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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How to Work Under Pressure so You Won’t Burn Yourself Out

How to Work Under Pressure so You Won’t Burn Yourself Out

The stress to perform above and beyond at work can have unwanted effects if not managed efficiently—especially when working in a high-pressure environment.

One of these effects is called burnout. Burnout can make you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, unmotivated, and just plain done with your position. (Here’re more early signs of a burnout!)

Feeling burnt out at the office is the exact opposite of feeling happy and fulfilled in your work, and can lead to a huge dip in overall life satisfaction.

As such, we want to ensure you have the tools to work well under pressure, so you can avoid burnout and stay motivated from nine to five. Here’s how to work under pressure so you won’t burn yourself out:

1. Learn how to recharge

In many industries, it’s not uncommon for workers to experience long hours or to find themselves working during their time off. Focusing on work for more than 50 hours a week is a fast-track to burnout, but the good news is, it can be prevented.

To stop burnout in its tracks, the key is to learn how to recharge.

Often, when we devote so much of our time to maximizing our productive output, we try and find ways to squeeze in extra productivity wherever we can. This could be (you guessed it) more work, chores around the house, working on side businesses, you name it.

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In order to prevent ourselves from becoming burnt out, it’s important to relax during your downtime in order to fully recharge whenever possible. If you’re like me and have a tough time letting yourself “do nothing” but relax, it may be time to try meditation or proven relaxation techniques to get your mind and body into the zone of total relaxation.

2. Utilize workplace perks

Does your employer offer unique benefits such as a gym membership, yoga classes, or company-sponsored outings? How about common offerings like a health club or book club?

Partaking in your workplace’s special benefits and events can help you de-stress from work and provide an opportunity to get to know co-workers outside of a work setting.

Participating in workplace events while focusing on your health can have a fantastic effect when preventing burnout. This route will help you take care of yourself and find some time to unwind and enjoy your time—two things that should take high priority when preventing burnout.

3. Be a team player

A major contributor to burnout is a sneaky one: the pressure to do everything on your own.

If you prefer to do all of your tasks alone without an ounce of help, you definitely aren’t alone. However, you’re probably at an increased risk for burnout if you let the pattern continue.

There’s no shame in asking for help from your coworkers or management team. In fact, colleagues who often work together are more likely to reduce stress at work and lower their chances at burnout.[1] Asking your management and support staff for assistance can also reduce stress, as you gain the opportunity to get on the same page as your boss regarding expectations and workload, as well as the chance to get to know them better.

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When you have a strong team and support system, you’ll open yourself up to more resources when it comes to reducing stress while meeting goals at work.

3. Get your priorities straight

When it comes to performing under pressure, my favorite tip is prioritization.

Prioritizing all the tasks and goals you need to accomplish at work can set you on a clear path to achieving them while cutting out overwhelming clutter and less important items from your schedule.

Check out this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life.

When you narrow your focus point, you allow yourself to see exactly what needs to get done and the bulk of your time becomes devoted to accomplishing those set goals. So, not only will you be effectively managing your tasks and time, but you’ll be preventing burnout head-on by reducing the stress from becoming overwhelmed by unnecessary or secondary tasks on the job.

Bonus: the feeling of accomplishment you get from tackling your most important tasks can help keep you motivated and even raise your overall job satisfaction![2]

4. Ban procrastination

While prioritizing can be a surefire way to perform well under pressure while simultaneously preventing burnout, this plan of attack only works if you actually do it.

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As we’ve mentioned earlier, a cause (and subsequent symptom) of burnout is the feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted at work.

The best way to feel overwhelmed in the office is to let tasks, especially the big ones, pile up until you’re faced with a mountain of work with an impossible deadline. So, the solution is easy: you have to ban procrastination from your workplace habits.

By forgoing procrastination and focusing on prioritization instead, you’ll already have the tools and plan of attack to perform well under pressure while preventing burnout from interrupting your life. The best part of banning procrastination is that this habit can also follow you into your life outside of work, allowing you to be more productive and get important things done quickly.

Learn how to stop procrastination here.

This is a huge bonus since you’ll have more time to relax, guilt-free, knowing you’ve taken care of your priorities.

5. Reflect

If you start feeling the signs of early burnout, like feeling mildly cynical, irritated, exhausted, or overwhelmed at work, then you may need to set some time aside for reflection. During this time, it’s a great idea to take a look at your work situation from the big picture to the little details.

Do you have the ability to change the things that stress you out in the workplace? Do you like your role? Do you feel fulfilled? Would a department switch or less work make you feel less overwhelmed? What about working at a brand new company, or a brand new career? Perhaps your main stressor is a difficult coworker or a temporary task?

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Really analyzing your situation can show you if your early burnout is a sign of temporary unease or a sign of worse things to come. But don’t be alarmed—if your analysis makes you realize you’re on the road to full-blown burnout, there is hope yet. You have the ability to begin making changes for the things you can control, and working on accepting the things you can’t.

Even better, catching the signs of burnout early can help you make big decisions like going for a promotion or switching companies (or even careers!) with a clearer head. This is why it’s important to catch early, as once you’ve fully reached burnout, the stress, anxiety, and overwhelming nature of the situation can influence your decisions, and not always for the better.

Key takeaways

The important takeaways from this post are to allow yourself to perform well under pressure by prioritizing and taking care of yourself. This means making the most of your downtime, staying healthy, asking for help, and setting good work habits that can help you manage tasks, time, and stress.

And remember: it’s never too late or too early to do a little (or a lot of) self-reflection when it comes to your work—it could mean the difference between succumbing to early burnout or preventing it and thriving in your position.

Featured photo credit: Kevin Grieve via unsplash.com

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Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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