself like sleep, exercise, or making important decisions for which you’re directly responsible. But there are many tasks where you could ask others to do them or at least get some support on the overall goal.

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For example, maybe you’re putting on a big event for work, and you could ask some team members to help with sending out the invites and picking up the decorations for the event. Or maybe you’re working on a presentation and someone else could help with formatting your powerpoints once you’ve got the content in place. Or maybe you’re stuck on how to solve a challenging management problem and you need to talk the situation through with someone from your HR department.

You don’t have to do everything by yourself. Asking others for support not only saves you time but also leads to a positive emotional state that can elevate you out of the cynicism associated with burnout.

Skipping out on fun

Just recently I was working with a coaching client, and she confessed with a tear in her eye that she felt guilty about the idea of taking time to be with her friends even once a week. I encouraged her that yes, spending an evening socializing would be less time to work. But the net benefit in terms of overall happiness, health, and productivity by investing in an activity that gives her immense joy would outweigh the potential few extra productive hours.

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The issue is that when you skip out on what you find really fun—whether it’s time with friends, exercising, playing with your dog, spending time with your kids, doing a craft, or simply being outside in nature—you end up taking breaks anyway but on activities that aren’t nearly as refreshing, such as scrolling on your phone.

Fun isn’t the thing that you do once you get 100% done with work—which is unlikely to happen because it keeps coming. Fun is what you do that helps fuel you to have the energy to get all the work done.

Burnout is a multi-faceted issue so I can’t promise that if you break all these bad habits that you’ll spring out of bed every morning. But what I can say is that if you employ these strategies that you’ll greatly enhance your chances of feeling energized, motivated and capable of accomplishing your goals for each day.

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