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You’ve got your big project to work on. The deadline for your goals is looming over your shoulder. You are starting to feel it’s hot breath of guilt whenever you aren’t working. Socializing with your friends, taking a break, even just going to sleep now seems like it is just wasting time. When you are working you feel tired and drained and when you aren’t working you can’t really rest because of the nagging feeling that you simply aren’t doing enough.

Burnout is a big problem when you are working towards goals. Your goals become so motivating, that doing anything not directly related to their achievement seems wasteful. Half of you wants to recover your energy to go back with full force and the other believes you are just wasting time.

In their groundbreaking book on Energy Management, Tony Schwarz and Jim Loehr, they make the case that managing energy cycles, not just time is the key to peak productivity. From their work with companies, they begin applying the secrets of world class athletes. The secrets of resting to recover energy between periods of hard work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and it will cause your productivity to go down in flames.

After reading this book and various other works on the subject of energy management, these ideas sound great. Unfortunately, there really isn’t an effective system for putting them into place. How do you draw the line between resting the right amount for full performance and just being lazy? How can you create a system for managing your
stress?

The best system I found is also one of the most simple. Get yourself a binder or notepad that you can refer to throughout the day. Before you go to bed each night, write down all the things you want to accomplish the next day. These are your daily goals. As you work the next day check off the items on your daily goal list.

How It’s Different Than Traditional “To-Do” Lists

Some of you might start saying to yourself, “It’s my to-do list that is causing me to burnout in the first place! When I look at all the things I have to do I start feeling guilty when I’m not working!” Daily goals are very different than a to-do list.

Your daily goals list only contains the things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Those familiar with the Next Actions lists in the GTD system will notice that those lists contain everything you need to do. Daily goals are separate from to-do lists because it only contains activities for tomorrow.

Secondly you don’t add things to today’s goals. I almost never make additions to today’s list during the day unless something unexpected comes up that needs to be handled immediately. If I need to do work, it get’s put on my to-do list for the next day. This way you know from when you wake up how much is on your plate for each day.

How Daily Goals List Prevents Burnout

Once you complete all the actions on your goals list, the rest of the time is yours. Relax, socialize and do whatever you want, by completing your daily goals you have earned it. You don’t have your to-do list looming over your shoulder because your new tasks won’t be updated until the next day.

What this allows you to do is it helps you find out what amount of workload is a light, moderate or strenuous day for you. So if your deadline is coming up fast and you have a lot of energy, a few weeks of this practice will allow you to schedule in enough work so that you will work hard throughout the day to accomplish all your goals. If you have
a bit more flexibility, you can make your goals lighter so that you can fit in more recovery time.

Your daily goal list is like setting the temperature on your stress thermostat. Too little stress and you are getting nowhere and aren’t improving. Too much stress for too long and you hit burnout. Daily goal lists let you take control so you can temporarily ramp up your productivity or slow it down to properly manage your energy.

Eventually by using this technique and systematically creating hard days followed by lighter ones, you can increase your productivity. Professional bodybuilders take time to stress their muscles followed by periods where the muscle tissue can be rebuilt. You can apply the same process to your work by setting hard days followed by lighter days. Set your daily goals so you can get more done and feel less stress.

Scott Young is a University student who writes about personal development, productivity and goal setting. Scott is currently writing his first book, Personal Evolution, which will be available in the fall. You can learn more about Scott or read hundreds of other articles at his website.

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